Congratulations to Canada’s Juniors

Last night, before a record crowd in Kanata, Canada’s world junior team won the gold against Sweden in a game that ended 5-1 but remained competitive until the final period with two runaway goals in the closing minutes.

Earlier, the tournament hosted one of the best games I’d seen in my life as Canada scratched back a 3-0 deficit against the US to score the next four goals and even two empty netters at the end to win 7-4.  The other game which saved Canada was against Russia where our country bested theirs scoring the tying goal in the dying seconds of the third period followed by a shootout win after a gripping though scoreless overtime.

The games always capture the attention of hockey fans looking to do their own scouting of the sport, identifying future prospects and looking for surprise heroes.  Canada’s Angelo Esposito – to name one such example – played the tournament with heart.  The junior from Woodbridge Ontario scored the game winning goal yesterday and delivered night after night despite having been cut from the team for three years consecutive prior to this opportunity.   Or take Dustin Tokarski, team Canada’s goalie and game MVP in the gold medal match, the kid was nowhere near the top of any scout’s list before the start of this tournament.  For an event that showcases upcoming talent for Canada’s national game, this tournament didn’t disappoint.

Hockey games usually provide photo-ops for Canadian politicians to awkwardly rub shoulders with “every day” Canadians and pretend to show interest in the game that the rest of us plebs know and love.  However Stephen Harper, a man with an interest that could be described as a genuine but fanatical love of the game (maintained by his trademark calm) was there not only for the gold medal game, but most of team Canada’s games during the entire tournament.  As for photo-ops, our country’s leader looked at ease with a shirt-less gold-painted-with-Canada-logo-on-chest superfan as he gave thumbs up for a fan photo.   The Prime Minister also took the opportunity of hanging out with the team before games in the dressing room.  One reporter explained to me that usually such a moment would have racked the nerves of a team.  However, for a man at ease in this element, wearing a leather jacket and jeans, having laced skates, taped sticks and socks many times before, the PM was just another hockey dad.

Michael Ignatieff was also in attendance but only for the gold medal game.  The Liberal leader and grandson of a a Russian tsarist minister took a break from writing a book on his family history long enough to recognize the tournament and descend to mingle with the masses.  Ignatieff had a rare chance of witnessing a Canadian hockey victory while living in Canada – the distinguished academic has been largely abroad since the late 60s.  A friend joked that Ignatieff told TSN, “I am a fan of the game of hockey, but not necessarily a hockey fan.” For the two men, Harper and Ignatieff, hockey underscores a vital political strength or weakness.  For the Prime Minister, voters select someone they see in themselves and they pick someone who understands and shares their concerns.  For Ignatieff, voters will sever him if he cannot genuinely tie himself with the threads that line our hearts.

We’re a nation bound by our love of hockey.

  • s

    Thanks for taking a great moment in hockey and for Canada and using it to promote some half baked partisan mindlessness. In other words, good work at being a Conservative.

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    when you came to this blog, titled “a blog on Canadian politics” were you expecting “a blog on hockey and only hockey”? Because it seems that you aren't a Conservative (because you use it as a pejorative term), perhaps you came here to be disappointed because this is a blog written from a conservative point of view.

    I'd hate to go through life looking for disappointment. That would be rough.

    Turn that frown upside down!

  • Don

    Obviously that guy plays left wing and wears a visor.

  • the turtle

    A couple years back there was a sort-of first minister's conference conveniently scheduled so that the attendees could check out the Grey Cup game. Not everyone was able to stay, but the politicians we could see there looked interested and relaxed, regardless of political stripe, just regular folks.

    Can anyone imagine Ignatieff sitting through even half of a CFL game? I can picture the look on his face: a cross between disdain and constipation.

  • Beer and Popcorn

    CONgratulations Canada – loved the energy and heart this team showed throughout the tourney and was happy to see the PM following the tourney as a genuine fan and not for just a photo op and to show how 'Canadian' he is.

    Ignatief strikes me more of the turtleneck and tweed blazer type who wanders over to catch a little bit of the Harvard Rowing regattas but ends up only staying for a little of it and spends most of his time there talking about himself and his lectures to uninterested students..

  • hgwoolli

    Grandson of a Russian tsar now? I think only a tsar’s minister.

