Time is a flat circle, stuck in endless repetition, not to magnify the absurdity of life...but to highlight its beautiful moments.
Best. Player. In. CONCACAF.— Waking the Red (@WakingtheRed) October 14, 2021
“Wow...that was cool.”
Those words were uttered by my 8-year-old son on October 13, 2021, after watching Alphonso Davies score a goal that several days later still defies our understanding of what is possible under the rules of modern sports science and belies belief.
I stared at him, a bit shocked by what I had just seen, struggling to offer a much more nuanced analysis other than: “Yeah...that was. That was cool!”
And then I smiled for the rest of the game because I knew that what had just happened on the pitch was very, very important...but what had just happened on a couch in a basement in Brampton (and hundreds of thousands of other couches all across Canada) was going to be as equally – if not more important.
We had just witnessed a moment which could echo for decades to come.
I know this, because I was once that 8 year old on a couch, watching along to a Canadian sports moment that would write itself in my memory and shape the way I felt about sports to this day.
On September 15, 1987, Canada played Russia in the final game of the Canada Cup, and in the dying moments of the game, two of Canada’s brightest stars – Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemeuix – combined for a goal that had hundreds of thousands of 8 year olds across the country look up and say: “wow...that was cool.”
Sitting in Edmonton, Alberta, at home with my father and uncles, I recall watching that game like it was yesterday. At first, I was so confused as to why we were gathered for a team that wasn't the Edmonton Oilers, and I was confused as to how Gretzky could possibly still play for Edmonton, if he was somehow also representing Canada. And also...when did Canada get a NHL team? Believe me, it was very confusing. Oh and Rick Tocchet was on this team? Didn’t he play for the Philadelphia Flyers, an American team, one which Gretzky and all of us Oilers fans hated? What was he doing on the ice with The Great One? It was all so confusing to me!
Well, once getting the proper explanation from the elders on how this all worked, I still wasn't completely comfortable with the idea, but decided I was all in on Canada and would be rooting for my home country to defeat these evil foreigners who dared lay a finger on No. 99.
The rest of the game is a blur; it’s memories more ascribed to folklore and mythology, but the final goal in which Wayne took the puck down the left-wing boards and left a perfect pass for Mario Lemieux to roof in the top shelf of the goal is why I became a fan of Canadian hockey for life.
That one moment led to the day I stayed up until 4 a.m. ET to watch a game airing from Nagano, the time in 2002 we all rushed home after a class to watch the Gold Medal final, in 2006 when I skipped out on a medical school class in the US to watch the game back at home with friends and family, so on and so on, and recently when the World Cup of Hockey was held in Toronto, and I took my son to watch Canada play because of a moment that I had experienced 30 years prior.
What happened on Wednesday was cool, what will happen in the next 20 to 30 years may even be cooler.
That goal had light bulbs going off in my head about fast forwarding in time to 2026, and what that could mean for me and my son, and how much I would love to be wearing a Canadian kit with him and cheering live for Davies and the rest of the boys in a World Cup game at our second home, BMO Field.
3 years of playing FIFA, and he’s only ever picked PSG (and on occasion United)…today I found him picking Canada.— Tej Sahota (@boatical) October 16, 2021
that’s what special Moments like Davies goal can do.
can’t wait for you all to read my piece tomorrow in @WakingtheRed .#CANMNT ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/L91GHnE05b
I started thinking of how maybe once he’s older, we would travel to away games in some of the less hostile of CONCACAF venues, and how during the November window of games, I already had a willing and ready partner-in-crime to cheer on the boys in Red.
It would be an understatement to say that goal had sent my mind racing. My guess is I wasn't the only person in Canada with all those disjointed thoughts in the seconds and minutes after that goal.
The immediate after effects of Wednesday will be determined by whether Canada qualifies for Qatar 2022, but the long-term repercussions won't be fully realized for many years after that. That singular moment has the power to hook in and build so many new young fans, ones who will feel an affinity for the Canadian men’s national team like their parents, uncles, or aunts just couldn't because they were robbed of their generation having a defining moment on the pitch.
Sometimes it doesn't take a slow burn. As it was in Hamilton in 1987, it was in Brampton in 2021. It just takes one moment of brilliance, to drop your jaw in awe and have you completely enamoured with the players draped in the colours of your nation’s flag. The ones who, despite playing in different locales all around the world, come together for the athletic competitions of your country. The ones who make you forget who you voted for in the last election, the ones that make you forget about Western/Eastern divides, about what we suffer through as a nation together. The ones that remind us that these athletic events, while trivial in nature, become nation building events that bring people together and remind us that there is far more that unites us, than separates us.
Gretzky on the left boards in 1987. Davies on the right sideline in 2021. Where we will all meet is in the middle, and with a whole new generation of fans who will be ready to join each other and cheer one another and lift one another. To be caught up in the moment, knowing that there are millions of strangers across thousands of kilometers caught up in it with you.
I just think that’s so damn cool.