Even if Canada, U.S. Share Undefended Border, There's Always a Cold War
Canada and the United States share the world's longest undefended border. The only major disturbances you'll find are Sasquatch and Niagara Falls. It's quieter than the hotline for the Vanilla Ice Fan Club.
Over the years, no rivalry has existed between the two nations. Only during the War of 1812--when U.S. forces bungled an invasion of Canada--and the epic clash of 1993--when Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams bungled several attempts to check the Blue Jays lineup--has any semblance of ardor spiced things up.
Strangely, the sedate land of Canada is a hotbed of one of the most aggressive and violent "sports" out there. As Pete Winson, a Boston University student and friend of this reporter, so astutely notes, "[All] the best pro wrestlers come from Canada." This list includes Bret and Owen Hart, Chris Jericho, Jacques Rougeau, Phil LaFon and Chris Benoit.
However, on the Harvard men's hockey team, the locker room aggression we might expect from a U.S.-Canadian rivalry has been sedate, like Ric Flair's reaction to the Sharpshooter (the finishing move of Bret "The Hitman" Hart).
"We joke around with it," says sophomore Trevor Allman, who hails from London, Ontario. "I wouldn't say it's a rivalry. We yell out we're from Canada and stuff, but the Americans don't yell out 'USA!' a lot."
Freshman Steve Moore, a Thornhill, Ontario native, concurs.
"There's no rivalry," Moore says. "No animosity."
This past summer, a U.S.-Canadian dispute over fishing rights was reflected in a World Wrestling Federation war between the U.S.A. and such "patriots" as Hart. Don't U.S.-Canadian issues affect hockey as well?
"Only during the series in the hockey World Cup last year," Allman says.
For Canadians, this passion for the World Cup burns more brightly than for Americans, says sophomore Mark Moore, Steve's brother.
"[The World Cup] is like if we challenge the U.S. baseball or football team," Moore says. "Even then, I don't think it's comparable. Hockey is a much bigger part of the Canadian collective psyche than anything in America is.
"At home it's everywhere--there's hockey on all the TV channels and on the front page of the paper."
Indeed, perhaps the most defining moment in Canadian unity occurred during the 1972 series with the Soviet Union.
"It was a landmark in terms of grassroots, of the way it brought people together," Moore says. "In Canada, there are definitely rivalries between local teams and big cities, but as soon as the national team takes to the ice, that supersedes everything by a country mile."
Winson recognizes hockey's dominance in Canada as well.
"[There's] hockey night in Canada, and Don Cherry, who I would name the official God of the government," he says.
By contrast, many U.S. sporting events result in divisiveness signified by the "pennant race": two sub-divisions of a country pursuing the same goal. Consider the 1978 Red Sox and Yankees, who, in their struggle for American League East supremacy, embodied Athens and Sparta in their quest for hegemony over the Greek peninsula.
The U.S. reaction to hockey has produced two opposite products: people who are apathetic about professional hockey and a devotion to college hockey that is more fervent than in Canada.
"Here, you can walk around and some people couldn't name half the teams in the pro leagues," Mark Moore says. "It's a real different world. But there's a lot of enthusiasm at the college level here. Maybe at home it gets diluted with so many teams and games."
Such different national perceptions of a sport may make it difficult for a rivalry to develop. However, the increased enthusiasm for college sports in these here parts can only strengthen a most enjoyable and vital competition: Harvard-Yale.
"We're all Harvard-loyal first," Mark Moore affirms.
So, in the end, we see that the U.S.-Canadian border continues to lie dormant, while the Massachusetts and Connecticut border is gearing up for a Survivor Series.