It's been over a day since Team Canada claimed men's hockey gold to set a new world record for most gold medals earned by the host country and closed out the Vancouver 2010 Olympics on a ridiculously high note, and I still cannot find the words to describe this feeling. The smile literally has not left my face since that glorious moment when Sidney Crosby eluded Brian Rafalski, received a slick, no-look pass from the corner from a tumbling Jarome Iginla, and slipped the puck through Ryan Miller's waiting five-hole for the game winner just over seven and a half minutes into overtime; the image of him throwing down his mouthguard, stick, and gloves with an uncontainable, exhilarated authority forever etched into the minds of Canadians.
The condo complex across the street from my house erupted in a simultaneous roar that echoed throughout the empty streets of my neighbourhood in suburban Calgary. I jumped up off the couch, eyes wide with disbelief, screaming at the top of my lungs; pure euphoria. I hugged my father and we high-fived, my hands, previously curled into tense, perspiring fists touched those of the calm and collected former goaltender beside me, who had introduced me to the sport as a child and then again as a young teenager. Afterwards, we sat there in a comfortable silence as the team did a victory lap around the ice, passing a giant Canadian flag between them. The greatest prize ever to be claimed. In a split second, Crosby, the twenty-two-year-old phenom, became my generation's Paul Henderson, our Mario Lemieux; securing national glory in the sport we call out own. He may play in the United States; he may have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins; but on this day, in this moment, with twenty-six million sets of eyes on him, he epitomized everything that is Canadian.
These Olympic games did so much more than introduce the world to a new Canada, a new sense of unbridled Canadian pride and patriotism unrestricted by unwritten behavioural codes or regional and national borders. They were about so much more than showing off our nearly unsurpassable hospitality and tolerance, our innate quirks and unique charm, our landscape so inconceivably and ethereally beautiful, or even the wondrous abilities of our athletes to the world. These games, an easy target for the international media's pointed critiques that literally and metaphorically kicked us when we were down, became a unifying force strong enough to link together a nation so geographically expansive and seemingly disconnected in so many ways.
From the moment Alexandre Bilodeau soared down Cypress Hill and claimed this country's first gold medal on home soil to be shared with his disabled brother Frederic, to Joannie Rochette's balls-out skate in honour of her recently deceased mother, to our women's hockey team showing the IOC and the world how Canada celebrates victory, these Olympics provided so many lasting memories that will be shared by Canadians for years to come. Stories that will be told and retold, each time documenting the series of events that saw us begin with our heads hung and our collective tails between our legs, only to slowly rise from the ashes, stronger than ever, to the tune of a spontaneous rendition of 'O Canada.'
It feels like an understatement to say that I'm proud to be Canadian. To live in a nation so free of strife, amongst a people with seemingly limitless potential for greatness. And I don't ever plan on leaving without force. This Fall, my travels will take me to Ottawa, and despite never having been there, I can already tell that I will love it just as much as I do the city where I was born and raised. How could I not? It's Canada. It's home.