Marcus Hayes: Cigars and beer go well with Canada's gold

Posted: February 27, 2010

VANCOUVER - Given the Jon Montgomery precedent, they've embarrassed themselves again.

The directors of the Olympics where a luger died on a killer new track, where they shut down the mass-transit system before they close the bars, and where they placed the Olympic torch behind a not-so-photogenic chain-link fence have, again, embraced the chance to egg their own faces.

The Canadian women's hockey team was photographed on the ice posing with their gold medals . . . while consuming beer and smoking cigars.

Canadian beer. Molson Canadian.

You know, the good stuff.

In an empty arena. After the fans had left.

Outrageously, the Canadian Olympic Committee made the players apologize. Hockey Canada apologized, too.

"We realize we should have kept our celebrations in the dressing room," winger Jayna Hefford said yesterday.

Hockey Canada and the COC should have their maple leaves revoked.

"To be honest, I think people are in search of a story that doesn't exist," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said.

He then acknowledged that the IOC had sent a letter of inquiry to Canadian organizers.

Which, of course, makes it a story. Especially after IOC executive director Gilbert Felli admonished the women directly, and immediately.

Which brings us back to Montgomery. The most triumphant image of the games for Canadians - and, really, the coolest image of the games, period - is Montgomery walking down the streets of Whistler Village wearing a red Canada jacket and a Canada toque and drinking a beer.

A pitcher of beer.

Gulp after gulp. Raising it high above his head, triumphant after a skeleton gold.

The last image of him that night: Entering Canada House, a can of Molson Canadian raised high.

Which was cool.

It also was illegal.

Montgomery was drinking in public, a finable offense.

Nobody fined him. Nobody stopped him. He did it in public, in front of kids, and it was broadcast all over the world.

It was a purely Canadian moment, a country of hearty souls distilled to its essence. This is purely an expression of misplaced outrage.

Clearly, the governing bodies are upset because what the Canadian women's hockey team did was unladylike.

Whoa. Wait a minute. They're hockey players, not figure skaters. And they are Canadian. Which is like being Australian, without the tan.

This isn't really about sexism. OK, it might be, a little.

But if Canadian doll Maelle Ricker were seen swilling a brew after her snowboardcross win, rest assured, Canada Snowboard wouldn't be apologizing.

They'd be trying to make Molson a sponsor.

Even the apologies ring hollow:

"The members of Team Canada apologize if their on-ice celebrations, after fans had left the building, have offended anyone," the Hockey Canada statement read. "In the excitement of the moment, the celebration left the confines of our dressing room and shouldn't have. The team regrets that its gold medal celebration may have caused the IOC or COC any embarrassment."

It should regret that the IOC and COC got involved.

This is a country whose national sport celebrates its championship from drinking booze from the trophy. Try doing that with the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Granted, major league pro sports and the Olympics are different. But this happened in an arena where everyone was supposed to have left. This was a private moment.

Technically, they shouldn't have been smoking inside, either.

Technically, 18-year-old Canadian star Marie-Philip Poulin is underage . . . by fewer than 6 weeks.

"I think we are really sorry for what happened," said Poulin, a Quebec native, where the legal drinking age is 18. "It won't happen again."

Technically, the Canadian powers-that-be are barely containing their amusement.

"It was nothing more than an error in judgment," COC chairman Michael Chambers said, suppressing a smirk.

"They shouldn't regret what they did for a moment," said embattled Vancouver organizing chief John Furlong, an architect of the laughable logistical issues here.

Well, he finally got something right.

It's exhausting for Canadians, whose image has been battered by a series of ham-handed gaffes by their own organizers and the IOC. The serious ones, they have to bear.

This one, they just want to go away.

"Just let them have their fun. They won their gold medal," said Mark Deeg, a 19-year-old from North Delta, British Columbia. "Jon Montgomery drinks a pitcher on the podium and they can't celebrate on the ice?"

Montgomery did not, of course, drink while receiving his medal, but, hey, Deeg had a beer in hand, attending last night's short-track skating races. Recollections might get fuzzy in such an environment.

Before pounding the pitcher in public, Montgomery achieved a modicum of fame in Canada for a promotional picture that displayed his hunky body.

All things being equal, whatever Montgomery can do, the Canadian women should be able to do, too. *

Send e-mail to hayesm@phillynews.com.

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