Monday, February 13, 2006

And the Crowd Goes Wild!

This posting's title will mean absolutely nothing to anyone in the world with the exception of Mr. Cat in Rabat & Brother of Cat in Rabat, who will also know that the quotation in its entirety is, "And the crowd went wild, arrrrrrrrrrrrrhh!" The arrrrrrrrrrrrrhh was my Dad's replication of the raucous frenzy of a hockey crowd. An addled preamble, I know.

So hockey fever has hit Morocco. Or no, it hasn't. But it should be: Morocco has its first ever hockey team - yes, a hockey team! This is exciting news, eh? But it's hard to imagine Moroccans talking about any sport besides football, and true to form, they aren't. In fact, I asked about a dozen and a half people on Saturday about the Olympic games and the unanimous response was the final score of the African Cup of Nations match held on Friday. Now my French isn't very magnifique but I think I'm pretty capable of ennunciating les jeux olympiques so as not to be confused with the le coupe africaine des nations. Really. Hein, peut-être non (she says with a Gallic shrug).

But I digress.

Less than a month ago (on Dad's birthday, in fact), club president Mimoun Lamrini annnounced the birth of North Africa's first ice hockey club, the Rabat Capitals, whose home ice would be the new rink at the Mega Mall (ooooh, shades of the Edmonton Oilers & the West Edmonton Mall - certainly an auspicious sign). Mr. Lamrini goes on to say that "the goal of the ice hockey team is to eventually play against foreign teams." Probably a wise plan as I don't anticipate a host of intramural teams popping up around Morocco - the Casablanca Voyageurs, the Ad-Dakha Dunes, the Tangier Titans, the Kenitra Camels ... oh the possibilities are endless. Nor is the NHL ready for an expansion team such as the Berber Bruins (except maybe in the Southeastern division of the Eastern Conference because who gives a rat's ass about any of those teams?). According to this press release, the Capitals would have its first foreign experience on February 8th, testing the ice at an international tournament in Quebec City. If I could get more than 1 channel on my television set, I would have tuned in with great anticipation, for surely it was televised.

I must confess that I was really tickled over the thought of a Moroccan hockey team - it sort of ranks up there with the inclusion of the Jamaican bobsled team at the Calgary Olympics in '88. But this is big - or should be - because it's the first time an African or Muslim team has competed in a hockey tournament. Incidently, there is a newly founded Algerian Ice Hockey Association whose website concedes that "Algerian (sic) does not currently have an ice rink, but for many of us there is a dream of having an Algerian national team, and with a safer Algeria now getting foreign investment and development, hopefully Algeria will follow Morocco's lead and build a rink." Well rock on, guys! If you build it, they will come and Morocco is right next door.

So the 8th of February came and went and I could find nothing in the press. Nothing. I googled and I yahooed but I couldn't find a thing. Finally Chris pulled up the stats board for the Quebec International Hockey Pee-Wee Tournament and found that the Caps are grouped in International Class "C", along with teams ranging from the exotic (Grenoble, Finland - phew! not Denmark - and Mexico) to the not-so exotic but asskicking (Matapédia, Rouyn-Naranda & the Baie-de-Chaleurs).

So how did the Caps do? Well, it wasn't pretty, but shutouts seldom are. Imagine David & Goliath but where Goliath wins. The Mulhouse Scorpions (the French champions no less) edged them by a negligible 13 goals. But if you put it in perspective, it was only marginally worse than the thrashing that the Canadian Women's Olympic hockey team served to Russia (12-0) but not as embarassing as the Canuck's pummeling over the Italians (16-0) the day before (the ladies were probably a bit tired). Besides, there is much to forgive the team for, and the fact that Quebec is some 30 degrees celcius colder than Rabat right now couldn't have helped much. So the Caps should hold their heads up high - there will be other games. I might even haul my ass down to the Mega Mall and cheer them on - after I have a café au lait, a pain au chocolate, and buy a new pair of sandals.

Rabat plays their next game against Mexico on Wednesday, February 15th. Bookmark this blog Caps fans ... the results will be here first!

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