In the game of hockey, we learn some important lessons. Lessons about sportsmanship and fair play, that perseverance is rewarded and disappointment unavoidable.
That you always get back up, brush yourself off and keep skating. That the buzzer doesn't matter; it's what you do with the time before the buzzer that counts.
These are lessons about life learned on the ice.
But ask any hockey coach from house league to the pros, from the armchair to the NHL, what matters most — what hockey's greatest lesson is — and they will tell you it's all about teamwork. Teamwork wins games.
In Sochi, Canada showed the world why hockey is our game and why we're the best damn country in the world at playing it.
We sent the best of the country that produces the best. In their skill and determination, Team Canada's men and women exemplified all aspects of the game, there's no disputing that. Finesse and fearlessness.
Those qualities don't win games in and of themselves, though. Certainly not at the Olympic level where national pride is on the line.
No, in earning those gold medals, Team Canada reminded us of hockey's most important lesson, about teamwork. That's is a lesson that can be applied well beyond the rink.
It's a lesson that can be learned in relations between French and English, between First Nations and Canada. It can be learned in coming to terms with the fact that we're a country that both exploits resources and preserves them — that, in fact, both points of view are important and must be given equal weight.
In the attitudes some hold toward immigration and the questions of Canadian identity — whatever that might actually mean — immigration stirs up, the truism that by teamwork we all succeed was laid out before us on the ice in Sochi.
It is another truism that many Canadians would like our federal and provincial representatives to put the best interests of Canada ahead of the best interests of re-election. To see that the team matters more than which line you play on.
Right here at home, we can see how a lack of teamwork among our municipal representatives has resulted in a city council lacking both a scoring punch and a penalty kill.
Hockey shows us that talent and skill alone do not determine success.
This should not be seen to diminish or overshadow the performances or team spirit of any other of our Canadian athletes. But hockey is our game. The world knows it. We know it and proved it.
But we also must remember that hockey isn't just about winning. Much like the statue of Stompin' Tom slated to stomp in perpetuity downtown, hockey is a reflection of who we are as Canadians or who we would like to think we are.
Strong. Adaptable. Resourceful. Adept. Determined.
We are those things. We are also, at times, divided, jealous, elitist and worse. Because we're people.
The lesson those 47 men and women who went to represent our game to the world demonstrated is that our differences are what make us a better team; that we must disagree, but we must also come together when it matters most.
That teamwork wins games.
Go, Canada. Go.
Mark Gentili is the managing editor or Northern Life and NorthernLife.ca