Stranger in a strange land: Inkless hockey

Understand here that I may actually know less about hockey than Angelo Persichilli does about national politics. Today’s USA-Switzerland game was my second trip inside a hockey arena in two months, and also my second in 30 years. (I have now already seen more hockey and more ballet in 2010, in person, than in the entire period from 1980 to 2009. The two endeavours are eerily similar. Basically I can’t do either.)

(The Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada brought their gold-medal game to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre the other night as part of Vancouver’s Cultural Olympiad, dancing together on an extended piece that combined Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata with John Adams’ Fearful Symmetries. I am reminded that dancers don’t worry too much whether the music they’re dancing to makes any sense as a musical program. But I digress.)

So if you want “insights” from somebody who “actually understands hockey,” go read Colleague Gillis elsewhere. But one point I try to make to my friends when I drag them to concerts is that the opinions they have about the music are probably right, because bad music and good music don’t sound the same, and anyone paying attention can tell the difference.

Anyway. The Swiss hockey men actually gave the American hockey men a decent run for their money until the second period. The Americans, who towered over their Euro-scale opponents, seemed in a hurry to make something happen in the first minutes. They were chippy, nervous, eager to shovel the puck up the ice and figure out the rest later. And yet it was the Swiss who got their first shot on goal in the first minute. Without being particularly elegant, the Swiss had some skill defusing U.S. the U.S. offense.

The whole thing was about 40 times more impressive than the Sens were in regular-league play a couple of months ago. I dunno. Seems to me if you were going to play hockey for a living you’d want to be good at it.

Anyway, for me the highlight was a trip down into the bowels of the Canada Hockey Place to scrum the hockey men, none of whom I had ever heard of. It was actually easier to get at the athletes and have a civil conversation with them then it is to get at MPs after Question Period. I had a nice chat about this with the Globe‘s Roy MacGregor, who probably has more experience in both settings than any journalist.

(One time Roy and I were in Quebec City covering the Carnaval de Québec for the National Post. He called me in my hotel room on a Sunday night and said, “Uh, what do you think about this Carnaval thing?” And I said, not much going on. And he said, “Exactly! There’s nothing going on.” We paused to consider the import of this revelation. Roy asked: “Should we tell somebody?” We decided to keep it our little secret. Coverage of the Carnaval that week was sparse. But I digress.)

Anyway, next we all filed into a press-conference room where the U.S. and Swiss coaches gave a joint news availability. It was a bit like UK elections, where they make all the candidates in a given riding stand together on the same stage and then announce how many votes they all got. In other words, it was a little cruel. I liked it.

Ron Wilson, the U.S. coach, confirmed my impression that even though his charges were physically enormous, fast, eager and far more experienced at the highest competitive levels than the Swiss, they’re not a better team yet. The U.S. team has had all of a half hour’s practice time to gel after being thrown together from a bunch of NHL and assorted other teams, Wilson said. The Swiss have, in many cases, played together for years. “We’re a chemistry experiment,” Wilson said. “It’s gonna take us some time.” Them and me both.




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Stranger in a strange land: Inkless hockey

  1. Enjoyed your post Paul except for your shot at Persichilli.

    Frankly, the main stream media has embarrassed itself agian on its biased,Harper's prorogation is the end-of-democracy meme while ignoring it when the Liberals did it or even mentioning that the Liberals and Bob Rae as premier had done it several times in the last number of years.

    What's your problem with Persichilli? Is it that he hasn't followed the Parliamentary Press Galley's established narrative?

    People who live in glass houses…

    • Wow! You've mutated from "Liberals did it!" to "Bob Rae did it!"

      Preston Manning must be rolling in his grave.

    • I thought he was being kind to Persichilli – kid gloves and all that.. Personally I think he's an idiot, mind you I base this strictly on reading his columns. If he as more work ouit there I'm prepared to be opened minded about it.

      • Sorry – has more work out there…

  2. From Persichilli's column of last Sunday:

    "How can they blame the government for abusing democracy when democracy is in their hands? How is the government to blame if the opposition is afraid to use it?

    Of course, the government's decision to prorogue the House is wrong for many reasons of both form and substance. But one can't help but ask: What would the opposition do with an open House anyway? Keep blasting the government without voting it down?"

    Angelo, angelo, angelo, stay on message for C****'s sake. The narrative is that the Harper government has committed a crime against democracy. True, the Liberals did the very same thing while in government as did Bob Rae when he was premier but people don't know this because we didn't (and don't) report it – it kind of defeats the narrative after all.

    Get with the program Angelo, the bad guys are in power.

    Signed,

    The PPG, for the MSM.

      • Somehow not even hockey can distract Jarhead from his task of hunting down wabbits in duck season…

  3. Wells doesn’t go to hockey games?!?!

    And to think I thought that jazz stuff was just a joke.

    At least we can be sure that while Wells was trying to understand what Wilson was talking about, Coyne was funnelling at Molson Canadian Hockey house starting I AM CANADIAN chants.

  4. That shot at Persichilli was poor form. Maybe I am a little biased–his wife, who is a lovely woman, taught me French in high school–but those sort of snide remarks on a colleague's worth are juvenile at best. Keep it classy, Wells.

    • Well, everytime I read one of his colums I'll have to keep that in mind…I don't think it'll help..I have this cracy idea that they have to stand on their own merit.

  5. … ice out of cocktail ? (the tag)

  6. Awesome game from the Canadian men tonight, pummeling the Norwegians 8-0. Well done, Canada. Wells, go for an interview with Heatley and ask him how he feels about scoring more points for Canada internationally than anyone except Wayne Gretzky, and then try to get out of him the reason why he was ticked off in Ottawa.

  7. Brilliant post, Paul. And unlike other posters, I laughed out loud at the appropriate dig at Persichilli, who lately has been more of a gossip columnist for the Harper spin machine, than a serious journalist.

    • I'm beginning to think Jarhead is Persichilli's basement-dwelling twin. They both exist basically to spin the next Harper lie…

  8. that Wells doesn't understand hockey explains a lot. imagine not understanding hockey, but having the temerity to lecture Canadians about Canada.

    what a tool.

    • bingo!

    • Lecture? How is he lecturing?

  9. I know hockey and don't know jazz or ballet, but I always enjoy reading a good writer on something about which he/she admits to knowing very little (I think that's why Bill Bryson's "Short History of Nearly Everything" is so good, actually). Nice post.

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