Ian Froese, Staff Contributor
The Canada Winter Games has it. Same with the Olympics. It’s a certain buzz that is hard to describe, an energy compelling us to cheer on athletes we’ve never heard of compete in sports we don’t understand.
Now, sure, the Olympics is a far larger entity than the Canada Games can ever dream to reach and our provincial pride at the Games will never equal our national affiliation, but once you strip away its polished packaging, you will arrive at the core of these multi-sport festivals. At its essence, they are a raw celebration of sports. Why else would we watch table-tennis or archery? These athletes have no cheques to cash, owners to appease, or corporate sponsorships. It’s pure. It’s athletics at its most basic: for the love of it.
When money is no object, sports can truly demonstrate why it is the world’s finest reality TV show. Anything can happen. It’s where athletes can overcome adversity or see their dreams dashed. It’s where tears of happiness and also of despair flow
The ringette teams from Saskatchewan and Manitoba know this fact well. Manitoba was favoured when the provinces met in the quarterfinals, and for good reason too. They had contested every ringette medal since the sport was added to the Games roster in 1991. The Saskatchewan team would not be slouches, but history was not in their favour. Their last chance for a medal was in 1999 when they claimed bronze.
A semifinal berth appeared to be Manitoba’s destiny again. They held a 2 – 1 advantage up until nine minutes left, until it happened: Saskatchewan suddenly potted two and we had a new leader. They held onto a 3 – 2 edge.
Saskatchewan’s response at the final bell was sheer jubilation. Their arms flew, gloves launching into the air, rushing their goaltender with unadulterated glee. However, it is the image from the Manitoba side that is etched in my brain: each athlete was crying. Most huddled around their bench, but three were off to the side. They were consoled by their proximity to each other, not by words. Two of them stood in silence while the other blankly stared at the ice below.
Outside the Manitoba dressing room, I waited to quote their thoughts. It took awhile. Their coaching staff was the first to leave the room. They solemnly spoke amongst themselves and then returned to their distraught girls. 10 minutes later, a captain finally took my request. Her eyes still red from the tears she shed.
Although heartbreak, such as that, can pierce the soul, the Canada Games produced its fair share of joyous moments too. Those memories that pull at the heart strings.
The women’s hockey game was meaningless, Nova Scotia was decimating Yukon 12 – 0. It was more of a delightful keep-away battle than a hockey game, until it happened: Yukon scored with 1.8 seconds remaining.
Just a goal, you say. You’re right, but the joy it created warmed even the coldest of hearts. Yukon’s fans relished the moment with a decibel level probably not matched the entire day. The team piled on top of their goalscorer. Bluenose athletes responded with a standing ovation. It was enough to make your skin crawl.
The final bell soon rang and the players mobbed their goalie with the enthusiasm of a team that won the championship. Nova Scotia even had to wait to shake hands because the Yukon girls were too busy rejoicing.
Those emotions, the good and the bad, are what sports is all about. It’s why we care. It’s why over 6000 people volunteered to be apart of it. It’s why 5500 crammed into the Forum to watch boxing, many for the first time.
I’ll be recalling some of my memories for the months to come. Hopefully you watched the Games yourself and have stories of your own.