As the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship progresses, it seems there are more and more Ontario license plates and people donning red and white jerseys roaming the streets of Buffalo. The Canadians certainly seem to be enjoying each others company in Buffalo, with fellow Canadians waving at passing cars with familiar Ontario plates, and Americans seem to be hospitable and acknowledging this "Canadian Invasion".
Canadians packed in the lodge prior to puck drop.
Entering the lodge tonight, I was greeted by hundreds of excited Canadians waiting for their beloved team to take on Norway, and there were a few USA jerseys sprinkled throughout the crowd. The mood was still friendly with a few playful jabs here and there, but as the quest for the gold medal is coming closer, the tensions between these rivals have been mounting.
Both teams are on a quest for the same title, but for two different reasons. There's no doubt that Canadians are proud of their roots and their hockey history, but over the past several years, hockey has grown in the US and American fans are looking to show the world that American born and bred players and USA hockey programs are making serious strides in the hockey world.
Canadians in HSBC Arena's atrium entering the Canada-Norway game.
With many people hoping for and anticipating another USA-Canada gold medal game, I'm hoping that the game (if it happens) wouldn't get too ugly in the stands. While hockey fans from around the world are proud of the sport's culture that produces fisticuffs and the hard hitting "old time hockey" atmosphere, let's hope that the fans will try and keep it clean in the crowd.