Saturday, April 18, 2009

O Canada

Such a wonderful anthem. I've always thought it the best of all the anthems.

As a kid growing up watching the Chicago Blackhawks, it was always a highlight when one of the Canadian teams would visit the Old Barn on Madison because they'd play both anthems. Didn't matter to me that Hawk fans would boo all the way through the Canadian anthem, because it was all in good fun. No disrespect intended.

The Canadian anthem draws wonderful imagery of a place and a people. Love of country, and fierce devotion.

The original was commissioned in 1880 by the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec, the Honourable Théodore Robitaille, for the St Jean-Baptiste Day ceremony. I believe the Honourable Théodore was the great great great grandfather of Luc Robitaille, longtime left winger for the LA Kings, It is somewhat ironic that Luc, who also spent some time playing for the Penguins, the Red Wings, and the Rangers, and who retired as the highest scoring left wing in NHL history after the 2005-2006 season, never played for a Canadian team.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, after O Canada was written (in French, and with shitty lyrics) the English translation was finally penned in 1908 by Robert Stanley Weir, who, if I'm not mistaken was the great great grandfather of professional golfer Mike Weir, winner of the 2003 Masters, and who plays golf from the wrong side of the ball. Mike is the only Canadian to ever win the green jacket, and was the first lefty to win The Masters (eat it and like it Phil.)

I was quite surprised to learn that O Canada, the cool version with the English lyrics, didn't officially become the Canadian National Anthem until 1980. It was made so by proclamation of Wayne Gretzky I believe, and was signed into law on July 1 as part of the Canada Day celebration, which is the day that marks the beginning of the Walleye Spearfishing Season.

We only get to hear the first stanza of O Canada, when it's sung at an NHL game (as well as at Canadian baseball games, but Canadian baseball doesn't count...it's like Jamaican bobsledding, a gimmick.)

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

In reality, there are four stanzas to O Canada......

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.


O Canada! Where pines and maples grow.
Great prairies spread and lordly rivers flow.
How dear to us thy broad domain,
From East to Western sea.
Thou land of hope for all who toil!
Thou True North, strong and free!
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada! Beneath thy shining skies
May stalwart sons, and gentle maidens rise,
To keep thee steadfast through the years
From East to Western sea.
Our own beloved native land!
Our True North, strong and free!
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Ruler supreme, who hearest humble prayer,
Hold our Dominion in thy loving care;
Help us to find, O God, in thee
A lasting, rich reward,
As waiting for the better Day,
We ever stand on guard.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.


See what I mean? It's a beautiful song. It kicks ass. Goosebump material.

Now tonight, when my Blackhawks and the Calgary Flames line up for the traditional singing of the anthems, you'll note that Chicago fans have stopped booing the Canadian anthem as loudly as we used to, and you'll also note that Hawk fans make so much noise during the Star Spangled Banner that you can barely make out the words. By the time "O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave." is sung, it's pure bedlam. Something of a tradition here, screaming through the anthem.

This past Thursday night, for the first game of the quarter finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs played at The Chicago Stadium (no I won't call it the UC, you call it the UC, make an airline happy!), the noise during the American national anthem was louder than when Marty Havlat's overtime goal gave the Hawks a 3-2 win over the extremely tough and talented Calgary Flames.

It's always great to beat a team from Canada, such as the Flames. They're not Original 6, like the Habs and the Leafs, but the Flames are a fine team. Why wouldn't they be?....they're from Canada.

And as for all the noise during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, it's not that Chicagoans disrespect our own anthem, it's just that we're so friggin' excited to be watching playoff hockey again. And even though the Flames are doomed in this series, thanks to the stellar play of guys like Havlat and Nikolai Khabibulin (an Irish guy I think), the Calgary fans, and all of Canada for that matter, can take comfort and pride in knowing they have the coolest national anthem on earth.

10 comments:

LentenStuffe said...

I know nothing about ice hockey, being a rugger man, but when I lived in St. Louis Gretzky was signed by the Blues. I knew something big had happened. He's like a god, right?

Anyway, Ireland won the Grand Slam and 6 Nations in Rugby this year, and it looks like my home team, Munster, will win both the Heineken Cup and Magner's League. Munster is probably the best club side in the world. I'd say their first team would beat the All Blacks.

I wish you Yanks took rugby seriously. Then the game would really have world class competition. But, no, you prefer those sissy games where you have to dress up in Hallowe'en costumes, straps, assless chaps, scrotum-tightening knickers and nipple-twisting body armour ...

Schmutzie said...

This city is very weird when it comes to its sports teams. Hard to explain other than to say that Chicagoans take it a little too seriously at times.

The Blackhawks were an absolute passion of mine as a kid, but then I just lost interest because the owner was an asshole. Wouldn't put games on TV because he felt like it was unfair to the people who actually went to the games. Now how fucking stupid is that? Talk about passing up a marketing opportunity.

Anyway, the guy died and left the team to his son, Rocky Wirtz, and within 2 years he's totally turned things around. All games are on TV, he's picking up talented young players, and the city is hyped on hockey more than in the last 20 years, at least.

