Roots and Wings

“There are two things we must give our children; one is
roots, the other is wings.”

My parents flew the Communist coop of Czechoslovakia. Ever
the trendsetters, they did that in 1963, a few years ahead of the rush five
years later. Now, while they were familiar with hockey and had even attended a
few games, I can’t honestly say they were fans.

Me, on the other hand, I was hooked on hockey from the first
time it came into my life. Growing up my favourite team was the Toronto Maple
Leafs
– pause for effect of readers snickering – and my runner-up was Les
Glorieux. Full stop as readers re-read to see if they missed something.

Yes, you read that correctly. During my childhood the Leafs
has some god-awful teams but luckily there was great hockey being played by the
Montreal Canadiens, offering respite from the sorry scoresheets being filled
out at Maple Leaf Gardens.

It should come as no surprise that in international hockey
Canada was the team I cheered for, but alas, the nation didn’t fare too well in
IIHF tournaments back in the day. 
Luckily another squad had captured my attention and my heart – the
U.S.S.R.

Kids at school mocked my secondary allegiance but I was used
to it, being the girl who loved the Leafs and the Habs. Lest anyone come
pounding down the door to revoke my citizenship, in my defence I never, ever
cheered against Canada.

Flash forward a few years and divided loyalty again rears
its ugly head.

Slovakia, where the roots of my family tree have been
entrenched for centuries, plays Canada, where my family’s dreams have soared
for over 40 years. Just like Spock, I too am a child of two worlds.

Heading into the Olympics I dreamed of a Canada-Slovakia
gold medal game. Friday night that fantasy will vanish along with the echoing
cries of  “CANADA!” and “DO TO HO!”

Friends have already started chiding me, asking which team
I’ll cheer for. I’ve thought about this a lot and my answer is, “Both.”

Spare me the speeches about being Benedict Monika. Hockey is
and always will be Canada’s child. 
While hockey’s roots are buried deep in our collective conscience, the
game has winged its way around the world, including Slovakia.

Growing up I never had the chance to cheer for Slovakia
because the country did not officially exist. Now I have the best of both
worlds, being able to support my past, present and future all in one game of
ultimate shinny.

As a fan, this game is one where I’ll be happy no matter the
outcome.

If you still insist on getting a favourite team out of
me for this one here’s a hint: it’s a nation that really, really likes beer.

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