February 27, 2010

Womens' Hockey champs are the toast of Canada

Here's a great online article from The Vancouver Sun - By Craig McInes:

Call it a tempest in a beer cup. Or the dumbest story of the day. Take your pick.

It started when a reporter went to an International Olympic Committee official and reported that, shock and horror, the Canadian women's hockey team were celebrating their gold medal victory by drinking beer and champagne and passing around a cigar while still in their uniforms in the ice rink in full view of some photographers.

One of those team members was underage. Marie-Philip Poulin is the youngest member of the Canadian team, and, coincidentally, one of the biggest heroes. She just finished scoring the winning goal, both of them, in fact, all of the offence needed in the 2-0 victory over the U.S.

She doesn't turn 19, the legal drinking age in B.C., until later next month.

The IOC official said "tut tut" or words to that effect. If true, it's not the kind of behaviour we expect from Olympians, he said. We'll look into it.

Then out of an abundance of caution, the Canadian Olympic Committee apologized to anyone who was offended by the celebration and said the women should have done their partying in the dressing room.

It's hard to know what part of this is more ridiculous. First, no one said anything when the pride of Russell, Man., Jon Montgomery walked through the streets of Whistler drinking from a pitcher of beer after winning a gold medal for Canada in skeleton. Nor should they have.

One of the things we have enjoyed most about these Olympics is not just watching Canadians athletes win, but sharing in their joy as they celebrate their victories.

So our women had nothing to apologize for.

Sure, there are serious issues around the public consumption of alcohol and underage drinking.

Vancouver police have spent a busy two weeks pouring out liquor and issuing tickets to people caught enjoying a drink while joining in the unprecedented street party that has been going on ever since the Games began. They've closed downtown liquor stores early to keep a lid on public drunkenness.

Moreover, this story came out on the same morning that the provincial government issued a press release announcing the start of the B.C. Liquor stores annual fundraising campaign for Dry Grad, the worthwhile effort to keep teenagers from poisoning themselves with booze as part of their ritualized exit from high school.

So go ahead and ask: What kind of example are these women setting for Canada's youth? I hope that sounds as ridiculous as it is. It's hard to imagine better role models than the women who made us all so proud Thursday night.

Yes, they were getting high in public. Over the moon in fact, as they had every right to be after thrilling Canadians and realizing their own dream of becoming Olympic champions.

So they have nothing for which to apologize and plenty to celebrate. While the Olympics is all about overcoming adversity, women hockey players have an even steeper hill to climb than most of our athletes.

On the day they finally won, they had to answer questions raised by IOC president Jacques Rogge and some commentators about whether their sport even deserved to be part of these Games.

Is it too easy to win hockey gold?

Just ask the American women, who won the last two world championships and did everything Thursday except score goals; just ask them how hard it is to get a chance to celebrate, with or without beer and champagne, at the Olympics.

And it's not just the lack of respect. Unlike the men who play hockey, women don't have a lucrative professional career to go back to when the Olympics are over.

So the Canadians got to celebrate, with a couple of brews, while the Americans wept. Beer on ice. It's the hoser way. No apologies necessary.


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