Last night I had the honour of attending an amazing party in honour of Maggie Hermant. All funerals should be like this.
Four hundred people stuffed into a Rogers Center suite. Where else would Maggie want her party? Hockey beaming from a dozen screens. Sports jerseys of all variety being worn in honour. Normal food served as per her wishes. An incredibly wide swath of family, friends, friends who were as close as family, work associates, clients, and old classmates. Included in that group were her grief stricken parents.
Maggie was a good friend of our agency and just a few weeks ago she was visiting our office to talk about the next phase in her career. As she was leaving, and I was arriving, we had a brief chat. She was beaming, as always. Quick with some sport highlight, not surprisingly. Behind her was the warm wake she always generated.
Now she is gone.
I left her celebration selfishly wishing that I knew her better. While I accuse myself of being selfish, it’s a a criticism I’m very willing to wear. Maggie was that type of gal. The speeches and memorials to her proved that. The party was organized around the start of the hockey game so the attendees could sing Oh Canada and witness the puck drop. Both of which were crucial to Maggie’s live hockey ritual.
Of course last night’s hockey games were the unfortunate stage of another memorial. Tribute after tribute was being conducted for the Humboldt bus tragedy. You couldn’t help but feel the additional heaviness of this national moment being brought to bear on Maggie’s moment. Magically they complemented one another. As the broadcast showed the powerful unity of the NHL player jerseys all bearing the Broncos name on their backs, the solidarity of the many Ohio State (her alma mater) jerseys at Maggie’s night was equally impactful. There was no question that the moment of silence requested on Hockey Night in Canada, and honoured by us live, was the soundtrack for paying our respects to the junior hockey team while also reliving our individual Maggie moments.
There was a moment early in the evening that I wish Maggie could have witnessed. As the broadcast went to an unexpected commercial, Maggie’s younger sister (and emcee for the evening) realized that there would be a gap in the presentations. Quickly she asked the gathering to sing one of Maggie’s favourite songs. The theme to Hockey Night in Canada. The orginal, and only, one.
The words were not past her lips before the song broke out at full volume. Everyone, even the non-sport fans, knew the tune. So amazing to me. We have an entire nation raised on a song. A sports song. Our true national anthem. There may be nothing more Canadian. A close second may be riding the team bus to a hockey game.
I think we belted that song out to celebrate Maggie, mourn the loss of members of our hockey family, and remind ourselves that when times are painful we are part of a bigger team than perhaps we ever realized.