Near the top of my sports bucket list is watching a hockey game from any of the Canadian hockey stadiums. Heck, I'd even accept watching a game in a bar in Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, or Vancouver amidst some passionate Canadians hopped up on Molson and Labatt's. There's just a certain mystique about Canadians and their hockey in middle of the Northern winter that's intrigued me since I was young. That song (see above) almost eerily adds to that mystique, but in a captivating way.
Perhaps that mystique stems from hazy images of my basement I have stowed away in my memory from when I was little. I remember creeping down my wooden basement steps, peering into the makeshift living room that had been set up in my then unfinished basement, where my dad and his buddies created a scene similar to a hole-in-the-wall Canadian bar. Smoke sifted through the air, beer flowed from Red Dog and Budweiser cans, darts flew through the air at a Cheers dart board, and laughter echoed off the concrete walls. Most distinctively, though, I remember that Hockey Night in Canada song resounding from a staticky old television set. To this day, that image remains the portrait of an ideal Saturday night in my mind.
Although many years have since passed from those nights, the mystique and the intrigue still remains. I still get excited to sit down with a beer and turn on CBC to hear that song and listen to those announcers; it's even one of the little things I miss most in Chicago.
This is probably because through the years essentially nothing has changed about Hockey Night in Canada. Although they did recently change the song (in one of the worst executive decisions in sports history), the production value remains the same, it seems. I don't think there will ever be a clear picture of the puck from CBC, and I love it that way. And Don Cherry still does "Coaches Corner" during the second intermission. Though he's lost a couple of his marbles since the early 90's, he and the other announcers show more passion than any other announcers in sports, because as Canadians they have a mysterious attachment to the game. It's a show that can take me back to the glory days of the 1990's unlike anything else.
Whenever the Wings bow out early or are playing another team, I always root for the Canadian teams in the playoffs. Because there's simply nothing quite like sitting in a comfortable chair on a Saturday night, cracking open a bottle of Labatt's, and hearing that song come on.
(FYI: March 26th is Maple Leafs @ Red Wings, 7:00, which I'll be home for.)