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A worthy tradition
Sharks coaches honor their countrymen
11/11/09 - By Mike Lee -

You may have noticed Sharks head coach Todd McLellan and his staff adorning a certain accessory behind the bench on Saturday night, and again last night when the Sharks squared off against the Nashville Predators. It was a simple red flower, hung neatly on each coach’s left lapel. The red poppy, or replica of the flower, probably means little to most American hockey fans, but for a Canadian, it represents something more than just a way to dress up a suit.

The red poppy is worn by many Canadians during the two weeks prior to Remembrance Day. The Canadian holiday, also known as Armistice Day or Veterans Day as we know it in the U.S. , always falls on November 11th. It was on the 11th of November (the 11th month of the year), at the 11th hour of the day, when World War I officially ended.

Canadians celebrate their veterans with a public holiday, but more symbolically, with the red poppy. In the United States , war veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice are traditionally honored on Memorial Day, whereas American honor all veterans, living or otherwise.

While not all the provinces celebrate with a statutory holiday, Canada ’s federal government partakes in several traditions on Remembrance Day, including the reading or singing of “In Flanders Fields”, a poem written by Canadian officer and physician John McCrae during World War I after McCrea witnessed the death of his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer.

The leading passage:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row

refers to the flowers that grew prominently around the battlefields and military burial grounds around Flanders, or what is present day Belgium . “Red” represents the color of blood that flowed so prominently in the war that was supposed to end all wars.

The Montreal Canadiens have the lines:

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.

inscribed in both English and French in their locker room above photographs of famous Canadian players, reminding current players of the teams history, and the importance of honor in the team’s culture.

This particular passage is also inscribed upon the base of the flagpole at the American Cemetery , Madingley, in Cambridge , England .

The poppies worn by Canadians is a reminder of what honor should truly represent. It is a tradition that we are lucky to partake in, albeit vicariously through members of a hockey team that calls San Jose home. Veterans Day, Remembrance Day or whatever you call it, is worth recognizing regardless of which of the two countries you hail from.

Remember those, American and Canadian, that paved the way for your freedom by remembering them on this day of honor. It's certainly something to see a coaching staff represent their country and it's history in such worthwhile fashion.


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

— Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)


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