    I’m not sure even the most ardent hockey fan casts votes based on the perceived affection for hockey of party leaders. I’d also like to think we’re a nation bound by things that are more profound than hockey. But I suppose, as Harper’s resume comes up so short by comparison to Ignatieff’s in terms of life experience, perhaps hockey can be the one thing where he trumps him hands-down.

  • hgwoolli

    Grandson of a Russian tsar now? I think only a tsar’s minister.

    I’m not sure even the most ardent hockey fan casts votes based on the perceived affection for hockey of party leaders. I’d also like to think we’re a nation bound by things that are more profound than hockey. But I suppose, as Harper’s resume comes up so short by comparison to Ignatieff’s in terms of life experience, perhaps hockey can be the one thing where he trumps him hands-down.

  • Kelly Jamieson

    Stephen, you can't honestly label Michael Ignatieff an academic out of touch elitist and not at least personally (even in secret) realize that the average Canadian couldn't afford to go to these games more than once.
    The Prime Minister makes a lot of money so it wouldn't surprise me if he paid to go to these games out of his own pocket, but I doubt he did. I know for certain he didn't pay the RCMP bodyguards going with him. That's a bill that could reach into the thousands right there, paid for by those at the game and those who just go to watch it on TV or listen on the radio.
    While people are worried about their financial situation Harper starts out 2009 burning though the dough to go to the game whenever he wants. Is this his economic stimulus plan?

  • Alex

    Why wouldn't Harper pay for the tickets himself? If he was spending the taxpayers money on hockey tickets I'm sure someone from the Toronto Star would have jumped all over it by now. It seems like common sense for a political leader to avoid making mistakes like this one. The only alternative to Harper buying them himself is that he was invited to the game free of charge.
    Also complaining about the waste of tax payer dollars on the RCMP bodyguard is beyond ridiculous. The Prime Minister has bodyguards wherever he goes, and that includes a hockey game.
    Where your point really comes undone though is that you accuse the PM of wasting the tax payers dollars without mentioning Ignatieff once, who was attending the same game (which was sort of a focal point of the blog entry). Everything you accuse Harper of doing- the tickets, the bodyguard- would also have to be true of Ignatieff.

  • R. Jamieson

    I'm a little embarassed to admit it but, before I realized that Steven Taylor's blog was tongue in cheek, he really had me going. Imagine trying to connect Stephen Harper to the pulse of the nation by associating him with the saga of this year's gold medal winning junior hockey team. That's like trying to associate Rita McNeil's figure with Slim Fast – it just isn't credible!! But – I do appreciate Taylor's humor – conservatives can be funny when they put their mind to it. You know – if Harper had been wearing a Team Canada sweater to the game instead of that shirt and tie he was wearing I might have been totally taken in by Taylor's burlesque. Hey – the joke would have been on me!!

  • Kelly Jamieson

    Nice try Alex. I doubt Harper paid for the tickets himself and there's no such thing as attending a sell out game for free. It all comes down to Harper partaking in an entertainment activity that would cost more than most can afford. If he paid for it himself or not isn't the main point here.
    Ignatieff went to the game once, much like the majority of Canadian can afford. The RCMP was there to protect him, but then again they were already there for Harper. Once it gets out Harper bodyguards get seasons tickets everyone will be applying! Just kidding; I'm sure they are all professionals.

  • s

    I was being a bit snarky, admittedly. I was really enjoying the post until the last bit. I don't go to your blog looking for disappointment, I go to find interesting opinions and insight, which you often provide. I just felt the tail-end discussion was misplaced here (kinda like the fiscal update's priorities were a bit out of whack as well).

    Thanks for the Annie!

  • Beer and Popcorn

    R. Jamieson – I think the joke is on you.

    Hockey and Tim Horton’s are part of Harper’s DNA.

    Ignatief might be OK in downtown Boston sipping on a latte at a local Starbucks or coffee house giving his take on the news to a bunch of wool sweater wearing grad students, but he is clearly not in his element at a world junior game watching team Canada.

  • Beer and Popcorn

    R. Jamieson – I think the joke is on you.

    Hockey and Tim Horton’s are part of Harper’s DNA.

    Ignatief might be OK in downtown Boston sipping on a latte at a local Starbucks or coffee house giving his take on the news to a bunch of wool sweater wearing grad students, but he is clearly not in his element at a world junior game watching team Canada.

