Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Canadian fans check their dignity at the door (again)
If you're looking for a gushing tribute to Canadian heart, grit and resolve in the wake of last night's near-miracle comeback at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Calgary, you're going to have to look someplace else. This is going to be about the darker side of the Canadian character, which almost invariably reveals itself in hockey arenas, as it did last night at the Saddledome, where a sellout crowd booed Russian captain Evgeny Kuznetsov after he was named Russia's player of the game for racking up a hat trick in a 6-5 semi-final win over Canada.
Kuznetsov's transgression, apparently, was two-fold: 1. he put his money where his mouth was by backing up his pre-game boasts about beating Canada, and 2. his celebrations crossed the line into showboating, although he was no more exuberant than Czech goaltender Peter Mrazek, whose celebratory antics in a round robin win over the US were embraced by Canadian fans and media as a wonderful demonstration of a young man's pride and passion. But Canadian hockey hubris and hypocrisy are such that pride and passion become disrespect on the part of anyone who dares show anything but the utmost deference towards the self-proclaimed greatest hockey nation in the world, which by the way hasn't won a junior championship since 2009.
To be sure, Kuznetsov wasn't a model of humility during the tournament and didn't distinguish himself last night by mocking the crowd in return, but he's 19 years old. You're 144, Canada. What's your excuse?