When I read that “Canadian identity is under scrutiny” on the Wikipedia page about Canada recently, I vowed to spend one day discovering what it means to be Canadian. I personally trace my form of patriotism to the Vancouver Olympics, where — let’s face it — we were awesome. I thought maybe, by doing as many Canadian things as possible in 24 hours, I’d be able to forge an even better patriotism, one that might convince others that we’re as great a nation as I think we are.
Monday morning, and it’s the breakfast of champions, waffles slathered in maple syrup followed by a Timmies coffee and a couple of Timbits. I was recently reminded just how Canadian I was when I corrected an Australian tourist who called them “donut balls.” To school, I wore all Roots clothes, and listened to an all Canadian soundtrack of The Tragically Hip, The Barenaked Ladies, Steppenwolf, The Guess Who and Rush — a great lineup to get you excited for the day. I found early on that by trying as hard as possible to be Canadian, you really begin to reflect on what we’ve got going for us. Free healthcare, no guns, winter storms that we walk off, hockey, and quite honestly the best flag there is. If you can sew something on a backpack and be universally liked anywhere on earth, that’s a pretty good sign.
Going out of my way to say “eh” all day proved a bit of a stretch, but nonetheless a lot of fun. I also enjoyed always calling them loonies and toonies, whenever change was required.
Lunchtime, and it was off to get poutine, which I’d only had once in my life — but it really is delicious. I was beginning to get a sense of dread that my experiment in our cuisine might just stop my heart but, considering the mood of the day, I figured I could press on. My last meal of the day was a peameal bacon burger, ketchup chips, and milk from a bag — the way it was meant to be drunk.
Now, approaching 7 -’clock, I was off to see the Leafs play for the first time. I have always been a bit of a baseball guy myself, but I figured that since anywhere in the country you’ll always find a game of shinny on a side street, it couldn’t be half bad. Where the Rogers Centre is a cathedral to baseball and football, I found the ACC to be a far more personal experience. I had rink side seats at least for the warm up and was struck by just how small a rink can seem. As awesome rock music with the bass jacked to unhealthy levels replaced my heartbeat, a group of extraordinarily large men skated around in a way that I, with my inability to stop or turn, could never dream of. Two minutes till game time, and I went to take my $65 seat, in the top row of the far corner, with a wall blocking the view of one net. It was wonderful.
Now, I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, it’s a Molson Canadian. I began asking around about what to look for, who was the best player and what the penalties were. I was greeted with a warm, if confusing, response. The game itself now, and it was extraordinary. After an inauspicious start, we stormed back, killing penalties, passing with grace, making great saves, scoring three times in five minutes. It didn’t seem to matter what it was, the crowd roared. In fact, the only booing I heard was for the other team committing penalties and a picture on the jumbotron of Donald Trump, which only served to make me feel happier to be Canadian. For a few hours, I came to realize the allure of the game I had always avoided. The fans, the lights, the pictures of William Shatner on the screen, the banner of Tim Horton, the fluidity of players rushing on and off the ice, and most of all the epic victory — it all seemed like the right place to be to finish off my Canadian night.
Tasty but deadly food, great music, an earnest desire to be polite, a sweater with “Canada” stitched on the front and a fantastic hockey game. To me it seems Canada’s identity, if I had found a small piece of it, was pretty great. Canada, a land with proper portion sizes, with more land than you can shake a stick at, and with lower production values than Hollywood. Canada is a place where the weather changes like the weather, where we have towns named Moose Jaw and Flin Flon and where telling foreigners you’re going to “eat a beaver tail” provokes a look of sheer terror.
Canada is also a place where even though we know ditching the penny makes economic sense, it still feels like losing an old copper friend. I suppose now we’ll have take a nickel leave a nickel jars. Everything I did in that 24 hours made me feel Canadian, like there was no better place to be than right here. Whether it’s our hockey, our flag, our natural beauty or just something special to you personally, I think everyone should try and feel Canadian for a day, whatever that means to you. Be a hoser and feel the red and white flow through your veins. You just might like it, eh?