  • LogicallySpeaking

    Kind of like going to the comments section expecting only compliments? The guy/girl kind of has a point. Having a Conservative point of view (and from the admittedly occasional reading of your blog posts, I'd argue that the capital C is more accurate) does not mean that every single facet of life needs to be framed or analyzed from a partisan viewpoint. Not to mention, your second last sentence just perpetuates the fallacious Conservative talking point – voters don't select anyone for the position of Prime Minister.

  • ted

    Hockey and Tim Horton's are part of Harper's DNA.

    Are you kidding me??? Harper wouldn't be seen dead in a Tim Horton's if a camera wasn't around. He is so out of touch with Canadians that he has to pretend to be writing a book about hockey.

    But seriously, when are Conservatives going to give us a policy or governance reason to vote FOR Harper instead of this pap about he's the greatest Prime Minister in the history of Canada because… he likes hockey?!?!?

  • Robert K

    My guess is that The PM paid for his own tickets….

    On the at ease business, I note you did not comment at the discomfort he showed on TSN before the puck drop where Mr. Harper was asked what was more exciting – watching his son score a winning goal or watching the world juniors. After fumbling around for an answer, he answers: “As Prime Minister, I would have to say the World Juniors” No Canadian in their right mind would disagree with him saying there is nothing more exciting that watching ones own child score a winning goal. Good thing the shirtless guy in gold came along to make him look like a “regular guy”

  • ted

    So according to you, Stephen, there are no other more pressing issues for voters to judge their leaders right now – not the economy, not mountains of broken promises, not leadership ability, not foreign policy, not jobs, not self-inflicted deficits, not scamming election finance laws, not avoiding Parliament, not coalitions – but which leader is the bigger hockey fan??????

    It took Liberals 13 years to get this out of touch with Canadian priorities. After two years we already have a government telling us what is important today is your degree of hockey fandom and good investment opportunities!

  • Soccermom

    OK, that's funny. Kelly Jamieson trying to make Iggy seem like an average Canadian. Hahahahahahah! Gasp….hAHAHAHAHA! Iggy a commoner! Count Iggy! A guy who was squirreled away writing his “memoirs” during Christmas break.

    Dang that's funny! Ridiculous, but very very funny. I'll bet that was the first hockey game he's ever attended, and that's only because Kinsella told him to. You think he actually wanted to be there?? He did high-fives with the other people in attendance, too, and did the 'wave', too, right? Oh, and he went out for donuts after the game, too, right? ( as if he's ever even eaten a donut before)…

    Pass the Grey Poupon…

  • MikeW

    You did not mention that in addition to the world juniors a major international hockey tourney Bell etc. was on display at the same time in Ottawa, with male and female hockey teams from many parts of the world. One team in particular had a player named Ben Harper on it and it won its division. A certain father also P.M. attended those games, not just the Juniors. I expect he paid to attend those as well.

  • http://maxwell-devin.blogspot.com Devin Maxwell

    How did you like the Steve's pre-game hockey analysis on TSN? He sounded more like a tourist from Jersey attending his first game than a supposed expert on the sport who is allegedly writing a book on the subject…

  • R. Jamieson

    HAR! HAR! HAR! HO! – HEE! HEE! – hold on while I catch my breath!! HA! HA! – Jeez, you guys really do slay me! Picturing Harper on skates, let alone actually playing in a hockey game, is just too out there! The guy just isn’t what you want him to be at all!! The only Tim Horton’s in Harper’s DNA is the major donut residue around his 48 inch waist line. Talk about someone being out of their element – give your heads a shake fellas – Harper is the antithisis of what you are trying to propose. Now – take John Baird – there’s a real man’s man! I can really picture him goin” down on his knees to take a shot for the gipper!

  • RoyallyPOed

    Trying to sell Iggy as anything but an accidental Canadian is a bit rich don't you think? I know draft dodgers who remain US citizens who have more time in Canada. First Dion with his French citizenship, and now the acclaimed Iggy who has less time in the country than most imigrants, come to try to save the Liberals from themselves. I wonder if they've screwed themselves so badly they can't get anyone who is actually Canadian through and through to lead their corrupt pack of loons. The fact is Harper was there for his love of the game, Iggy was there for a photo op and to find out how it was played.
    With that said, I too wondered at first if Iggy had some cojones but as soon as the first press question regarding the Coalition of the three stooges came out, Iggy went and sat on the fence unable to give a straight answer – too late I guess, their is probably some minimum time one can spend int he Liberal caucus before the Lieberal rot sets in, but too late for Iggy.

