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Ryan Bakken, Forum News Service, Published February 21 2014

Enduring Canadian taunts: Border residents put up with teasing after US Olympic hockey defeats

WARROAD, Minn. – Brothers Dion and Carey Hebel raised their arms in triumph at the conclusion of Canada’s 1-0 men’s hockey win over the United States on Friday, then vowed not to let their friends south of the border forget it.

“I’m going to give my American friends a bad time today for sure, but I’ll let it go after 200 or 300 days,” Dion said.

Carey wasn’t nearly as merciful. “Not me,” he said. “I’m holding this over their heads for four years.

“I think having bragging rights is very important.”

The Hebel brothers, who live 20 miles away in Sprague, Man., were joined by about 200 others in a brimming crowd at Izzy’s Lounge and Grill to watch the Olympics semifinal game.

The sports bar also was host to three television news cameras, from Grand Forks, Minneapolis and Winnipeg. Media were enticed by Warroad – already known as Hockeytown USA – because the town was home to two hockey Olympians, T.J. Oshie on the men’s team and Gigi Marvin on the women’s team.

Warroad’s attraction also includes having a team member on both of USA’s gold-medal winning men’s teams – in 1960 and 1980. The first had Bill Christian and the other included Bill’s son, Dave Christian.

Another ingredient of Warroad’s media allure is its location, a mere nine miles from the Canadian border. That proximity lends itself to trash-talking and the quest for hockey bragging rights between folks who are otherwise friends.

Tyler Landman of neighboring Roseau – another hockey hotbed – experienced the fallout from Thursday’s U.S.-Canada women’s battle on the ice. After Canada beat their southern neighbors 3-2 in overtime, a Canadian friend responded with a barrage of social media.

“He sent me probably 20 photographs of himself wearing the Canadian hockey jersey,” Landman said from an Izzy’s stool, with disgust in his voice. “I’m expecting more of them now, and I’m sure I will still be hearing about it on the golf course this summer.”

Respect for friends

David Marvin, uncle of Gigi Marvin, son of U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Cal Marvin and the proprietor of Izzy’s, understands the back-and-forth chatter of the competitive border residents. But he also respects the hockey excellence of the neighbors to the north.

“I’ll get some crap for saying this, but I’d rather lose to Canada than to the Europeans because the Canadians are the best at hockey in the world and I respect that,” David Marvin said.

“Fans get more pumped for the Canadians because they’re so close, but you’d think they would want to beat the Russians more.”

The Hebel brothers said their respect for the Marvin family was why they didn’t join the watch party at Izzy’s for the women’s USA-Canada final a day earlier.

“It would have been too emotional,” Dion said. “You can’t cheer against the Marvin family when you’re basically at their own home.”

‘Just having fun’

Dale and Carrie Wallace played it safe by wearing their Warroad High School gear to the watch party.

That’s because lifetime Minnesotan Dale roots for the red, white and blue while his wife hems and haws a lot about where her allegiance lies. She grew up in Hartney, Man., about four hours west of Warroad.

While Carrie said she has “mixed feelings” because she knows Gigi Marvin and Oshie, her husband outed her by saying “she has a Canada jersey hanging up at home.”

At game’s end, the dozen or so Canadian fans celebrated while the USA supporter quietly accepted the outcome and headed home.

Well, except for Warroad’s Tim McKinnon, who started a “Let’s go, Sweden” chant.

Sweden is Canada’s opponent in the gold-medal game.

“I’m just having fun,” McKinnon said. “It’s a rivalry, but we can still have fun with it.”