The seasons and months have changed, and the start of October presents a curious time on the calendar. It’s almost an unofficial New Year’s: summer has ended, and gone are the days of cottages and warm evenings, patios and festivals. Now ’tis the season of school and hockey, while cozier, food-oriented holidays await. Canadian Thanksgiving is this weekend, and this season can offer moments of reflection and renewal; that stuff doesn’t really happen in January, let’s be honest.
Looking back, it’s been a fascinating few months for Canada, with triumphs in sports and culture — some expected and others not. This country isn’t often one which boasts national accomplishments, but events of late have brought people together from within while also making headlines beyond the borders. Here is what we’re talking about:
Canada’s Walk of Fame
This week celebrated the entrance of a cadre of Canadian talent joining the country’s prestigious Canada’s Walk of Fame with a televised showcase, complete with a red carpet and everything. An event at the end of the summer announced the six distinguished Canadians, a group of diverse figures across the spectrums of art, entertainment, and culture, whose names would be forever added to the sidewalk of stars in downtown Toronto. They are, in no particular order: fashion journalist Jeanne Beker, musician Corey Hart, filmmaker Deepa Mehta, actor Jason Priestley, athlete Darryl Sittler, and actor and activist Al Waxman.
What stands out about this group is how little actually links all of them. That is to say, it’s such a disparate collection of people that I might venture to guess that there aren’t too many who are fans of or especially familiar with everyone. Which of course isn’t to say that you can’t be a fashion aficionado and a hockey enthusiast; rather, it’s that Canada, for all its stereotypes, is so especially varied, and these inductees demonstrate that wonderfully.
The Canadian women took centre stage at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, triumphing in the pool, at the track, and on the field. Canada earned 22 total medals across the 2-week event in Brazil, including 4 gold; the women netted 16 of those, 3 of which were gold. The star was Penny Oleksiak, the unassuming 16-year-old swimmer from Toronto who took home an individual gold and silver, as well as a pair of bronze in team events while beautifully representing Canada. (I mean, she didn’t get drunk and vandalize any gas stations while she was down there.)
Oleksiak returned to her home city and was even featured in a small parade through the east end of Toronto, riding down Queen Street East as fans waved flags, cheered, and followed her convoy to an event in Kew Gardens. It’s a welcome reminder that support of amateur athletes is paramount and a strong source of pride for the country. And aside from a couple of questionable comments from some announcers (comparing a swimmer to a pig, wondering why Emily Seebohm wasn’t successful even though her boyfriend was), CBC and company offered great coverage and a lot of opportunity to consume the spectacle.
Whenever Canadians play hockey against other countries—be it the men, the women, or certain age groups—we’ve long been at the point at which we’re expected to win. It’s not enough to play well or to make it the finals; we must succeed. Which is a curious way of thinking for a country whose national identity is built on humility and sportsmanship; to expect to win is something perhaps, to cater to the stereotype, very American.
However, Canada is a land of ice and snow and hockey our sport of choice, and as expected, as hoped for, the Canadian men won the World Cup. It’s a fine line between glory and disappointment, and the latter would have spread throughout the nation had the team staggered at all while playing at home. Canada won in dramatic fashion, downing Europe (the whole continent!) in two straight games, scoring a shorthanded goal with less than a minute to go in the deciding game for a dramatic finish.
I suppose that’s the next bar in Canadian hockey; we’ve moved past expecting to always win. Now we expect to win, but let us make sure it’s dramatic and stirring. We’ve come a long way.
Just kidding. The CFL is ridiculous.
We won’t dabble too much in politics here, but instead let us take a moment to celebrate Trudeau and the government for a specific reason. Well, two reasons. Firstly, we’re not Britain, who shocked the world by leaving their established union, which in turn may throw the continent into utter uncertainty.
Secondly, we’re not the U.S., and at no point did Canada have a national election wherein one candidate was a privileged businessman of questionable morals who repeatedly disparaged minorities, religions, women, journalists, women again, and everyone who disagreed with him, or who publicly boasted about the size of his…well, you know. Who also got into late night Twitter wars and lied all the time.
But let’s not simply pat ourselves on the back for what we’re not; let’s take some pride in what we are. Case in point: Calgary’s mayor got some New York Times love this summer! Well done, Nenshi.
The Tragically Hip
At the end of the summer, the country took a collective evening off for a bittersweet farewell, a swansong for an iconic Canadian rock legend. Other than the aforementioned hockey, it’s hard to think of any event in recent time that’s remotely similar to what took place that Saturday night in Kingston. It was even bigger than hockey, though: The Tragically Hip have for decades produced music that struck the hearts of Canadians, offering a soundtrack to the lives of so many and lyrics about what it means to be Canadian—including, yes, loving hockey.
The emotional farewell to The Hip and Gord Downey brought together Canadians for events at bars, clubs, theatres, arenas, and houses; it may not have been the band’s best show, but it was definitely their most unforgettable.
And there was much rejoicing! Indeed, we’ve had plenty to celebrate, observe, and embrace these last few months. From sports to arts, from culture to—well, not quite politics but perhaps relative politics, it’s been quite a few months of Canadian celebration (you know, cheering and then apologizing if you’re being too loud).
So one season has come to an end and another begins, and it’s a chance for both reflection and preparation. The sports calendar is changing, a political shakeup is taking place to the south, and a holiday season of generosity and caring is upon us. Amid uncertainty—some of that which is less important (The Leafs) than others (Trump)—let us take advantage of what we can control, embrace the positive, and take that with us for whatever comes next.