If America cared about us, they'd have cancelled the NHL playoffs.
"Just this once. For you guys. In recognition of all that oil and fresh water we plan on stealing from you once the polar ice caps melt and California disappears."
But, oh no, they plan on going ahead even though they hardly care. Canada can go suck rocks.
You're going to have to learn how to cope. So first things first.
Since your team is not in the postseason, who are you going to root for instead?
Did you say the Florida Panthers or the Anaheim Ducks or any other combination of a city and an animal that has nothing to do with winter sports? Wrong. That was a trap. Give yourself a smack. Harder. Try doing it with the lid of a garbage can. Even harder.
I know this hurts, but it's for your own good. Plus, I'm enjoying it.
The first rule of Canada-free playoff hockey is that you don't get to pick another team. That's front-running and cheating and, in some more enlightened jurisdictions, is still punished by caning.
What you are allowed to do is consume hockey like an agnostic – you no longer believe it brings anything but pain into your life, but you're willing to be convinced otherwise. Say the word "process" to yourself, tuck your hands under your chin and stare up at the sky. Hey, doesn't that cloud look a bit like Lou Lamoriello?
If I'm not rooting for any particular team, then who am I rooting for?
You're rooting for Canada. Which is another way of saying you're rooting against the United States.
The goal here is to see every American hockey market that actually cares crushed under the same weight of disappointment you feel on a regular basis. All three of them.
Better Detroit than Washington; better Washington than St. Louis, and so forth. It is very important that Chicago not win this thing, because that city is Toronto's evil twin. Civically speaking, they are Spock with the goatee in that upside-down episode of Star Trek. Their joy offends us.
If we get to pick, Nashville wins it all. A day later, the local paper runs a lengthy explanation of hockey. And the Stanley Cup. And how a parade is different than a cattle run. The forty people who show up still manage to forget the Cup in a booth at a T.G.I. Friday's.
Can I pick a favourite player?
I suppose so. If he's Canadian.
Is Alex Ovechkin Canadian?
No. He is not.
He's really the only player who makes hockey seem like it isn't a) a holy order and b) about as much fun as an ice-cream headache. Can I pull for him?
You see, this right here is the problem. All you Canadians who want hockey to be "fun." Haven't you been paying attention for the past twenty-five years? Hockey is not fun. Hockey is meant to be hard and awful. That's why they have sticks instead of just kicking the puck around. So they can viciously beat each other with them when they are upset. Which is all the time.
This "hockey as fun" idea is the reason Canada's in the shape she's in. I'm glad that the NDP has chosen to address this systemic failure with their new Leap Manifesto.
(Whispering from off-stage)
Sorry, I didn't realize that thing wasn't about hockey. I just knew it had something to do with being boring as a core Canadian value.
Is there anything about this we're allowed to enjoy?
No, it should all be terrible. Because you are to blame. If you support a Canadian team, you are propping up a half-witted organization by definition. That was your first mistake.
Your second mistake was continuing to support a half-witted organization long after their half-wittedness had become apparent. That time they traded those two good young players for a bad one with a curved spine and a forty-year contract? You knew it was a terrible idea, but what did you do about it beside whine on the Internet? Nothing.
Your grudging compliance and continued financial support encourages more half-wittedness. Eventually, half-wittedness is woven through the corporate structure like mould through cheese.
If the Tampa Bay Lightning are terrible, everyone stays home, watches reruns of Mama's Family and the club goes bankrupt. So they don't do that.
When the Toronto Maple Leafs are terrible, everyone shows up, spends two hundred bucks on concessions and boos them. When they finish DEAD GODDAMNED LAST, they are feted through the town as if they'd all gotten together on an off-day and cracked cold fission.
Sweet Jesus, Toronto. Only in this city could losing be considered a skill.
So who's the dummy? Them for being bad? Or you for encouraging them?
(Circle back to your hopeful invocations about "the process." Take a picture of yourself with a date and time stamp, so that when nothing's changed in five years, you can be sure you aren't trapped in a rift of the space-time continuum.)
This is worse than I thought. I'm relieved it's just a one-time thing.
You sound like you actually buy that. You're either a true believer or the next vice-president of Rogers.
Yes, yes, keep telling yourself it's a temporary state of affairs. It's only a matter of time before the Calgary Flames are the "Barcelona of the Americas." If you say it enough, I'm almost positive it will happen.
What should I do?
For now, nothing. Don't draw attention to yourself.
If you must watch hockey in public, make sure that you do your weeping in a bathroom. Don't throw things at the TV. If you feel you must burn an American flag, make sure you do it while complying with all the rules of fire safety and with a copy of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on hand.
Whatever you do, don't say "Death to America" or anything like that. Let's try to remember that hockey isn't as important as life or death. It's a lot more important than that.
Eventually, we will have to take back what is ours. I'm not necessarily saying we need to violently invade our southern neighbours to recover our cultural patrimony. What I am saying is that we might want to egg a few houses on the Vermont border.
As a warning.