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Alona Mercado     Historic moments: Where were you?

It is often said that there are certain moments in history that stand out in our collective memories. More often than not, it boils down to, “Where were you when you heard the news?” However, on the afternoon of Sunday, February 28, 2010 Canadians all over the world weren’t just waiting for the news, they were actively participating by living, breathing and dying with each moment that passed as the Canadian Men’s hockey team attempted to defeat their arch-rivals, the Americans.

We now know that approximately over 18.8 million Canadians watched the game in its entirety on TV and approximately over 26.5 million Canadians watched at least some part of the game. In essence about 80%, or 4 out of every 5 Canadians shared in a roller coaster experience that, thankfully, ended well. I honestly think that had Sidney Crosby not stepped up and scored that goal in overtime, Canadians all over the world would have had a collective nervous breakdown.

I can’t remember taking part in another single event that so many people from so many different places “shared” in. I know many people who don’t know anything about hockey and could care less about it but they watched the game anyway and were so enthusiastic about the Olympics in general. It was as if everyone sensed that there was something special taking place and they wanted to be a part of it.

Where were you that faithful afternoon? Thousands of people lined the streets of Vancouver to watch it at various outdoor venues. Thousands more gathered in bars, restaurants, churches and community centres all over the country to watch the game. Our soldiers in Afghanistan were watching it while holding up a sign that I thought was very fitting. It read “Canada-USA: Brothers in arms, not on the ice.” The Pilipino Express team was watching it from a small TV in their office as they put the last issue of the paper together. Some members of my family were watching it together at a cousin’s house in Winnipeg, while a few other cousins decided to go down to see the game at the MTS Centre. I have a friend who was on vacation in the Mayan Riviera (Mexico) with her family and they watched it in a room set up specifically for the game by the resort.

I was still in Vancouver at the time. By that point, it was just Annalyn and I left with our brother Adrian (who lives in Burnaby). We thought about trying to go downtown to catch the game at a restaurant there but decided not to when a few of Adrian’s friends texted him around 10:00 a.m. to say that the line-ups started well before 8:00 a.m. and there was no way we’d get in. So, we decided to simply watch it at a restaurant in Burnaby – actually it ended up being just Annalyn and me because we finally convinced our youngest brother that he didn’t need to stay with his Ates to “babysit” us. He could go join his friends in Surrey and we’d be just fine making our way around Burnaby and Vancouver.

The experience of watching a gold medal game in a restaurant/lounge is so much different than watching it at home, on the streets of Vancouver, or at the actual Canada Hockey Place. I have been very fortunate during these Olympics to experience watching Canada’s various hockey games at all these different venues. Obviously watching our women win their gold medals live at Canada Hockey Place was a once in a lifetime experience. But watching the men win gold while in Vancouver comes pretty close.

Annalyn and I watched the game at a restaurant called Sammy J Peppers across from the Metrotown Mall in Burnaby. Since we got there early (11:00 a.m.), we managed to get a table in the lounge right in front of three large TVs. The place was packed and the atmosphere was festive throughout the game. The crowd was ready to party and were already counting down to gold in the last minute of the game. When the Americans tied the game with 24.4 seconds left you could hear a pin drop. After that brief, stunned silence, the cheers and encouragements started anew. I am sure more than a few prayers were said all over Canada. There was also this nervous tension in the restaurant during the intermission and the early part of the overtime period – I would venture a guess that the same tension could be felt throughout the nation. I just kept praying that we didn’t have to go to a shootout. And then the moment of truth happened and pandemonium broke loose.

Annalyn and I waited until after the medals were handed out before heading downtown. It seemed like we weren’t the only ones with that idea because tons of people all decked out in red were getting on the Skytrain and heading to downtown Vancouver. I must say that the atmosphere once we reached the Granville Station was unbelievable. There were loads of people coming down into the station as we made our way up the escalators. But the most amazing part was that they were all laughing and singing and just plain happy. In fact, people going up the escalators were high fiving the people coming down. I have never seen anything like that before and I don’t know if I ever will again. Once we got onto the streets, we were simply overwhelmed with people. You could hardly move a few feet without someone wanting to high five you or you hearing chants of “GO CANADA GO!” The cars that were able to get through the streets jammed with people were honking their horns and waving Canadian flags. Aside from saying that it was amazing and incredible, I am at a loss to fully describe what it felt like to have been a part of that crowd at that moment.

Many commentators have stated that these Olympic Games have changed our nation and how we see ourselves. It will remain to be seen if the patriotic momentum that started in Vancouver but was felt around the country can be maintained. Will the sea of red continue to rise or will it simply fizzle out? Our first big test Canada is the Paralympics that takes place in Vancouver from March 12th to March 21st. These Games aren’t as high profile or as glamorous as the regular Olympic Games but that doesn’t mean that our Paralympic athletes aren’t just as dedicated to their sport as our Olympic team. Let’s give them the same support and enthusiasm. GO CANADA GO!

 

Alona C. Mercado is a lawyer practicing in Winnipeg with the law firm of MONK GOODWIN LLP. She was called to the Manitoba Bar in 1999 and the Ontario Bar in 2003. Her preferred areas of practice include wills and estates, committees, real estate, business and commercial transactions, and immigration law. Alona can be reached at (204) 956-1060 ext. 233 or amercado@monkgoodwin.com.

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