As I eagerly anticipate yet another hockey battle between Canada and the United States (this time it’s the semi-finals of the World Junior Hockey Championships in a rematch of last year’s final when the USA won 6-5) I began reflecting on the relationship between the two nations. There are some similarities (pop culture, relative geography, and at least one language), many differences (currency, measurement, and health care to name a few), and a lot of cross-over.
One of these “cross-over” areas is the field of youth ministry. Admittedly, it’s mostly us Canadians (at least in our archdiocese) bringing in (or “importing”) resources and talent from down south, whether it’s keynote speakers, worship leaders, or program resources and ideas. Once in a while, we will bless our American neighbours with our presence at a conference or gathering, such as the recent NCCYM in New Orleans. In fact, our American friends even invited us to participate in the relatively (in)famous youth ministry flash mob.
It seems like we’ve always been welcomed with open arms and hearts, sometimes receiving shout-outs from the stage, even if we’re referred to as America’s hat (thanks Popple).
So it’s only natural that this good-natured ribbing would spill over into sports.
Now, a couple of disclaimers here:
- It really is only hockey, as the United States would likely hammer a Canadian team in any other of the big 4 sports (football, basketball, and baseball) as well as some others: golf, tennis, and NASCAR.
- Having said that, Canadians take their hockey much more seriously than Americans. If Canada had lost the gold medal match back in February, it would have crushed the country (as opposed to the Americans who moved on to the next thing). It’s just the way we roll up here.
But, since I’m a Canadian living in Vancouver, it’s only natural that I get excited about these Canada-USA showdowns on the ice. Here are 3 examples:
World Youth Day 2002. As our parish jostled for position (in a good Catholic way) with pilgrims from the States near the front of the stage for one of the gatherings, the Americans patriotically chanted “USA! USA!” Our in-your-face response was to shout back “5-2! 5-2!” which was the final score of the 2002 Winter Olympics gold medal hockey game (a win for Canada over the USA). We found it quite funny. They were quite confused.
2009 NHL Playoffs. What started off as a friend-wager with Orin and Shannon of Oddwalk Ministries turned into a month-long saga of trash-talking, creative videos, and me nearly choking on a piece of steak. I won the original wager when the Canucks disposed of the Blues in round 1, but then we went double or nothing for round 2. As the Blackhawks ended the Canucks play-off hopes in round 2, they also ended our wager. You can trace the whole thing here. Thankfully, we didn’t do anything for 2010! I would have gone crazy!
2010 Winter Olympics. We all know the final result: Canada over the United States by a score of 3-2 in overtime, thanks to Sidney Crosby. This moment has topped many Top 10 Sport Moments of the Year lists. What many people don’t remember is that the Americans handily beat the Canadians in the preliminary round, prompting my good friends Anne Marie Cribbin and Gene Monterastelli to send me flowers and card expressing their condolences.
And of course, I re-kindled my fun rivalry with Orin and Shannon in a wager that encompassed both the women’s and men’s hockey tournaments. You can see their creative end result at the end of this video blog (my last one of the Winter Olympics).
What will happen in today’s hockey game? It’s hard to tell. But one thing’s for certain: I’ll be watching the entire game…and thinking of American youth ministry friends in the process.