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26th Nov 2011Posted in: Blog 0
On Hockey Night in Canada and the Quintessential Canadian Cultural Experience
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A couple days ago, for the first time in over 25 years, I went to an NHL hockey game. I was excited about the opportunity to go since i remembered being very impressed when i was much younger. Here is how the experience went down...

My brother was visiting from toronto with his hockey team, about 11 men, and got a couple of tickets from one of his team mates. The team mate decided to give up his tickets in favour of staying with the rest of his team in a pre-arranged location where the madness he sought was guaranteed. So, my brother and i went of to the show. And what a show it was. At first, i could not find the Bell Center in my own city and thought about how ridiculous that was because it is so huge, it is just that i have never been there before. Then i thought about that old saying:  The best way to see your city is through the eyes of a tourist. Eventually, with a little help from my phone, we found it and made our way past the scalpers lurking in the shadows of bright neon lights.

At the first point of entry, the ticket taker jokingly says we can not get in because i am wearing the wrong hat. My brother and I look at each other and wonder what is going on. Then i remembered that i was wearing a toronto maple leafs hat and that the ticket taker was pulling my leg. Once inside, the first thing i notice is an increase the in the general energy such that there are people everywhere yelling to their hearts content. The volume and movement have both gone way up. For a second, i feel as though i am in  a centuries old Greek marketplace but here, people are selling beer and pizza and memorabilia. First we pass the box sitting areas where important people are getting drunk on bottomless cups of alcohol, sitting in prime seats with a perfect view of the game. Here, business is being conducted, men are wooing women and corporations are flexing muscles. Walking around the long winding halls i notice that the girls all look similar. The girls hired to hold the gates, also known as hostesses are dressed in the same blue skirts, white shirts, red ties, blue blazers but there is more. The waist to hip to bust ratio is about the same for all of them. I know it is roughly the same because i am scanning everything. I am scanning everything because it is what i generally like to do but also because this NHL game is a somewhat novel experience and your senses are peaked when that happens.  As I look around, i am noticing that most of the boisterous people walking the corridor are similar in age, stature and it occurs to me that i am bathig in homogeneity. I don't think i saw a single black person the whole time, but maybe i just wasn't paying attention to that observational parameter.  I am dumbfounded by the price of the beer and pizza. It is $13.00 for a beer and $20.00 for a beer and a pizza. Healthy food other than water is absent from the building. I knew the prices for concessions would be outrageous but it is starting to sink in that all of this is paying the salaries of all of these workers and some of them are getting paid on a huge scale. Up the escalators, through the doors, around the stairs and we are finally at section 317, row C, seats 20 and 21. Our "nose-bleed" seats actually offer an unobstructed view of the ice.

There are some Montreal Canadians fans behind us. They are muttering insults to me under their breath and one of them is touching my Toronto Maple Leafs hat, which i admittedly wore for provocation. I wanted to experience the full weight of the sanctioned aggression of this cultural event upon me. Yes, i am masochistic when it comes to wanting to experience the full range of human emotion. After a short film played for us on the cube shaped monitor hanging in the middle of the ceiling, the opposition team takes to the ice, drowning in the deafening boo's of the home fans. After a couple of minutes of that charade, the home team sends out a couple of children, ages 8 or 10, skating in Montreal Habitants uniforms. The away team sent out brutal, despised men and the home team sent out a couple of cherubs. Our hearts melt for the future those children represent to us. Our emotions have been stirred. If the away team wins then the myth of slaughter by a foreign invader comes alive but if the home team wins then the righteousness of the chosen people is confirmed.

The game starts and $40 worth of beer later, the first period ends. We are in the washrooms urinating. There is a man, a hardcore Quebecer who is cursing in the face of the New York rangers fan urinating next to him. The new york rangers fan speaks no french and so he pays no attention to the man. Next, the man is cursing at me because of my hat. The other thing i noticed is that for the first time in my life, the lineup for the men's room is 2 to 3 times longer than it is for the adjacent women's room. This is an indication that there are many more men at this event than women and that the men may have been drinking more as well. Once this is all done, we are headed  back to our seats for the second period.

Half way through the second, a short fight breaks out and i am honestly relieved. Sure, the violence disgusts me but the game has been boring me so badly  that i am awakened by the violence. My nervous system reacts with increased alertness and a mild fight or flight tingle in my blood. The fans are feigning outrage and the fight is over. Next thing i remember: The game is over and the Canadians win 4-0. Toronto also won that night 6-1. My two favourite teams won and somehow that is pleasing to me. The highlight of that event was sharing in a communal experience with my brother. But to be honest, it could have been any event and i would have had that pleasure. I did not need to contribute to the brutally inflated salary of some savage man's sport fetish to have a good time with my brother. But then, i guess there are different kinds of people in the world. Introverts tend to like to spend time in small groups, getting to know the intricacies of individual traits while extroverts like a huge crowd and live more on the periphery of their senses. That night, i learned where the extroverts are hanging out.

 

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