Forget basketball, its hockey all the timeIn the Middle East, they have Islam. In India, Hinduism. In America, there’s evangelical Christianity. But in Canada, it’s all hockey.
That fact hit home with this American this week, when I went searching for a local bar in which to watch the NBA basketball playoffs. Tragically, I haven’t seen a single game yet, though they began last week. Itaewon doesn’t have a real sports bar, but I’d put hope in the Canadian-themed place at the east end of the main drag, the Rocky Mountain Tavern, since it has a big projection TV.
Yes, they usually show hockey on it, but since the pro hockey season was canceled this year due to a labor dispute, I figured they’d have basketball on now. Canadian expatriates here would be thrilled to watch the red-hot Phoenix Suns, since the team’s led by their compatriot all-star, Steve Nash.
I should have known better. I dropped in to the Rocky Mountain the other night and asked the owner, Corry Day, if basketball would be on this week, and was treated to an icy, solemn shake of his shorn pate. It was as if Mr. Day was thinking, “You poor, poor, benighted soul. Get thee to the spiritual penalty box for flagrant cluelessness.”
He then informed me that he would be showing the “world hockey championships” this week. The two bartenders flanking him, Canadians as well, grinned wide, power-play grins.
It’s true. Every year at this time, hockey-playing countries cobble together national squads and skate it out in a two-week tournament. It’s hockey’s version of the World Cup, complete with the nationalistic hysteria.
That makes for a rambunctious time at the Rocky Mountain. Last year, at its previous location near the Hamilton Hotel, the tavern erupted in shrieks of joy and redemption when Canada’s team beat Sweden 5-3 to take the title. In previous years the Czech squad had been dominant.
This year’s fun starts tomorrow, when the tavern will show Canada’s opening game against Latvia. The puck drops at 11:15 p.m.
Get there early if you want a seat, as there are plenty of Canadians in town, hockey freaks all, and they’ll be there. Mr. Day has a schedule up for next week’s broadcasts, highlighted by Canada’s two other games, Tuesday against Slovenia, and Friday against the (gasp) United States.
Which makes me wonder: Do Americans even care about this tournament? Will they come to the Rocky Mountain next Friday? Will they be provided with adequate safety equipment?
Mr. Day insisted that Americans do get into it. Sometimes a little too much, in fact: “Last year one of the Americans on my club hockey team started crying after the U.S. lost to Russia, and I put on the song ‘Back in the U.S.S.R.’”
The temerity. Evidently, God doesn’t care about hockey, or else He would have struck Mr. Day down on the spot.
by Mike Ferrin