About the Author: William Millman is a retired Foreign Service Officer providing public affairs assistance in Vancouver.
The atmosphere was electric on Sunday afternoon in Vancouver as spectators prepared for the unquestioned showcase event of this stage of the Games: U.S. -- Canada Men's Hockey. Oops, Canada-United States.
I know. In the U.S. ice hockey ranks somewhere between bowling and badminton in the pantheon of big time athletics. But here in Canada?
Hockey is king. Make that king, queen and jack, with jokers thrown in for good measure. As much as the Canucks love curling (you know, the game with the brooms…), it's hockey that captures the popular imagination. You could literally feel the excitement build here in the downtown area as tens of thousands prepared for the Great Showdown.
And with the excitement came a bit of trepidation. Although Russia and Sweden are the teams for Team Canada to beat on paper, it was last night's amazing U.S. game that really put Canada's newly minted national pride on the line. No one will truly be satisfied north of the border unless the home team wins gold. And the unthinkable (at least for Canadians) came to pass: the U.S. men's hockey team absolutely stunned both the live and virtual audience with a 5 - 3 victory, the first American Olympic victory in men's hockey over Canada in 50 years. Media this morning on both sides of the border lead with news of the event with an obvious difference in spin (New York Times: "Waking its Neighbors, US Upsets Canada"; Vancouver Sun: "Canada's hockey stars falter vs. U.S."). Last night's loss in the preliminary round dents the carefully crafted sense of inevitability the Canadians have labored to create and throw 30 million plus loyal Canadian hockey fans into an unimaginable funk.
At the daily VANOC press conference on Sunday morning, reporters asked about security concerns in case the unthinkable becomes a reality. "We are confident that the security forces have a plan," the press spokesperson said. What she left unsaid is that no one in this hockey-mad country wants to test those plans.
Those of us not lucky enough last night to possess tickets to the Big Event watched the match on TV, amazed as the U.S. team denied the odds and stuck it to our northern neighbors. But after weeks of consistently warm, welcoming hospitality from every Canadian in sight, a secret corner of our psyches wishes them well -- a silver would be nice.