February 15th – The Continuing Story

When last I left you, Ed Robertson and Sean Cullen were just finishing a musical spoof of “Sundown”, a song written and performed, originally, by Gordon Lightfoot. My favourite lyric (I hope you are humming the tune in your head here.): “Sometimes I’m feeling real great, I hope we win another gold medal or eight.” There was an appreciative roar of support for that sentiment.

Molson Canadian Hockey House An intermission in entertainment then occurred and it was a good opportunity to dive into the great buffet in the VIP section of Molson Canadian Hockey House. The food was arranged by the Wolfgang Puck Catering Team and was delicious. We enjoyed beef bourguignon, which was melt in your mouth yummy; lamb; whitefish in a tomato & black olive sauce; smashed red baby potatoes; aromatic saffron rice and a cornucopia of salads and vegetables. It was so good!

After we finished eating we were introduced a number of writers and editors from The Globe and Mail. Winning photographer, John Fearnall, and I had previously been told that both the publisher, Phillip Crawley, and the editor-in-chief, John Stackhouse, wanted to meet us. Uh-oh! I was a bit nervous about this. It turns out Mr. Crawley had flown home earlier in the day so meeting him wasn’t going to happen. Stackhouse, however, was in the house and Sean Humphrey (Director of Marketing for The Globe and Mail) made the introductions. Stackhouse was very congenial and asked a lot of questions about my experience so far. We talked for 5 or 6 minutes and I found him to be supportive of “the Dream”.

I then met Andy Willis and he was terrific. He was funny and inquiring. Seeing me taking my notes in a small coil-bound ‘mead five star’ notebook, he pulled his scribbler out of his pocket, tore off the ten or so sheets of paper he had already made notes on and presented it to me for my keeping! WOW! I was so pleased by his gesture and, I think, he was happy to do something so small that became the source of much happiness. I don’t know if I will ever be able to write in his ‘official reporter’s notebook’. It is a treasure, for sure.

Next, I was introduced to Patrick Brethour, who is the BC bureau chief for The Globe. Patrick was pretty curious about the whole contest and experience and was very friendly and keen to hear about what I had been up to since arriving in Vancouver.

Jane Taber then came over and introduced herself. She was terrific. We chatted for a long time about journalism, generally, and writing, specifically. She offered a great perspective on her career noting each day she can see and appreciate her achievement as, at the end of every work day she has a tangible result and something to show for her efforts and time. She is absolutely right.

Intermission over, the entertainment was about to start again but first, John Stackhouse was invited on stage. On this evening, The Globe and Mail was hosting ‘Ladies Night’ at hockey house and we were going to get an opportunity to see every member of the Canadian team on stage. The purpose of the event? To recognize the importance of the Ladies First Hockey Foundation. This non-profit group is sanctioned by the individual and collective members of the National Women’s Hockey Team. The Foundation was established by a group of individuals that recognized the hardships that these athletes face in striving to compete in their sport on the International Stage. The Foundation provides financial assistance to the team members and their families at various times throughout the year. We were very lucky to be sharing our hotel with many of the women’s hockey team family members. In particular we got to know some of the ladies from Gina Kingsbury’s family. They are terrific women and we loved seeing them at breakfast in the morning, particularly if they had been celebrating a win the night before! The Globe and Mail is a supporter of Ladies First Hockey Foundation. It was a great moment, seeing the entire team on stage (after being led out by some mounties) and the crowd gave a lot of love to the women! The crowd went absolutely bonkers as “our greatest collection of female hockey talent” stood on stage soaking of the adoration. Tyler Stewart had taken over MC duties and after the crowd calmed down a bit he let us know about an auction being held to benefit the women’s team. Gibson Canada has donated a white baby grand piano and it is valued at $50,000. All of the women are going to sign the piano and the entire Canadian men’s hockey team is also going to sign it. The estimated value of the autographed piano?? $500,000. Whoa!

9:00 pm – the Canadian Women’s Hockey Team has left the stage and it is now time for the headliner of the night – Tom Cochrane! Cochrane will be 57 in May and he is rocking, backed by his band Red Rider, like a madman. He plays to the crowd, favouring us with his big hits: Victory Day, Sinking Like a Sunset, Big League, White Hot.

9:30 pm – During Cochrane’s performance there is so much energy in the building. As the crowd is cheering, Donald Sutherland walks by – right in front of our noses (in the VIP area). I could have reached out and touched him without even fully extending my arm. Okay, the very large body guards probably would not have let that happen, but…still. He was that close and is very dashing and suave! While I was a student at Bishop’s University I would see Sutherland from time to time as he maintains a country home in the townships. He is as lovely today as he was (cough, cough) 20 years ago.

