Since moving to Japan, and getting through the first few months where the feeling of homesickness and alienation are strongest, I haven’t really missed Canada in any serious way. Of course, Canada is the best country and Vancouver the most beautiful city in the world and there are things I remember fondly and want to see again, but I don’t feel an ache when I think about it (most times).
One thing which causes me to miss Canada is hockey. I miss hockey. I miss watching it on TV almost every day, talking about it with friends and co-workers, keeping track of stats and scores, participating (and winning) hockey pools. When I went back to Canada with my daughter last October to see family I spent a lot of time at my best friend’s place watching preseason hockey. That’s right. The games didn’t even count for anything but I watched them anyway. さすが,カナダ人です。 (I must be Canadian.)
In the last 5 years, the instance of the biggest sense of homesickness was during the Winter Olympics which took place in my hometown of Vancouver in the gold medal men’s hockey game which was contested by the host country Canadians and the United States. This game went into overtime. The pinnacle of competitive sport. Last goal wins. Here’s the goal that won it.
And here is the reaction from my hometown when it happened.
(for an even cooler take on that winning goal, check out the sounds of Vancouver, as a city, when it happened. The goal happens at 1:18 in the video, but you don’t need me to tell you that. You’ll know.)
(another cool video of that moment.)
And I wasn’t there.
In Japanese there is a word, setsunai (切ない）and probably the best definition I have heard for it is an unshakeable sense of regret or pain that stays with you regardless of how much time passes. Not being in Vancouver to celebrate that goal with all my friends leaves me with that feeling. setsunai. I watched the videos on youtube and those sent to me by my friends who were right there. Being Canadian and not being in Canada at that moment was difficult.
And now it’s happening again. This time perhaps even more poignantly. Vancouver has its own professional ice hockey team dubbed the Canucks (another term for Canadian) and they are on the edge of winning, or losing, their first championship title. Canada has won more than enough gold medals in Olympic hockey but the Vancouver Canucks have never won a title. The franchise has been around for 40 years and this is the second time they are on the cusp of winning it all or losing it all. Back in 1994 when the Canucks surprised some top teams in the early rounds of the playoffs, eventually making it to the final to face off against the New York Rangers, the best team in the league that year, the city enjoyed the wild ride and the unexpected trip to the finals. And when they lost in the 7th game, Vancouver rioted (much to the city’s shame).
This year the Vancouver team that has made it to the finals was the best team in the league. They were expected to get this far and the city expects them to finish the job and end their Stanley Cup drought.
And I am not there.
When Vancouver won the first two games of the series, each game won by one goal, the city (and nation) could sense it; finally, a championship banner to hang in the arena. I kept track of the games on the computer and again that slight ache started. Vancouver would win its first championship, the city celebrating just like after the olympics only moreso, and I wouldn’t be there.
On the flip side, when Vancouver played horribly in the next two games in Boston, being outscored 12-1, I wasn’t there to feel that sense of impending doom. To look that fellow Vancouver fan in the eye and share the unspoken thought “we’re in trouble”.
Back in Vancouver again for game 5, Vancouver won by a small margin and with the team on the cusp of winning the title my friends all took to facebook to post their hopes, praises, fantasies and I read them all.
Game 6 in Boston was where Vancouver could have claimed a championship, but they faltered and the game was over before it started with four quick goals allowed by Vancouver and so the deciding game, game seven of the Stanley Cup Final, will be played in Vancouver on Wednesday. And because I am not there I will be keeping track of it via the internet Thursday morning at work.
It’s an odd feeling. For Vancouver, for my friends, and for me, this is probably the most important hockey game in our lives. If they win, the fans will experience the ultimate joy as a sports fan and if they lose the ultimate disappointment, but for me, because I chose to come and live in Japan (a decision I would make again without hesitation) win or lose the feeling I will probably experience will be setsunai
Just win, dammit, Vancouver! Make it easier on me.