“WHERE ARE YOU?”
“QUEUING AT TIM HORTONS’!”
“BE RIGHT HERE!”
It took me a second to spot Mark, who was wearing a red promotional hockey jersey. “They gave it to me!” he beamed as if he had been begging for a hockey jersey all his life.
“Do you want some hot chocolate?”
He shrugged. “Sure.”
The three of us queued together for our free cup of coffee and cup of chocolate, because whenever there is a major event, Tim Hortons or McDonald’s is always around to give away free drinks.
Last weekend, the Stanley Cup was in Ottawa to commemorate the donation of the trophy by Lord Stanley of Preston, the sixth Governor General of Canada, to the Ottawa Hockey Club on March 18, 1892. This historic milestone is a cornerstone of the Senators’ 25th NHL season, as well as the League’s centennial festivities. Like hundreds of Ottawa residents, we went to Lansdowne Park to check out the NHL Centennial Fan Arena, “a touring tribute to a century of hockey”—no, it doesn’t get more Canadian than that.
It was a nice day by local weather standards, so I agreed to join the guys at the Aberdeen Pavilion.
In the Tim Hortons lineup, we did this Canadian-small-talk exercise with parents of a one-year-old in a stroller—no, Mark, you aren’t 17, it’s your weight, not your age.
“Are you gonna sign up your son for hockey?” the father asked.
“No, no!” I replied a bit too vehemently. I was already picturing Feng and I waking up at 5 a.m. for ice practice, driving Mark from game to game around Ontario, living in the car and on Timbits, cheering from nosebleed seats and congratulating him on his first NHL draft at 18.
Then I realized the father had meant the hockey practice on site. I turned around and looked at the bunch of toddlers and young kids wearing helmets and armed with wooden sticks, fighting for the puck in a small hockey rink. Wait—did the five-year-old girl really just body checked the other kid? Then I looked at Mark, clumsily holding his Tim Hortons hot chocolate. Yeah, maybe we’ll skip hockey practice, aka “let’s all get injured together”. Mark lacks practice, he can’t fight against French-Canadian kids who have that special hockey gene.
“Gosh, I keep on forgetting how awful Tim Hortons coffee is,” I sighed. “What is everybody queuing for over there?”
“To see the Stanley Cup.”
“Right, what else!”
“Wanna line up?”
“Did you see it already?”
“Yes, look, I took a picture.”
“Then no, I’ll live without seeing the real Stanley Cup. What’s that place where no one is queuing?”
“Let see… free slice of pizza.”
“Grab one for Mark. Oh, look, you can enter to win a free trip!” I squinted at the fine print. “Wait. A free trip anywhere… oh, in North America. And to see your favourite hockey team. Never mind.”
Everyone around us was wearing either the free event jersey like the one Mark has gotten either an official NHL jersey. Amazingly, in Sens Town, no one picked on people wearing the iconic blue Toronto Maple Leafs jersey. I can’t imagine fans of rival football teams coexisting so peacefully in the UK…
“You know mommy, there is a man inside the giant beaver.”
“I… would have never suspected this.”
I was overdosing on Canadian clichés. Kids playing in the snow wearing shorts, Québécois swearing in joual, the lineup to sit in a mini-Zamboni, the Beaver Tail truck, the cold air on my skin and…
“I’m getting cold, guys.”
“Just one more thing—I want to see the museum truck.”
“The museum truck? I… can’t think of anything more North American than setting a hockey memorabilia museum in a truck. Sure.”
And so we queued for our chance to see old pucks, old gloves, old skates and old hockey sticks. We skipped the “locker picture,” the chance for a photo in a replica of the Senators locker room.
It was the most Canadian Sunday I had in a long time.
It was fun.