Sutherland made his way up to the stage and is shortly introduced by Cochrane. Sutherland comes out with Hailey Wickenheiser and the audience, again, is crazed with excitement. She presents Sutherland with a signed hockey jersey. He throws of his sweater and promptly puts on his new, awesome shirt! Funny thing though, when he throws his own sweater off and it lands on the floor, Hailey immediately bends down and picks it up (I guess the mothering instinct in women is always present). Sutherland, noticing this, swishes the sweater out of her hands and throws it back down on the ground! It was a funny moment. Sutherland then got the crowd going some more when he asked, in his lovely, TV friendly voice: “Do you believe?” We believe, Donald! We BELIEVE! They left the stage and Cochrane starts back into his set. We are treated to: The Untouchable One, Good Times and Human Race.

This day has been incredible and there is still so many more days of adventure ahead.

Photos taken by John Fearnall. His work is amazing and he was the photography winner of The Globe and Mail’s Journalism Dream contest. Besides being a great and talented photographer he is also a very good man. Please check out his site and all of his beautiful images.

February 15th – Golden Boy & the VIP

I am way behind with my posting and I am sorry for that. I go back in time now, to a lovely day. The 15th of February which began leisurely enough but soon turned into the current best day ever (or at least the best day ever, until tomorrow!).

A press conference is being held at the Robson Media Centre featuring Alexandre Bilodeau. I do not want to miss this opportunity. I have seen his profile piece on CTV numerous times and talk in the media room is that young Mr.Bilodeau is exactly as nice and humble as you would hope him to be.

Joey, loving access to the media centre wants to come along so off we go. We arrive just as the press conference is getting underway. Bilodeau talks about the conditions at Cypress, the Own the Podium program, his brother and his musical preferences. For those who would like to know, here is what helps Bilodeau and what motivates his performance.

For starters Bilodeau called the conditions at Cypress “really good.” Given the slack Canada has been taking in the foreign media for a myriad of glitches, it is refreshing to have an athlete speak out favourably for a venue. Bilodeau did say that the APEX training camp, held this past November, had “perfect conditions” but that Cypress made a “great impression” on the competitors.

Own the Podium is a Canadian iniatiative I have written about previously. This program has been set up to support Canadian athletes in an unprecedented manner. Through OTP, Bilodeau talked about the increase in coaching (they had an air coach for the first time), training, physiotherapy, access to a sports psychologist and biomechanical assessment, feedback and support. Bilodeau also spoke fondly about “Data Boy.” Data Boy’s real name is Allan and he works as an analyst for the team, assessing every move of every run. Through his assessments and, with the support of coaching, athletes have been able to trim seconds off their runs.

Alexandre Bilodeau’s brother, Frederic, is becoming almost as famous Alexandre. Bilodeau spoke about the spirit and determination Frederic has shown throughout his lifetime, beating many predictions concerning his life with Cerebral Palsy. Alexandre and Frederic are as close as two brothers can be and, during the press conference, when Alexandre announce the gold medal he won was “really Frederic’s medal. This is all for Frederic.” well, I got very teary and respectful of the bond the brothers share.

Alexandre Bilodeau is not a fan of country music or classical. If you want to impress him, energize him or just make him happy, a little Offspring will do the trick!

It was a great press conference and Alexandre Bilodeau is a lovely and humble young man. BC Premier, Gordon Campbell thanks Bilodeau for his hard work and determination. Campbell’s voice, hoarse from the supportive screaming for Bilodeau the night before states “Canada could not have had a better first gold medallist.” I do believe Mr. Campbell!

I leave the press conference and settle in at a workspace in the media centre. Later on we will be heading to Molson Canadian Hockey House. We have been given VIP passes as it is The Globe and Mail Ladies’ Night. We are not sure what to expect but are greatly looking forward to the event.

6:00 pm – We have VIP tickets for Molson Canadian Hockey House. The Globe and Mail is hosting Ladies Night and we have been invited to enjoy the festivities. We are also told both the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief want to meet John Fearnall and I. Yikes!

We enter the venue to the dulcet tones of comedian Sean Cullen wailing out the Styx classic ‘Come Sail Away’. Sean Cullen wailing out the Styx classic ‘Come Sail Away’. He is being being backed by The Odds, a terrific band out of Vancouver who were off the radar for 8 years but made a return to the music scene last year. Cullen’s first guest is singer/songwriter Hawksley Workman. John, Stacey and I are all fans and excited to see Workman. He and Cullen settle themselves into to a couple of lounge chairs and begin a good nature banter. I am hoping for an acoustic song or two, but sadly, Workman leaves the stage without playing for the crowd. He leaves me with the impression of being a thoughtful, funny and intelligent man. I am glad to get to know just a bit of his personality.

Next up is Ed Robertson, lead singer for The Barenaked Ladies. Ed comes out with his guitar and he a Cullen launch into a hilarious improvised spoof of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown”.