Two seasons ago, way, way back in January of 2009, the Canucks went down to San Jose to play a Sharks team that, at that time, were the best team in hockey. The Canucks were sputtering; they had lost eight straight (and would go on to lose two more before this happened). It was a bad time for a measuring stick game, but Canucks fans needed to know their team wasn't as bad as the losing streak suggested.
After Taylor Pyatt opened the scoring eight minutes into the first, the Canucks spent the rest of the game trying to make his goal stand up as the game-winner. It almost did.
But, in the final minute, with the net empty, the Sharks blitzed Vancouver, applying heavy pressure and hemming them deep in their own zone. With forty seconds left, Devon Setoguchi tied the game.
The collective groan of Canuck nation could be heard from space (where there's no sound--that's how loud it was). To make matters worse, Patrick Marleau scored three minutes later in overtime.
Fan response was vitriolic, though perhaps none were as vocal as Richard Beach. He went nuts, wrote a scathing letter, and canceled his cable. He was done.
Vancouver fans tore him nearly in half with their mockery, but I found it all a little hypocritical. From where I was sitting, his impetuous rampage was strangely admirable. He was unflinchingly upfront about Vancouver's dirty little secret: we take our hockey way too seriously.
I think we all felt at least a little of what he felt that day; I know I did. I was watching the game alone, and when Marleau scored, I threw the most infantile hissy fit of my adult life. And as I sat there, and the blood rushed back to my brain, bringing perspective with it, I realized how seriously I take this team. It's a fine line between Richard Beach and I.
I tell this story because it's Remembrance Day, and the worst thing that might happen to me today is watching the Canucks lose in Ottawa. What a privilege to give so much import to something so trivial. Only in a country overblessed with freedom. Consider a world where we can take hockey as seriously as we do, primarily because our lives are such that there's little more grave to consider. We devote so much attention to the Canucks, I think we run the risk of forgetting the remarkable price some paid to afford us such lightness of being.
We live in a land so generally unburdened of persecution that the worst hate spewed in our direction will likely come from other hockey fans; a country where the only time most of us use military language is when describing a sports play; a country where the observation of freedom is so constant we run the risk of becoming unbeknownst to it, like water to a fish; a country where a regulation loss in January is the closest we come to the end of the world. It's a remarkable privilege to expend so much emotion on a hockey game.
It's not like this everywhere and it wouldn't be like this here without the sacrifices of the men and women we this day remember.
Lest we forget.