In the wise words of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, and you had better believe that this crazy Canuck wasn’t going to miss her shot at taking in an NHL game right here in Shenzhen, China! Wait, a hockey game in China? That’s right, the Calgary Flames and Boston Bruins faced off for an NHL pre-season matchup in Shenzhen on sizzling September 15, 2018.
Hockey is proudly dubbed “Canada’s Game,” so what kind of maple syrup-chugging, beaver-cuddling, toque-wearing, goose-on-the-loose would I be if I didn’t rush to the ticket office, eh? Despite being a Vancouver Canucks fan, I was more than happy to jump on the Calgary Flames cheer squad bandwagon, especially since I had actually lived in Calgary for a couple of years.
An NHL game experience in China
The game was held at the Universsidad Arena the day before Typhoon Mangkhut smashed its way through Shenzhen. As ticketholders arrived in the blistering Saturday heat, a sea of NHL jerseys and patriotic attire was a sight for sore eyes. Spotting so many Canadians in the crowd instilled some serious nostalgia in this expat, particularly for my pre-game Timmies run. (Tim Hortons is the Canadian coffee and donut shop which was founded by a Canadian NHL veteran.) Perhaps this Canadian tradition will be adopted by the Chinese community, or fellow BASIS International School Shenzhen teachers and families, with the anticipated opening of 1,500 Tim Hortons locations across China in the coming years!
As we entered the arena, we were ecstatic to see that Harvey the Hound, the mascot for the Calgary Flames, and Blades the Bruin, the mascot for the Boston Bruins, had also made the journey across the pond for this special occasion. Rather ironically for the teachers in the crowd, the pregame “entertainment” consisted of a comical education session performed by the mascots. As Harvey and Blades demonstrated the basic rules of the game, such as “不要bu yao high-sticking” (no high-sticking), to those who were unfamiliar with the rules of the game, we had a reality “crosscheck” when we realized we were not spectating this game in classic home-style. This reality became even clearer as the players lined up for the traditional singing of the national anthems.
First up, “March of the Volunteers,” the national anthem of the People’s Republic of China, was sung by Jike Junyi. As the conclusion of the anthem drew near, the anticipation of “O Canada” began to give me goosebumps, and I proudly straightened the Canadian flag that I had caped on my back. Sadly, the only thing to follow the Chinese National Anthem was pure disappointment, as neither “O Canada” nor “The Star Spangled Banner” made the program. The only thing worse than having no Timmies or pint in hand, is being at a hockey game without our national anthem!
Despite these minor upsets–we can pretend that the Calgary Flames didn’t actually lose in overtime–the game was heaps of fun. When the Stanley Cup trophy itself makes the trek, Canadian Sports Hall of Famer, and co-captain of the Calgary Flames only Stanley Cup championship team, Lanny McDonald drops the puck, and you have a cuddle with Harvey the Hound, how could we possibly avoid humming “The Hockey Song” by Canadian folk legend Stompin’ Tom Connors as we left this Chinese hockey arena?
“Oh! The good old hockey game, it’s the best game you can name…”
– Elizabeth Quinlan-Keech, Early Education teacher, BASIS International School Shenzhen