I have CURSE: Canadian Underdog Rooting Syndrome Experience

Rick MacLean
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It went something like this. The Americans were better. And they were ahead.

It was the women’s hockey team this time, but it doesn’t matter, losing to the Americans is the worst thing. Even losing to the Russians - or the Latvians, more on them in a moment - isn’t as bad.

Our southern cousins are just so big. And rich. And sure they will win stuff.

At least we have hockey. Or did, until recently. Then the world started to catch up, especially the U.S. women, who have been on a run of late when it comes to winning world championships.

Hockey. Can’t they leave us anything?

And there the American women were, up 2-0 with an early goal in the third period on a power play and, well, it was the end.

Except Canada scored one of those goals that doesn’t win points for pretty. Thrown at the net, the puck managed to find the right knee of an American in front of their own net and...and we’ll take it. 2-1 with three and a half minutes to go.

Time running out. Time for desperate measures. Canada pulled its goalie for the extra attacker. That never works. The other team sits back, clogs up the front of the net and eventually slides a groaningly slow shot down the ice to kill all hope.

Only, when an official got tangled up with a Canadian player, allowing the inevitable shot, it hit the post.

Then, with 54.6 seconds left, Marie-Philip Poulin nabbed a puck dug out behind the net and thrown in front. And it was a new game.

The overtime was eight minutes of agony. Then a tic-tac-toe power play and it was over. And we’d won gold.

And I missed it.

Sure, I saw the Americans score, then score again. And that was all I could stand. I couldn’t bear to watch. I dug my car out of a snow bank and drove to UPEI to run on the indoor track for the better part of an hour.

It’s not my fault. I’m a Canadian. And I suffer from a very Canadian affliction - the Canadian Underdog Rooting Syndrome Experience - CURSE for short.

I realized how serious it had become when I started rooting for Latvia when their men’s hockey team was trying so very hard to beat our guys in the win-or-go-home playoff game the other day.

I know I shouldn’t have, but a bit of me was rooting for Latvia. They have about 1,200 hockey players in their entire country. We probably have that many in some leagues in Toronto.

They were such underdogs. And we were -are - so much bigger and better than them. Their entire team makes something like $6 million a year playing hockey, and for all I know that includes the coach, a Canadian.

Our guys make about $140 million, which is likely the entire defence budget of Latvia, a smudge of a country hugging the Baltic coast near St. Petersburg, Russia.

They had no right even being in the game, but their coach believed in them, said they were a team, and good, and they just didn’t get the memo.

So they hung in and hung in.

It was just so ... Canadian. So I started cheering for them. Silently. It was CURSE. I understand it normally comes out when we’re competing internationally in ... well ... just about everything.

Latvia lost a nailbiter by a 2-1 score, told you it was all very Canadian. Then our women did the unthinkable. The wonderful. They won. And I heard about it on the radio leaving the UPEI parking lot.


Rick MacLean is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.


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