Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

At the 5-Ring Olympic Circus

In this fabulous Olympic hockey tournament, there have been six or seven countries that swore, absolutely swore, they invented this sport, or at least purchased it, in the case of the United States.

However, we worry for Canada. We worry a lot. Having expended so much national angst on Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, Canada then had to fight off the lurking suspicion that its figure skating officials were way over the top in lobbying for their skaters. Their women lost in curling to Britain Wednesday. Britain! Now the nation must store up its psychic strength for hockey.

Can't let your guard down. The Canadians managed to hold off Finland, 2-1, in a furious finish that was both skilled and nasty, and they must now play Belarus on Friday.

Common wisdom is that Belarus cannot possibly knock off two powers in a row after stunning Sweden, 4-3, Wednesday in the biggest upset since 1980. But we all know how that works.

Meanwhile, Russia outlasted the Czech Republic, 1-0, in a game as grueling as the 1968 conflict between two countries, now defunct, that still reverberoates in the No. 68 on Jaromir Jagr's jersey.

Then came the United States, avoiding stupendous embarrassment against Germany, winning, 5-0. The Russians play the Yanks Friday on the 22nd anniversary of the huge upset in 1980. Those two teams are close enough that there can be no upset. But Canada will be skating on spring ice against Belarus, with the entire nation caught up in the result.

Before Wednesday, I had a premonition of something horrible happening to a major democratic nation from the frozen north. I had envisioned bright Canadian red being stunned, but it turned out to be Swedish blue and yellow that went down right away.

Still, there was such a sense of heightened expectations -- gold or nothing -- plus impending gloom and doom for Canada that I wanted to console my friends and neighbors in the true north strong and free. So I prepared a list of all the good things about Canada, so the folks up there could feel good about themselves just in case something bad happened. Here are a bunch of reasons all of us will still love Canada, no matter what.

1. The anthem "O, Canada!" 2. Joni Mitchell, who wrote the lyric "Look at those jokers, glued to that damn hockey game." 3. Laura Secord puddings I used to bring home from Montreal back when there were big games. 4. Eh. 5. Whistler, British Columbia -- especially downwind. 6. CBC. My wife, currently hanging out in Seattle, says the Winter Games are great on CBC. 7. The McGarrigle sisters. 8. Mordecai Richler. 9. Barbara Ingraham from Montreal, who taught me all about Lady Byng. 10. Al Arbour. If I were an athlete, I would have loved to play for him.

11. The Rocket. 12. The Pocket Rocket. 13. Cottages on the lake. 14. Dr. Ron Taylor. He could pitch, too. 15. Neil Young. 16. Baby Beluga in Stanley Park. 17. Margaret Atwood. 18. The maple leaf on the flag. 19. Mario Lemieux. 20. Oscar Peterson.

21. Richard Pound, who suffered because the International Olympic Committee delegates cannot tell a Canadian from an American. 22. Leonard Cohen. 23. The late Rick Danko of The Band. 24. The late Richard Manuel of The Band. 25. Robbie Robertson of The Band. 26. Garth Hudson of The Band. 27. Levon Helm of The Band, despite being from Arkansas. 28. Donald Sutherland.

29. John and James Coburn, zany twins from Toronto, who staged the Poetry Olympics in Calgary in 1988, the single best night I ever had at the Olympics. 30. Montreal in summer. 31. Quebec City in winter. 32. Toronto in fall. 33. Vancouver in spring. 34. 5 percent alcohol beer. 35. Eight-pin bowling. 36. Moose Jaw. 37. Porcupine Plains. 38. Air Canada. 39. Bilingual food packages.

And a final two: 40. Aboot. 41. The gift burgundy ski hat with CANADA across the front that had the U.S. Olympic chief here, Kathleen McElroy, imagining she was from Toronto rather than Houston.

Canadian garb is hip. Canadian skaters are chic. But Canadian hockey is everything, a very dangerous state, indeed.

George Vecsey is a sports commentator for The New York Times, to which he contributed this comment.