• Publicerat 6 september, 2016
  • Skrivet av Peter Sibner
  • 0 Kommentarer

Is there an ultimate, iconic image to represent Canadian hockey? One frame on a roll of film, snapped at such an immortalized moment in time that it became the picture to rule them all?

In my opinion, no. With so many great candidates, how could you pick one over the other?

Mario Lemieux hoisting Wayne Gretzky in the air after winning the 1987 Canada Cup. Sidney Crosby and that ”Iggy-Iggy-Iggy”-moment. The final win in Game 8 of the Summit Series. Or anything black and white featuring Gordie HoweJean Beliveau or Maurice Richard in full stride, waving trophies above their heads.

How about children skating across a frozen Alberta pond, as the sun sets on a spectacular mountain sky? Because some would argue that the greatest aspect of Canadian hockey is not its medals and trophies, but the fact that hockey is one of the very core foundations upon which the nation stands.

The greatness of it all can not be defined by a single picture. It’s a vast gallery.

Booze analogy: Canadian hockey has such a proud history and contains so many intoxicating elements, it simply cannot be likened to a glass of fine wine. It is rather a strong and tasteful concoction of equal parts individual skill and team effort, garnished with great legends and magical moments. Shaken and served in a frozen cup of sheer beauty and national pride.

Tasty, huh?

Well, since you’ve gotten this far, I guess I rubbed you the right way. At this point I feel inclined to tell you I’m a Swede.

Ask a Swede to mix you a Canadian Hockey Tonic and he will most certainly haul something completely different at you. It will be a pungent sludge of broken bones, shattered teeth and human blood, by no means suitable for children.

Let’s see what we’ve got here.

We have Bobby Clarke, the Bully of the Bullies, who most of the time looked like he was about to use the few teeth he had left to actually eat somebody. His most memorable moment in a Team Canada jersey? Well, we all remember him going full lumberjack on Valery Kharlamov in a near-successful quest to chop his leg off. Alongside Clarke was Dave Schultz, punching his way through history with a sense for diplomacy inferior to absolutely everything on earth but his singing.

I could go on forever. So I will.

Des Moroney is now 81 years old and a peaceful retiree living in Karlskrona, where for many years he was a much appreciated school teacher. This is rarely mentioned.

He was one of the first players to showcase Canadian hockey on Swedish rinks in the 1960’s. Even though he could really play, he would amass upwards of 100 penalty minutes in a season of just 16 or 18 games. With trembling voices, our fathers would tell us horrifying stories of how we would scare the livings daylights out of people, verbally and physically, even as he kept playing well into his forties.

We were also told of a monstrous criminal known as Phil Esposito. In his first ever visit to Sweden, national TV had broadcast strong pictures of him emerging from a havoc of blood-soaked yellow jerseys, looking for a tasty and succulent Chicken Swede to feast upon. He was a great player obviously, but also pure evil beyond anything they had ever seen. Although Esposito never got the best of his Swedish nemesis Stig Salming, our parents watched in horror as the mad mafioso went on to spend the rest of the 70′s chasing his little brother Borje.

Phil Esposito - Sweden vs. Canada

Phil Esposito – Sweden vs. Canada, Photo: Bildbyrån

Growing up here, live NHL games on TV were non-existing and even highlights were a scarcity, at best. But when we finally got around to following the NHL in 1992, it was still a pretty rough league. Superstars like Lemieux and Yzerman had to be policed by an endless stream of Kelly Chases and Shane Churlas and Tie Domis. I guess it all culminated when Marty McSorley decided to play baseball with Donald Brashear’shead.

Skill we knew, fighting we would now have to learn. Playing pond or pick-up hockey at school, there would always be talented guys running circles around us. They would be Yzermans and Gretzkys doing toe-drags and flip passes in great harmony with Naslunds and Loobs and Fedorovs. Once we had finally gotten to see the coveted ”NHL Greatest Hits” on VCR, we would soon appear as Gino Odjick and Bob Probert and subsequently beat the living hell out of them.

After school, we could always make each other’s heads bleed on SEGA. Or watch hockey movies.

You couldn’t even keep it clean on the big screen, could you?

With few exceptions, movies always pictured Canadian hockey as the sixth circle of hell. Now, I know of course that ”Slapshot” was set in upstate New York and that the Hanson Brothers were Americans from Minnesota. The most prominent Canadian actor on the cast actually played the only sensible person in the entire movie. But ooh, there was that mad Francophone goalie and for all we knew, the whole lot of them horny hellraisers were Canadians.

Canadian hockey was all about people who had no teeth molesting people who still did. Men with beards intimidating those without.

Just look at Youngblood, in which not even an American kid from a terribly rugged farm was rugged enough to keep up with the bat-shit crazy goons of Southern Ontario. Although an obvious talent, his pacifist manners eventually had a Good Canadian Boy sidelined and the Yank was off the team. His failure to absorb the true nature of Canadian hockey had put a friend in the hospital, and now, the only way to redeem himself was by beating someone up. Of course. Boxing lessons, in a barn. Enter the brutally tough dad, played by a former NHL enforcer. Canadian, I might add.

That was the way to do it, Canadian style. Youngblood beat up Carl Racki and improved his chances of another season in the sack with the coach’s daughter.

We learned it all from TV and stuff like that stick, folks.

So does disappointment.

We are in the hallway leading up to the World Cup of Hockey, where Sweden and Canada could very well end up playing each other for gold, again. Old scars are torn wide open just thinking about it.

We all remember 2003, Rob Niedermayer skating away from what for a moment looked like the corpse of Peter Forsberg, his JOFA-upholstered coffin already clad in a Swedish national team jersey. Canada went on to turn that game around and become World Champions. Violence had once again prevailed, read the headlines.

Disappointments involving Canada goes far beyond violent encounters, though.

I sat through the middle of the night to watch Theo Fleury kill us in the first ever World Cup back in 1996. Then in Salt Lake City, we knocked you guys over pretty good in Round Robin and became so full of ourselves we were sent packing by a bunch of carpenters and plumbers from Belarus a few days later. This came to set the tone for future World Juniors, where for years we could only seem to beat Canada in games that didn’t really matter. Please, let’s not even talk about Sochi.

However, there are a few exceptions.

Lillehammer 1994, of course. And that sweet World Junior gold medal in Calgary, at which point our boys were celebrating on your home turf as your boys were already on the bus home, thoroughly roasted by the press. It also felt pretty good to beat you in Stockholm three years ago, having sent our chief enforcer Alexander Edler to bust a kneecap on Eric Staal, that notorious goon of yours.

We cling to these memories like flies to shit. Because the rest is mostly 50 years of you scaring us and beating us and making us cry and whine.

Sometimes by scoring pretty goals, sometimes by punching us, sometimes by negotiating your way to the benefit of a swankier locker room. But no matter how scared and pissed off we were, more than anything, we were fascinated. The clash between two different cultures and the rivalry that comes with it has fueled interest for hockey over here for many decades.

We simply love to hate you. I guess that’s why we still love you much more than we hate you.

/Peter Sibner, Elite Prospects