  • RoyallyPOed

    Ahhhh, so its to be Conservative to “promote some half baked partisan mindlessness” is it? One wonders if supporting those wonderful people who gave us Adscam, the Grandmere affair, Shawinigate, the HRDC scandal, the billon dollar boondoggle of the ($100 million) Gun Registry, and got elected on re-writing NAFTA and abolishing the GST, could ever be supported by ” some half baked partisan mindlessness”. Indeed, the Liberals have survived on that given that they have so repeatedly proven themselves to be the Political equivalent of the Hell's Angels. The truth is, that to vote for them should be proof of an act of treason. Personally, I'm fairly certain that the reason they took five years to come up with anti-gang legislation was that it took them that long to figure out how to avoid catching themselves in their own net. But still a turd could get elected in some Toronto ridings if it was wrapped in a Liberal T shirt. Being in a room full of Liberals leaves me feeling like I need a shower and Iggy is simply putting Lipstick on a pig.

  • BCVoiceOfReason

    Devin have you ever watched a hockey pre-game show? ( or are you a scout for the Ottawa Senators) ? The Prime Minister relied on clichés a bit more than his analysis last year but was as competent as the professional TSN commentators. After the interview I could really envision having Mr. Harper and family over to our Canada Day BBQ and having a common ground to talk to about and have a pleasant time.

    On the other hand I don't see the common ground I would have with Dr. Ignatieff and his patrician roots as compared to my mongrel heritage. I believe that there are more people whose ancestors came to Canada on the lower decks of the ships than the state rooms. We have had the elites (Trudeau, Martin, Stanfield, Mulroney) govern Canada long enough and the appeal of a regular guy who actually enjoys the same hockey as regular Canadians is very strong. Chretien understood this and tried to act like a regular guy, “le petit gars de Shawinigan” but it appears his hobbies run more into owning golf clubs than being a hockey fan

  • Kelly B

    Who cares whether or not Harper or Ignatieff were at the games? Yes hockey is a huge part of Canadian culture, but does a love for it validate one's political worth? H E double hockey sticks no.

    Canada may love hockey, but hockey is not Canada.

    This partisan crap reminds me of the US election when the Republicans tried pitting the “pro-americans” against those crazy other americans who are somehow less american for not being from a small-town. It's nonesense.

    And Ignatieff's grandfather was not a Russian Czar, and if he was what does that have to do with anything? Or is Mr.Taylor relying on the ignorance of his readers to somehow interpret that as a negative?

  • Soccermom

    “Being in a room full of Liberals leaves me feeling like I need a shower and Iggy is simply putting Lipstick on a pig.”

    I'll say…

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    Read the article again.

  • Beer and Popcorn

    Kelly, Kelly, Kelly,

    Dr. Ignatieff wrote a book where he referred to he and fellow Americans as 'we'. This is defianately not a crime, (and a refreshing approach to the traditional anti-Americanism we are use to from the Liberal$ directed at our largest trading partner and closest ally and friend) but it does make one question the sincerety Dr. Ignatieff's new image of being a hockey-loving patriotic Canadian rather than the pipe smoking, turtleneck and blazer wearing American lecturing professor from Harvard that he branded himself as for so many decades?

    And are you a little sensitive to this comparison of Mr Harper, who is genuinely a patriotic, hockey loving dad who has spent his life in Canada fighting politically for his country and his ideals?

    I bet you are.

  • http://www.genx40.com Alan

    With respect, Harper's three missed majorities have been directly due to his own failure to genuinely tie himself with the threads that line our hearts. His unfortunate habit of speaking his mind at critical points in elections is his Achilles heel.

  • Liz J

    Swear to God I commented on blogs that Iggy would be a fan of hockey if necessary but not necessarily a hockey fan.
    No doubt his handlers told him there was a game on and he should attend. Wonder if they were expecting TSN to play politics and give him equal billing with Mr Harper who is a true fan?

    Our PM attended as a fan and as a person very interested in hockey who just happens to be the PM. He looked very relaxed sitting there with his son Ben, nothing phony about that picture.

  • donna

    A Russian Tsarist minister? How does Iggy's grandpa relate to the story. Are you implying he is a Commie or a lapdog of the Tsar. I guess you are a Con!

  • donna

    A Russian Tsarist minister? How does Iggy's grandpa relate to the story. Are you implying he is a Commie or a lapdog of the Tsar. I guess you are a Con!