Hockey or hooky?
It doesn't matter whether you're a company CEO or a Grade 5 student -- there is a faceoff this morning that is bound to disrupt both adult workplaces and children's classrooms alike.
Team Canada versus Team USA.
So when it comes to an Olympic hockey game in a shinny-mad nation -- and the right to advance to the men's hockey gold-medal final -- there are two options: embrace the potentially seminal event or have a bunch of employees suddenly take ill or spend three hours pretending (poorly) to work and school kids skipping class or finding creative ways to sneak peeks of the game on their iPhones.
After all, the start time in Sochi, Russia, is 11 a.m. local, and history records that on such rare occasions where international hockey dominance is at stake, the country stands still to watch. By the millions, in fact.
It happened for the Summit Series in 1972. It happened for the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake and again at the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
Although the Canada-U.S. clash is not for an immediate medal, most business leaders and school administrators realize if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
'I leave it up to the schools to decide. But if I was a kid, I would be begging my teacher to watch it'
And that includes provincial Education Minister James Allum, who confessed, "I leave it up to the schools to decide. But if I was a kid, I would be begging my teacher to watch it (the game)."
In fact, when Allum was a Grade 7 student at Central Public Elementary School in Dudas, Ont., in September 1972, he watched Game 8 of the Summit Series in the school gym. Teachers let the kids listen to Games 5, 6 and 7 on the radio, too.
Because just like Sochi, Team Canada's historic clashes in Moscow with the then-Soviet national team were broadcast back to Canada during midday.
"That game (when Paul Henderson scored the series winner), that goal, easily one of the most memorable moments of my life," Allum said.
Besides, Allum noted, there are "incredible intrinsic values" to watching Canadians play hockey at the highest level; including patriotism, citizenship, teamwork and sportsmanship.
"I mean, look at what the women's team did today. Wow," Allum said, referring to Team Canada's comeback 3-2 overtime win over Team USA in the Olympic gold-medal final Thursday.
"This is what nation-building is all about," the minister added. "It's a common cause from coast to coast."
School divisions are leaving it up to individual schools to decide between hockey or history. Or hockey history, for that matter.
"We're encouraging schools to watch our Canadian athletes in action," said Seven Oaks superintendent Brian O'Leary.
"We are encouraging as well in Louis Riel," added superintendent Duane Brothers.
However, one official in the Winnipeg School Division cautioned: "The schools usually have to pick and choose events, and as (today's game) is a semi and not a medal round, there may not be as much happening."
But if Canada is all business when it comes to Olympic hockey, many businesses just might be all hockey today.
For example, at the North West Company's head office on Main Street, the multi-purpose room has been outfitted with three big-screen TVs and three projector screens to show the game. A special conference room at the Fort Garry Hotel, where the company is hosting an annual summit, has also been outfitted with a big-screen.
"We recognize that people will either be watching the game at work or taking the day off, so we thought, 'Why not get together and cheer on Team Canada together?' " said Connie Tamoto, manager of corporate communications. "One of our core principles is personal balance. This is a great way to get together and have a little fun on a Friday. It's only a few hours. Everybody works hard the entire year, why not have a chance to have fun as a group as well?
"Everybody is a proud Canadian and wants to cheer on the whole team. We're a big proponent of physical activity and hockey is a big sport up north. It's in our best interests to play the game (at the office) so people aren't engaged on their cellphones."
Half Pints Brewing Co. won't be messing around, either. The local microbrewery will shut down its production lines and its dozen or so employees will convene in the "tasting" room.
"We're going to do some quality control on our Little Scrapper IPA, order some pizza and watch hockey," said Nicole Barry, the company's CEO.
She said she wanted to recognize her employees' hard work on all of the days that don't feature a big hockey game.
"They're a passionate group of people; they deserve this. Everybody deserves a break and rather than pretending that we're not paying attention, we figured, 'Let's have some fun doing it,' " she said.
Employees at National Bank Financial are bound to be a little hoarse this morning after cheering for and watching Jennifer Jones, the firm's senior legal adviser, skip Team Canada to a gold medal in women's curling Thursday morning before regrouping and doing the same for the women's hockey team.
"When Canada is playing hockey, nothing is getting done during that period anyway. At least we're going to get productivity until 11 a.m.," said Jon Kilfoyle, vice-president and regional manager. "We're going to host a little bash; everybody will be bringing their favourite jersey and wearing jeans. We're going to order in some food and have a little bit of fun."
And if you aren't able to take in the game at work or a local tavern, you can stream it to your phone. MTS said Olympic fans are tuning in on a variety of devices.
"Following (Thursday's) gold-medal performances by Winnipeg's own Jennifer Jones curling rink and the Canadian women's hockey team, interest in (today's) men's semifinal game is at a fever pitch," said spokesman Craig Lawrence.
-- with files from Nick Martin
How will you swing being able to watch the Team Canada hockey game today? Join the conversation in the comments below.