Monday, January 10, 2011

Woe, Canada


Hockey is kind of a big deal where I'm from.

Naturally, then, the World Juniors is a tournament that most (REAL) Canadians follow with excitement and patriotic enthusiasm. So you can imagine the shock, dismay, and disappointment that settled over my home and native land last week when the Russians came from behind and won an incredible 5-3 victory over Team Canada to capture the gold.

My parents were curious to see what the reaction would be here, and my dad also mentioned that a guy he works with was wondering the same thing. So here is my take on it!

Because the game took place over the ten-day period from January 1-10 that is the Russian New Year holidays, not a lot of media attention was given to the win. And that's because the whole country is basically shut down right now (well, today was the last day...tomorrow is back to work for everyone and business as usual). I checked The Moscow Times website, but they are on vacation till tomorrow so there was no new news. Ditto for The Moscow News. I looked on lenta.ru and there were a few pictures of the Russians celebrating and a short article, but that was it.

I thought I would be given a lot of grief from my American friends, but I don't think they were really following the tournament. Too bad, cuz I would have loved to be able to say, "At least we GOT a medal!" :)

Russian reaction amongst the Russians I know here has been empathetic and quite friendly, actually. But maybe that is because I don't really know too many Russian jerks. At least on a personal level. (I know way too many Russian jerks just from taking the metro, the bus, walking outside, going to the grocery store, etc etc...you get the idea!)

At Orthodox Christmas, my Russian hosts, upon hearing that Colleen is originally from Buffalo, said, "Ahh Buffalo! Where the World Juniors was held!" Then, turning to me, sympathetically patted squeezed my arm. "It was such an exciting game! We are so sad your country did not win, they are the best hockey players in the world! It was just fluke!" They didn't say this in a condescending way at all, but more in a "wow-we-can't-believe-we-actually-won" shocked way.

Then, today at the Atlant game I went to, Andrei gave his take on the event. "We like hockey here, but we do not love it with the same passion as Canada does, I think," he said sagely, gazing out at the ice before us. "We have started to really like football, so I don't think too many Russians were paying attention to the World Juniors. Plus even if we do win, we feel that we are just lucky because the Canadians always win, they are the best." Maybe he was just saying that to humour me. Oh and side note here for Dad - Andrei was AMAZED to hear that you play hockey. I casually mentioned that my dad is a goalie, and Andrei gasped, "Your father? How old is he? Fifty??? And he plays hockey? That is miracle!" Then I remembered that the average life-expectancy for a male here in Russia is fifty-seven.

So I guess, to Andrei, it IS a miracle. Sheesh. Even though I wish my family had embraced my "multi-cultural nights" idea a little more, I sure am glad we're all Canadian.

In class tonight, I polled my students (all two of whom showed up; the rest were probably nursing a ten-day hangover). Inna declared that Russians are lazy by nature and that they are only spurred on to action if they have a leader who can give good speeches. "So maybe their captain or trainer yelled at them or something," she mused, "and that made them angry and so then they scored five goals."

So it seems that the Russians I know are mainly amazed at their country's win - proud yes, but more because they view Canada as a fearsome, mighty, and respected foe!

And as for their opinions on Team Russia's riotous and rowdy behaviour that saw them kept from boarding their flight home, the attitude here appears to be one that, as a girl, I've always hated...

Boys will be boys.

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