It takes a while for these to settle in. Beyond the world of “breaking news” headlines and getting to a story first is a world of consideration, reflection and unity, the sort of world Hockey Night in Canada provides for the nation of Canada on a typical Saturday night. It’s the sort of world hockey as a sport, as a game and as a way of life provides.
And on this Saturday night, last night, we as a country sorely needed it. We needed the game to do what the game does. We needed it to rouse us, excite us, thrill us, speak to us.
It goes without saying that hockey is more than a game or more than a sport or, yes, more than a way to win something in a hockey pool.
On this Saturday night, last night, Canada was still reeling from the senseless loss of two soldiers. Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent were taken from us as a nation. There’s no other way of saying it and we all know the circumstances.
On this Saturday night, last night, the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators took to the ice and came together as human beings. They weren’t just players on opposing hockey teams waiting for the national anthems to conclude. They stood with us.
In Ottawa, fans wore red and the New Jersey Devils stood with the Senators in a circle as the national anthems were sung or belted out in the arena. In Toronto and Montreal, the anthems were performed at the same time and with the same vigour. Those in attendance joined with those watching at home in showing solidarity and showing strength.
Hinting at the words of our Prime Minister, PA announcer Andy Frost in Toronto said “We may battle in arenas and on the ice, but tonight we stand together.” That notion of being opponents but never enemies is a necessary one. It separates humans from the inhumane. It separates kindness from cruelty. It makes Canada what it is, warts and all.
With Saturday night in the rearview mirror, it’s tempting to suggest that it’s business as usual. The Vancouver Canucks will be in action against the Washington Capitals, the Senators will skate against the Chicago Blackhawks and the Winnipeg Jets will have already iced the Colorado Avalanche by a final score of 2-1. These events, too, will enter the history books and more goals will be scored. More games won. More games lost.
But let us never forget what we gained in unity and what we have in strength. Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent were taken from us as a nation.
Let us never forget that it was Barbara Winters, a lawyer, who was among the team who tried to save Cirillo’s life at the War Memorial in Ottawa. Let us never forget that she told him he was loved as she performed CPR.
Let us never forget Kevin Vickers, the heroic sergeant-at-arms. His bravery and gallantry in impossible circumstances must never be forgotten.
And let us never forget what we do as fans of the Canucks, Flames, Oilers, Jets, Maple Leafs, Senators, and Canadiens. We will continue onward, standing together as opponents but never enemies. Standing as men, women, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends, neighbours, Canadians.