Hockey changed in the women’s hockey match in 2002 when the Canadian women’s team beat the Americans and the same followed the next night in men’s hockey. For anyone who had been watching closely, Canada also changed. Canada gained a new confidence in relationships with Americans and in global affairs. The games this week, which featured the victorious Canadian women partying on the ice smoking cigars and cavorting on the Zamboni, was typically uncharacteristic of Canadians, but it was all in good fun and showed a Canada grown confident in its new national character.

We Americans have something to gain with greater friendship with Canada. If the American dollar begins to yield, we may think of a common currency. And certainly we should share in a common defense on our shores to the north where we are both vulnerable. But Canadians also have strong hearts and even temperament, like that displayed by the grace and good-natured acceptance of the gold by team captain Sidney Crosby yesterday.

NBC analyst and American hockey legend Jeremy Roenick called yesterday’s game the “most important game in history.” But maybe the 2002 women’s match was more important. When Hayley Wickenheiser led the Canadian woman’s hockey team to gold victory in the 2002 winter Olympics, head coach Danièle Sauvageau, who had brought the women passion, leadership and instinct, gathered the team around her after the victory for a final word on the virtues that would carry the women and their families through the difficult times in their lives. Huddled in a circle, she said three words to them: responsibility, determination and courage. This speaks to Canada and it speaks to Americans. We couldn’t have better friends on the ice or off.

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