I enjoy watching rugby, although the rules escape me. Rugged sport. Always liked the fact that opponents go out together and tip a few pints after matches, no matter than they were just hammering the shit out of each other on the field. That's cool.

Americans are funny ducks when it comes to soccer and rugby. Both seem like the kind of sports our athletes could excel at, and yet there never seems to be an embrace or a groundswell of support for either. Not sure why.

I have a customer named Tom Roberts, I think he's from Tipperary. Told me he used to do all the work on his own house, but he can't now because he broke his back in a hurling match. He gets around okay, but he's afraid if he falls from a ladder he'll lay himself up for good. Never watched hurling until I met Tom, but I've watched some videos on YouTube since. Looks like it can get rough too. Not much padding there either.

Dude you're so right about Yanks and our equipment. Back in my football days it took 25 minutes just to get dressed with all that shit.

LentenStuffe said...

Now Hurling is the best-kept secret of them all. I love rugby fanatically, sure, but hurling is the supreme game. It's so damn good that we can't export it, won't export it, but if you ever come to Ireland I'll take you to a county championship, field-side, where you'll see poetic magic unfold before your eyes. I kid you not.

Some hurlers now wear helmets. They take about a second to strap on.

Nicky English was in my class in school: himself and Christy Ring [Hall-of-Famers in the Hurling Pantheon] are the only two people, besides Superman, I think, who put both pants legs on at the same time. Check him out on Youtube. He was the business.

Schmutzie said...

I forgot to mention, you're right about Gretzky. You know you're good when your nickname is "The Great One." I had completely forgotten that he played in St. Louis.

I watched some more hurling videos after replying to you yesterday. You're right, that is a rather elegant sport. Not sure if Roberts was a professional, but I see Tipperary is rather serious hurling country eh? Some are starting to wear helmets? Imagine that sport played over here. Our hurlers would be head-to-toe padding, no doubt.

If I ever get the nerve up to sit on a plane for the flight to Shannon, a hurling match it is. You can explain the rules to me.

Schmutzie said...

Found these two YouTube vids this morning after watching some Nicholas English stuff.

I see what y0ou mean about the helmets. Probably more than half of the players are wearing headgear in the Best Goals of 2008 clips.

What a remarkable sport! Just look at the hand-eye coordination. Full speed run bouncing a ball on a hurley, stop dead in their tracks, and hit the friggin ball (hey I learned a new word~sliotar) like a baseball.

This guy Joe Canning, he's in several of these clips....he be real good huh? There's one in here, I think it's #7, where the defender is covering him like a blanket along the goal line and yet somehow he twists free, and hits the corner of the net from a seemingly impossible angle.

Awesome.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTwP2RdrIDA&NR=1


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUK--No2F6s&feature=related

LentenStuffe said...

Yes, Joe of Portumna [lovely spot on the Shannon, just down from my sis's house on Lough Derg] is Ireland's best right now. His brother Ollie ain't so bad either. Joe has skills that continue to stupefy, a genius with the sliotar.

My brother Michael who lives in Ottawa is certifiably nuts when it comes to ice-hockey ... well, that, and golf. And the uncle who just died won an All-Ireland medal for Tipperary in Hurling.

Schmutzie said...

I've been watching more hurling videos. Kinda see how Tom Roberts broke his back. There are some terrible collisions, especially when the offensive guy is running full speed while bouncing the sliotar on his hurley. His attention can wander down to look at the ball for just an instant, and that's all it takes. The defender thinks the offensive player is going to zig, but he zags instead and ka-boom! Big crashes in the open field.

You brother Michael lives in the most hockey-mad country on earth. Probably a Senators fan. They just missed making the playoffs this year for the first time since '97. Good team.

Keifus said...

It was only like thirty years ago that helmetless (scarred, toothless) ice hockey players were the norm. Even helmetless goalies. (Looking it up, the last helmetless NHL goalie was playing for Pittsburgh in 1973. The last helmetless skater retired in 1997--I used to know his name.) It would take a total psycho to stand in front of hundred mile an hour pucks even in one of those plastic Jason masks. (A friend used to say that goalies are all a little nuts anyway, something about being a suddenly explosive type who never, ever blinks.)

K

[I deleted the earlier comment to this post, by the way, because when I looked at it the next morning, it was utterly incomprehensible. I mean really, I couldn't decipher what the hell I was trying to say, and I am pretty sure I wrote it. It was, uh, a late night.]

Schmutzie said...

They were all helmetless when I started watching hockey, and I can still recall seeing goalies with no masks, which is unreal.

A ref got hit by a puck in the last reg season Hawks game a few weeks ago. Right in the cheek after a bad bounce off the boards. He was wearing a helmet, but it still found its way to hitting him. Blood all over the place, had to leave the game.

I was thinking then that refs all used to go helmetless, which arguably is more dangerous than the players' doing it because refs aren't always watching the puck.

God what a fast moving sport. Forgot how much fun hockey is, now I'm getting hooked again.

Late night huh? That's when I want you commenting on my blog buddy!!

artandsoul said...

Oh, and the best rendition of O Canada is at the Canadian pavilion at Epcot .... 360 degree movie... it's almost as good as being there.

;)