I watched Canada lose to Russia while I wrote about a high school basketball player.
I was working at the Niagara Gazette, a building that sits approximately two blocks from the Rainbow Bridge, an international boarder crossing.
The Gazette doesn’t have digital cable, and so I watched the game on my computer, “stealing” the TSN feed and alternating between English and French, because sometimes hockey is more fun that way. For example, hearing the French announcer freak out when Russia tied it was pretty awesome.
In fact, watching Canada choke away a 3-0 lead while a packed HSBC Arena watched in horror was a wonderfully side of schadenfreude to end the World Juniors with. After spending Monday surrounded by red-clad Northerners making bad jokes about Miracle and mocking anyone in blue it was nice to see toothless Russian teenagers celebrating on the ice.
After the anthems and a bit of postgame shock and awe from the TSN crew, I turned the game off and finished my work. About an hour later I left the Gazette and walked to my car, which is usually a walk intentionally made as short as possible.
Tonight, however, I left the Gazette and into the usual cold to find Niagara Street was filled with cars. It was a line of Canadians waiting to get back over the Rainbow Bridge and go home. Team Canada fans that had fled HSBC Arena and Buffalo after the carnage I had just watched.
Dozens and dozens of cars idling with sad Canadians sitting silently inside. A few flags here and there but none of the swagger and bravado they came across the boarder with over the last two weeks.
It was a bizarre thing to see so many cars sitting on Niagara Street at 11:45 on a Wednesday, but it made me think a lot about my last post. These are the people that really wanted it, the ones who traveled miles and miles to come away brokenhearted.
I tried imagining what it was like leaving HSBC Arena with all those disappointed Canadians. The same group that relished the opportunity to yell and scream in the atrium like so many Sabres fans had beforehand got to feel what it’s like to see so many people so quiet.
I’ll never really know what it was like on Wednesday, but I’d imagine it sounded much like the last time I left that building in a catatonic state: After Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals against Ottawa in 2007. In a way that was the day it all fell apart for the Sabres, but it was also the day I realized just how much hockey mattered in my life.
I doubt I will ever feel that way about Team USA and international hockey, but in a way it was comforting to see all those sad folks just waiting to go home. I’ve been there before.
I think we all have.