Hockey Day in Canada
A little more than four days from now, I know where I'll be. There's a good chance it's where you'll be, too.
Plopped down in front of your television to take in an unholy 13 consecutive hours of hockey programming, all courtesy of the mother station CBC. Hockey Day in Canada is almost here, and as they say in Stephenville, it's "bigger than Santa."
That's pretty big.
For the uninitiated, Eric McErlain had a good little runthrough of what exactly the day is in his NBC Sports column (which he refers to as 'the words that bring the drink') and I'm going to let him do the light lifting:
Saturday, January 13 is Hockey Day in Canada, the CBC's annual celebration of the sport that will originate this year out of Nelson, British Columbia. Here in the U.S., subscribers to NHL Center Ice will be able to view all of the day's festivities beginning at 12:00 p.m. (all times U.S. EST). The all-Canada triple header starts at 2:00 p.m. with the Senators hosting the Canadiens in Ottawa. Then the action switches to Toronto, as the Canucks take on the Maple Leafs at 7:00 p.m. with the nightcap starting at 10:00 p.m. as the Oilers visit the Flames. In between, it's live on location in Nelson as Ron MacLean, Don Cherry and the rest of the CBC folks pay tribute to the volunteers all across Canada who make the game possible. If you have NHL Center Ice and you love hockey, don't miss it.The thing is, in this country, you don't need Centre Ice to watch this hockey-filled madness — a pair of twisted rabbit ears will do just fine (you can borrow mine). And given CBC's chosen Nelson, B.C., this time around, well, that alone makes it a must-watch in my books.
Nelson's close to my neck of the woods (a mere 450 kilometres east of Ol' Man Mirtle's house, which is not much further than Kamloopsians go to get their mail), and it is, in short, as close to heaven as you can get. Nelson is, as the city's website attests...
...a place where life is unhurried and people say "hello" to strangers. It's a town where time has seemingly stood still. Turn-of-the-century ambiance lingers in every corner from the 350 preserved heritage buildings to the fully restored streetcar.It's the kind of place where, if you live in a megaubercity like Toronto, you often think you'd love to escape to and never, ever come back to the present-day street people lingering in every corner, from the urine-soaked skyscrapers to the dilapidated streetcars chugging down Queen Street every two hours on the hour.
It's where I'm headed to finish out my journalism career, to write about bear trapping for The Kootenay Weekly Express as the editor of the fish heads and flowers section.
I've got a soft spot for Nelson, ever since I visited there as a teen with my family and saw a picturesque little mountain town that wasn't quite like anywhere else. During the Vietnam War, hundreds of draft resisters from the United States settled in the area's Slocan Valley, and to this day, Nelson maintains the hippie, free-love attitude that came there in the 1970s.
(Perhaps Don Cherry's looking for a little ganja to go with his hockey day?)
In any event, if you've never been to Nelson, I think you, too, will fall in love with the place during Saturday's broadcast, and for that it's a terrific place for CBC to choose. What a great way to bring out some of Canada's most distinct, hockey-loving little towns and celebrate the kind of places where most of the game's great stars are born and bred (because they certainly aren't coming from HNIC's usual broadcast destination in Hogtown).
As I said, plan for a long, entertaining day in front of the tube — one that rivals a LotR extended edition marathon — and know that I, too, will be joining you. That is, until about 6 p.m. when I'll be off in my Vancouver Canucks home whites to hit up the Air Canada Centre, be heckled just a bit, and take in some of the day's fervour in person.
The best part of the whole business is that it'll be my girlfriend's first-ever NHL game — something I think I'm just a tad more giddy about than she is. Then again, she did buy the tickets for me for Christmas, which — I think — means she's subconsciously wanted to be a part of the all-day hockey gorge-fest that is HDIC.
I can't wait.