Sunday was Hockey Morning in Canada. From coast to coast, Canadians set their alarms early to find a spot to watch the gold medal game between Canada and Sweden.
Burhan Goraya was no different. While many lined up on the street to get into their favourite watering hole, Mr. Goraya was off to morning prayers at the Baitul Islam Mosque in Vaughan.
He slipped off his shoes and headed into a room with the other men and children of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. Once inside, the group got down on their knees and faced east toward Mecca to pray. The Iman made special mention that they were to pray for the Canadian team. Perhaps part of the group was also looking east toward Sochi.
“Having love for your country is part of our faith,” Mr. Goraya said afterward. It’s a bit difficult to wake up this early in the morning, according to Mr. Goraya, but it’s part of being a Muslim.
A little more than two hours later, Mr. Goraya’s national pride was on full display. He was sprinting around Tahir Hall with a giant Canadian flag rippling in his wake, shouting at the top his lungs.
Hundreds of people from the community had gathered at the hall next to mosque to watch the gold medal game. They were decked out in Canada T-shirts, waving Canadian flags and screaming at the game on the projection screen.
Sidney Crosby’s breakaway goal had caused Mr. Goraya’s joyous celebration. The hall erupted and the celebration was captured on a national CBC broadcast.
For many, it was sweet redemption for their favourite player Crosby, who was much maligned by the media throughout the Olympics for his inability to score.
“We are all for Crosby,” Vaughan resident Qasim Choudhary said.
After his goal, the auditorium was abuzz with confidence. People were hugging and smiling from ear to ear. The adoration for Crosby was most evident when Team Canada received its gold medal.
The crowd gave number 87 far away the loudest cheer when he was given his medal. To the community, Crosby is clearly the national hero.
Young and old, the crowd was steadfast in Canada’s corner, even if the older generation might not know too much about the inner working of a left-wing lock.
There was a deep longing from many in the community to show their support for their country.
“Part of our faith is to respect and love our homeland. Canada is our homeland,” Vaughan resident Sufyan Ahmad said.
While the community gathers for prayers before dawn every morning, a big event such as the one at the gold medal game isn’t too common.
For Mr. Goraya, a Ryerson Univeristy student and alumni of Maple High School, it shows how popular hockey is among his generation of Muslims.
“I’m not into cricket. I’m into hockey and basketball,” he said.
He was lucky to have the opportunity to play hockey in house leagues around Vaughan growing up. For many families at the mosque who are relatively new immigrants, Mr. Goraya said playing hockey is only a dream for the children.
“It’s too expensive,” he said.
Visible minority hockey players such as Nazem Kadri and P.K. Subban are heroes for many of the young people in the community, Mr. Goraya said.
“We really look up to them,” he said. “We are always playing road hockey or hockey in the gym.”
Having been born and raised in Canada, Mr. Goraya has been indoctrinated into the country’s hockey culture.
“Canada is a mosaic of different nationalities but we love hockey,” he said.
As the seconds ticked down on Canada’s 3-0 gold medal victory, the hall erupted. Everybody had smiles draped on their faces and flags draped on their body. The young people started chanting, “long live Canada” in a foreign tongue. Now that’s truly a Canadian gold medal celebration.
Love the scenes of celebration as CBC shows the crowd at an Ahmadiyya mosque in Ontario, watching Canada vs. Sweden.
— Dan Hayward (@danielhayward) February 23, 2014
"The power in each of us comes from all of us." Ahmadiyya Mosque erupts as Crosby gives Canada 2-0 lead #CBCOlympics https://t.co/mfhJuzkYZY
— CanuckPhoto (@canphoto) February 23, 2014