BC Bud & Barenaked Ladies

Let’s get the Nickelback jokes out of the way right now. Same with the gags about Loverboy and Anne Murray.

I love Canada, particularly British Columbia, where I spent most of my time on Canadian soil. My father did nearly move us to Montreal in the mid-70’s at the behest of Marv Levy, who would later coach the Buffalo Bills to four unsuccessful Super Bowls, but we eventually ended up in Portland, so I ate Voodoo Donuts rather than Tim Horton’s.

In the mid-80’s I lived in Seattle, which is not that far from Canada. By not that far, I mean three hours by car, give or take a few minutes depending on whether or not you’re smuggling anything illicit across the border.  My Canadian crossings, however, were precipitated by a desire to drink better beer and watch Wayne Gretzky play hockey, not bring back the potent weed known as “BC Bud.”

July 1 is Canada Day, a celebration of the formation of the country in 1867 when separate colonies became one country. In honour of Canada, I thought I’d mention a few things I love about the Great White North. I decided to keep it sports-related, so that leaves out Neil Young, John Candy, Rachel McAdams, Kokanee Beer and Barenaked Ladies, both the band and Vancouver’s notorious strip clubs.

The National Anthem

Canada has a far better national anthem than the United States. It’s not even close. “Oh Canada” is stirring, it has lyrics in English and French and it’s shorter, which means a succession of American Idol runners-up cannot milk it for seven or eight minutes.

Ice hockey

As a little kid, I grew up skating on frozen ponds in Maryland and went to bed reading books like Headline Hockey and The Stan Mikita Story. Although my pro career on the ice never eventuated (there’s that thing about not skating backwards very well), I’ve always maintained a love of the game. My Dad used to take me to watch the minor league Baltimore Clippers and Hershey Bears, with an occasional foray to Washington DC to watch the then-horrible Capitals. Later, when I was living in Seattle, the border-crossing rituals to watch Gretzky, Messier, Kurri and Co. began. One of the greatest days in my so-called media career occurred outside the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver in 1993 during the Canucks-Maple Leafs series. I sat in a Winnebago doing a radio remote with my good friend Mike Gastineau of KJR radio in Seattle, and we were joined by the great Don Cherry, the bigger-than-life commentator from Hockey Night In Canada known for his garish suits and outrageous opinions. He didn’t disappoint.

Canadian Football

How can you not like a sport that has three downs instead of four, a bigger end zone and a one-point scoring option called a rouge? That’s the Canadian Football League (CFL), which has been in existence since 1958. The league has had its ups and downs, even admitting American members (Sacramento Gold Miners, anyone?) in the 90’s. But the CFL reverted to its roots and is now content with teams like the Edmonton Eskimos, Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Montreal Alouettes. At one point there were even two teams with the same name (though spelled differently) the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the now-defunct Ottawa Rough Riders. The CFL has provided the NFL with a number of notable players and coaches, including legendary Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant and star quarterbacks Joe Theismann, Doug Flutie and Warren Moon. One of my great memories is sitting with my Dad in the stands at the old Empire Stadium, watching the BC Lions play the Toronto Argonauts. The stadium, which was torn down in 1990, was the site of the “Miracle Mile” at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1954, where John Landy and Roger Bannister both ran sub-four minute miles.

Steve Nash

Prior to Nash coming on the scene in 1996, Canadian basketball players were mostly forgettable big guys like Mike Smrek and Bill Wennington (who in fairness won three NBA titles with the Bulls). Nash, who hailed from the not-so-mean streets of Victoria, BC, was a superb talent in high school and at Santa Clara University in California before the Phoenix Suns made him their number one pick in 1996. Against all odds, the 6’3” Nash won back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards in ’05 and ’06 and is one of the best NBA point guards of the modern era. I

Quebec Nordiques

The Nordiques – the name has no real English equivalent, but essentially means “Northerners” – started out in the World Hockey Association before being accepted into the NHL in 1979. The team had very little success and financial difficulties and eventually moved to Denver. The Nordiques are also remembered for the infamous drafting of Eric Lindros, a superb talent who made it clear he wouldn’t play in Quebec if picked. Lindros was worried about the limited marketing opportunities in the NHL’s smallest city and the fact that he did not speak French. The Nordiques drafted Lindros anyway, and after a painful period of time, traded him to Philadelphia. In return, Quebec got superstar Peter Forsberg as well as draft picks, and was able to build a powerful squad. Unfortunately, by the time the team was good enough to win the Stanley Cup in 1996, they were known as the Colorado Avalanche. The bad luck continues to this day, where despite having a brand new arena, Quebec has been overlooked by the NHL expansion committee in favour of the hockey hotbed called Las Vegas.

 

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