It’s hockey night in Melbourne – this Friday

canada usa hockey

I last saw a Canada-USA hockey game around a quarter of a century ago in Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. Now another this Friday here at Rod Laver in Melbourne. There is no game like hockey. I think Aussie Rules is tougher and all forms of rugby more dangerous. But there is nothing like the grace and flow of hockey. The game I saw those many years ago ended with the classic score 6-5 for us, the same score in the eighth game of the first ever Canada-Russia series where it was our pros against their pretend amateurs. They won the first game, we won the second and then we tied the third and they won the fourth. We then we lost the first in Moscow and had to win three straight, on the road, to win the series. I saw none of the games because I was hitchhiking through Europe at the time. And only found the result as we arrived in Paris late at night, trying to work out what happened from this typically sociological discussion on the pages of Le Monde that went on for two full columns until there was this vague mention of the result in a three-line last sentence that my French was only barely good enough for me to work out that the Canadians had won.

HOW IT ENDED: All for fun but I could see it was a real game, although the fight was completely staged. C’mon, it’s forty guys vacationing together in Australia, sharing the same hotels and breakfasts. But the game was the real thing, although with a complete absence of body contact. Yet there we were, with a minute and a half to go, 7-6 Canada, before two goals into the empty net left it 9-6. But there was a real fight in the stands with a chap wearing a shirt with a Russian name in Cyrillic script on the back taken out bleeding from the nose and head. Except for him, a nice time was had by all.

Which side are you on?

We went to see Lone Survivor last night and then we came home and I watched Canada-USA in the hockey. And while you may think the two have nothing to do with each other, let me explain.

In the hockey, Canada won it by the soccer score of 1-0. That Channel 10 chose to show the Koreans winning the speed skating while the only goal was scored took some of the pleasure away but nice to see. Sunday it’s Canada v Sweden.

And then there was Lone Survivor, the most nail-biting film of the year, as good as any movie I’ve seen over the past twelve months. The subject matter, though, has created quite a divide within the US. This is what the film is about.

LONE SURVIVOR, starring Mark Wahlberg, tells the story of four Navy SEALs on an ill-fated covert mission to neutralize a high-level Taliban operative who are ambushed by enemy forces in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan.

Given the description, you will not be surprise to hear that so far as Academy Awards and other such laurels go, nothing at all. It is a major success across the Red States of America but goes nowhere in the blue states. And this is why I think that is. It is because you can only enjoy the movie if you side with the Americans. Everyone comes to the cinema with their politics fully engaged, specially a film such as this. For me and those I went with, we side with the Americans. The movie therefore completely works. For blue state America, however, it doesn’t work at all. They are disengaged and, I fear, even wish America’s enemies success. The movie is therefore an ordeal for those of a different view. This is from the review at The Washington Post:

What’s missing here is something, or rather, someone, to care about. Written and directed by Peter Berg (“Battleship”), the film presumes our emotional investment in Luttrell and his fellow soldiers’ mission, simply by virtue of — well, it’s never quite clear what. The questions of who exactly Shah is, other than one of many murderous thugs, and why we should care so deeply about his fate, is never really explained in a way that grabs the imagination.

The film must have been an endless torment to him. It’s only a film but if your instincts are not with the Americans then the film is lost on you. You are either with Team USA or you are not. In the war in Afghanistan, blue state America is not.

So when I come home to watch the hockey, no longer was I with Team USA. I have ancient views and attitudes that I bring to the match. Not quite like a Canada-USSR match of days of yore but fully engaged. And so in this film, as in so many other ways, the fifth column of Americans who were born and raised in our culture but hate it and wish to see it fail, have their attitudes engrained at such depth that it is hard to think what could ever save us now.