Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops on Tuesday November 12, 2019.
It was loud. And it was crowded, way more people than last year. For once, I got there early enough to stand in line, get tickets and go inside with time to spare. Once in, I looked around and everything felt familiar.
I am not a hockey person by any means, though by now I know how a game runs and what this or that means. I did not grow up with it, and when the time came for my boys to choose the sports they liked to try, hockey did not make the cut. No matter.
Every year, our family is at the hockey game that takes place before Remembrance Day. It’s military appreciation night too. My husband is a veteran and serving with the Rocky Mountain Rangers, the local regiment founded in 1908 and one that makes the community proud. Throughout the years, The Rocky Mountain Rangers soldiers served in wars and participated in peacekeeping missions. Many of them still do.
Remembrance Day weekend is busy and though most activities (OK, all of them,) repeat every year, it is never boring. It’s familiar and necessary. That includes the hockey game. We take our seats waiting for the pre-game ceremony to start. The noise and lights are relentless, and there’s the occasional bell from enthusiastic fans. Little kids and babies wear earmuffs for a reason. Still. It’s exciting. Goosebumps-exciting as time draws near.
We stand for ‘O Canada’ and it takes only a few seconds for people to join in. If there is a moment that defines being Canadian, this is one of them. Hockey game about to start, military personnel leading everyone in singing the anthem. Everyone as one. It’s intense and reverent, and feeling grateful is part of it.
There are people of all ages, lots of kids too. Poppies abound; flags too. When the anthem ends, the noise is deafening. Everyone cheers. The soldiers march off the ice, then the red carpets are rolled up, and the puck starts dancing all over the rink. It’s a good time and one that every Canadian should experience at least once. In an age when political correctness often gets in the way of affirming an identity, this feels as complete an affirmation as can be. A healthy one.
The Blazers score in the first two minutes of the game, which makes the arena erupt with cheering and applauding, with horn and bell loudness. A few minutes later, another one. Everyone is smiling and nothing else matters but the score and the excitement. It builds up, it ebbs and flows. It envelops everyone. Like I said, a feeling every Canadian should experience.
Scattered among the spectators, military people and their families, as well as RCMP officers and not far near the entrance, emergency services staff. They are a quiet reminder that we have it good and this is that time of the year when we acknowledge publicly that someone stands on guard. For all of us.
Tomorrow we will attend another event, and then the Remembrance Day ceremony on Monday at Riverside Park. The latter is a somber event, as it should be. I hope the park will overflow with people (it did.) It is good when that happens. Last year for example. Being there is the least we can do to honour those who served long ago and are being remembered and those who are serving today, at home and overseas, knowing that the state of peace and freedom we live in is a gift, and a fragile one at that.
May we always remember what it takes to have it good, and may we always remember that we should never take it for granted. May we have the patience to learn about the history of Canada and may we have the wisdom to encourage our kids to learn about it too. When they do, and when we do, we all stand proud and reminded.
Lest we forget.