After team Canada beat the bratwurst out of Germany in the qualification round, I knew the Canadian Olympic hockey team had a tough road ahead. The mighty Russians, who we were supposed to meet in the finals, were instead met in the quarters. One of the two titans would be going home without a medal. This was supposed to be a game for the ages. I knew hockey of this caliber only comes around every 4 years and if the NHL doesn’t commit to the next Olympics, it might never be back again. So I started sending some text messages and spreading the word prior to each game that regardless of who joins me, I’m hitting up bars for the remaining 3 games. Not surprisingly, a large contingent of fans wearing (and bleeding) red and white jumped on board.
After the Canadians sent the Russians back home to cry over a few bottles of delicious premium vodka, a correlation became clear: this was the first time my beard and I had supported the team in public. I didn’t have a beard in Canada’s gold medal winning 2002, or the disappointing 2006 Olympics. The 2002 team had Mario Lemieux, the 2006 team didn’t. A reasonable conclusion was that my beard was replacing the leadership not present in the absence of Mario Lemieux. It only makes sense. There was too much evidence supporting the beard theory. I knew Team Canada and my beard’s fate were entwined.
So Russia was done, but I knew the Russian team had been overrated, it was the fast Americans with stellar goaltending, who were the real challenge and I wasn’t sure my beard and I were ready for them. So from that point forward I pleaded with my face, “Please beard, grow…Before it’s too late. Canada needs this. The Olympics needs this. The planet needs this.”
When Team USA beat Team Canada a week prior to the gold medal game, Team Canada’s defense, like my beard, had holes in it. From that day forward I committed to growing my beard 24 hours a day. Even in my sleep I urged the hairs to be thicker and stronger. A couple days after beating the Russians, we took out Slovakia. The stage was set for a rematch between the USA and my beard and Team Canada.
As my beard grew, so too did Team Canada’s chemistry. The weak spots in my beard disappeared, just as the weak spots in Canada’s game disappeared. Coincidence? On the day of the gold medal game, my beard claimed there’s no such thing. Did team Canada’s grit wear down the opposing team’s defenses or was it my grizzly beard? Did Sidney Crosby score the OT goal or did my beard? You won’t read about this on ESPN.com or TSN.ca, because the media wants to tell you a different, fabricated story. Shhhh…We know the truth, but my beard will let Sid take the credit, because it’s better for Canadian hockey.
With the Olympics over, the Canadian hockey team adorned in gold, my beard’s work was done, and thus, was retired. My baby face restored. But underneath that baby face a new beard lies, hibernating, waiting to carry the hopes of Canadians on its hairy shoulders for the 2014 Olympics. Thanks be to beard. Amen.