History will be made tonight.
Tonight is an epic night, not only for people in Winnipeg, but for all hockey fans in Canada. This game tonight transcends the result on the scoreboard, it represents so much more than the points in the standings.
How important is this game? How significant is it? How difficult is it to get tickets? Well, the Prime Minister of Canada requested 14 tickets. He got two, sorry Prime Minister Harper, get in line. (CTV)
It is the hottest ticket in the nation. Those lucky enough to attend this game will talk about it for their lifetimes.
Hockey is more than a game in Canada. It is difficult to explain all the intangible things NHL hockey brings to the residents of a Canadian city. It pumps the tires with nitro, so to speak.
Deep in the American South you will be hard-pressed to find any small town without a church of some kind. In Canada you will be hard pressed to find any small Canadian town without a community hockey rink.
I've struggled to explain what hockey means to Canadians to Americans. How it is much more than a game. How it is part of the Canadian identity, part of the culture, part of history, part of who we are.
Perhaps an analogy of sorts will help.
Once upon a time two young nations were subject to the same foreign authority, the Monarchy of England. One nation rose up in revolution and war and fought for its freedom. The deaths of thousands came with it and they won their freedom. England gave the blood of about 10,000 of their people for the birth of the nation.
The other nation, much smaller, stayed loyal, some may even say quiet and submissive.
Years went on and a Governor General, the Queen's representative in that nation, saw the citizens of this young nation playing a game on the frozen rivers. This particular Englishman feel in love with the game. As a gesture he purchased a silver punch bowl in Sheffield England. He presented it as a gift to the people of this nation on behalf of Queen Victoria, a trophy for the best hockey team.
I have for some time been thinking that it would be a good thing if there were a challenge cup which should be held from year to year by the champion hockey team in the Dominion (of Canada). There does not appear to be any such outward sign of a championship at present, and considering the general interest which matches now elicit, and the importance of having the game played fairly and under rules generally recognized, I am willing to give a cup which shall be held from year to year by the winning team. I am not quite certain that the present regulations governing the arrangement of matches give entire satisfaction, and it would be worth considering whether they could not be arranged so that each team would play once at home and once at the place where their opponents hail from.
Lord Stanley of Preston - Governor General of Canada (1888-1893)
It was a simple gesture, one that was rooted more in goodwill than grandeur. A decorative punch bowl that only cost 10 guineas, less than 50.00 American dollars, hardly as impressive as a huge statue from France or anything.
Canada is a land of ice and snow, a vast, largely uninhabited northern country. In the 19th century it was a colony of the United Kingdom, it was governed from afar. In a sense, before there was a formal Canada, there was hockey in this colony of the United Kingdom.
Then there was this gesture from far across the Atlantic. A gesture from the Monarch to the people of one of her colonies and a game they played. In response back the earliest teams to play for the Stanley Cup named themselves after Queen Victoria out of respect.
Tonight we will see the Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadiens play much more than a hockey game, we will see them skate in the shadows of ghosts of Canadian hockey players from a century ago.
In February 1896 the Winnipeg Victorias played the Montreal Victorias for the Stanley Cup. The Winnipeg Victorias won.
Queen Elizabeth's portrait will hopefully be put up in the MTS, after all it was her Grandmother's Governor General who gave it to us.
The Montreal and Winnipeg Victorias would meet several more times in the 19th century for the honor of playing for the Stanley Cup.
Today these two Canadian cities play a hockey game again under different team names. A game that has been waiting to be played for 15 years.
Some things transcend money. Hockey is Canada's game in a way that it might not be possible to explain exactly. It isn't just a game, it is more. The Stanley Cup hasn't even been won by a Canadian team in decades. It is freely sent from American city to American city year after year. All the fingers from vast crowds stretch up to graze the silver grail.
The Stanley Cup is a national heirloom but it is not locked behind glass, it floats up into crowds freely and all hands are welcome to touch it. Yet is there anything Canadian's treasure more? Why are they not afraid it will be destroyed? Stolen by a wild vandal? Is there a message here?
Canadians feel massive passion for hockey and for the Stanley Cup, passion to the point of embarrassment, as evidenced by our hockey fans in Vancouver. It is difficult to explain.
It is kind of like being asked by an American where you are from and you respond "I come from the land of the ice and snow, where the midnight sun and the hot-springs blow, you know, Canada."
When it comes to hockey and Canada what you really want to say and how you want to say it, is like this and hopefully by saying it this way, you make sure some American lawyer from New York understands why you should never take a NHL team out of Canada ever again.
Hockey is back, lets play our game !
"The Hockey Immigrant Song"
We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow.
The hammer of the gods will drive our skates to new rinks,
To fight the money horde, singing and crying: Valhalla, I am coming!
On we shoot with threshing stick, Our only goal will be the western shore.
So now you'd better stop and rebuild all your ruins,
For peace and trust can win the day despite of all your losing.
We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow.