February 16th – Hockey Day!

This is going to be a busy hockey day. We have another set of tickets for Molson Canadian Hockey House, where we will watch Canada’s men’s hockey team play Norway. We also have tickets to attend Men’s Hockey – Russia versus Latvia, woo hoo, and tickets for that night’s Victory Ceremony where The Barenaked Ladies will play after the medal presentations have finished. All three of these events are happening very close to one another so there will be some switching around as Jeff and Joey take turns hanging out with me.

First on the agenda though, right after breakfast, is buying a new camera. Our other digital camera broke on the 14th and we went without one yesterday. That was not good! Luckily, my step-dad, Tom, had recently purchased a new digital camera and had done his due diligence. We exchanged a couple of emails and chatted about pro’s and con’s on the phone. We know which camera we are getting, the Fuji FinePix F70EXR, and head out to the nearest Future Shop. It is in the opposite direction of downtown Vancouver, in Surrey. We take the sky train a few stops south-ish and enjoy a phenomenal view of the mountains to the west. Absolutely stunning!

As we are walking toward Hockey House, I hear a faint roar and then our national anthem. Ooh! I get excited and comment to Jeff we have won something, but are not sure what we have won. When we left the hotel, women’s luge, speed skating and snowboard cross were all underway. It is only once we arrive at Hockey House that we discover that Canada’s Maelle Ricker has become the first Canadian woman to win a gold medal on home soil by placing first in the snowboard cross event. I am absolutely thrilled!

Jeff and I head to Hockey House at about 2:00 pm. Joey is off on his own, exploring Vancouver. When we arrive at the event there is a bit of pandemonium going on. Today we are in the general admission area of the tent. John and Stacey arrived a little before us, but we find them easily. Or rather, we find John easily. Stacey, it turns out, is in a line-up. Apparently, a group of people with Bell Canada have just vacated their celebration area and it is being cleaned up and staff will allow the general admission riff-raff in. I find Stacey in line and join her – offering whatever back-up I can provide. We are in line for only a short time when a Hockey House staff member drops the rope and lets us in. YIKES!! People get very pushy very quickly. I hear a man behind me shout “Take it easy everyone, we don’t need anyone getting trampled!” I agree my sensible friend, I completely agree. Stacey and I quickly get to an empty table but, before we sit down, we are told by a slight orangutan of a man, as he sweeps his arms broadly, he is saving ten (10!!!) seats and we can’t be here. What? We don’t argue it and move along to the next open table. The same thing happens again, this time the dude is saving for 6. We go through the same situation three more times and finally, frustrated, give up on the table area and are lucky to find seating for 3 on the banquette chairs. This has been a very poor display from Canadian fans and Stacey and I are really bummed out by giving in to the ape-ish men and not standing up for ourselves more. John and Jeff join us and we will take turns sitting and standing. It really isn’t a bad situation as we are happy to be here but, geez people, some manners would not hurt you!

We are settling in, enjoying a beverage, when Maelle Ricker’s winning performance is shown on the giant screens. The crowd erupts and it is mayhemic. In a sea of red and white, people sport Canadian jerseys, hats, flags, temporary tattoos and face paint. It is amazing to see this outward display of patriotism.

Next up, on the giant screens, the Canadian men’s hockey game. Today, Canada is playing Norway. The first period is really solid and Norway does a good job holding off the Canadians. During the 1st period intermission, we are surprised by comedian Shaun Majumder, known not only for his stand-up comedy but also for his co-hosting gig on This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Majumder does a blistering bit about Sidney Crosby, the number 87 Crosby’s #), his nemesis Alexander Ovechkin, the number 8 (Ovechkin’s #) and how, using a complicated bit of follow-along this all computes to mean gold for team Canada! Majumder has done this routine before but I am gob-smacked at how he keeps it all straight in his head, especially given the speed of the delivery. Bottom line? 87 minus 8 equals 79, which on the periodic table of elements is the number for, you guessed it, GOLD!

The second period of the hockey game starts and, once again, the fans are riveted. The pace is faster coming out in the second and, in short order, it is 3-0 for Canada. Every goal brings out crazy screaming and chanting from the crowd in Hockey House. Roberto Luongo is in goal for Canada, and while Norway isn’t afforded many scoring opportunities, screams of “Looooooooooo” shake the rafters in a show of not only Canadian spirit but also of Vancouver pride for the Canuck homeboy! Some of the surrounding fans have noticed me scribbling away in my notebook and Mike finally asks me what I am up to. He then notices my media pass and lifts it closer to his face to read. A-ha! Seeing “The Globe and Mail” printed on the badge he and his buddies get excited and want to know if I can write about them in the paper? Apparently I now have 4 new friends. I point out John, holding his beautiful camera and suggest he could take their photo! It was a good deflect, I think! Sorry John! They are actually great young guys and by the end of the game we will be close pals.

We take a bit of a wander about during the intermission at the end of the second period. There is something going on in every corner of the tent. First, though, I head to the washroom where I am absolutely stunned by a site never before seen by my eyes: a huge, snaking line-up for the men’s loo and wide open space for the women’s washroom!! Hallelujah sisters! I have witnessed a miracle. I have also witnessed some pretty clear marketing strategies here at Hockey House. All of the servers working the floor are lovely young women. I do, finally, find some male servers working the bar and acting as managers. Really? I think, but I guess the higher-ups at Molson feel people (read: men) drinking at Hockey House want to be served by these beauties. It was a bit more balanced in the VIP area. I also can’t help but notice the Hockey House Hostesses – everyone notices the hostesses – in their skin-tight ‘jerseys’ they are hard to miss! Jeff gets his picture taken with them, just to show the boys at work what his week was like away from work. I am sure it will go over well!

The third period starts and Canada comes out hard scoring very quickly. We notice, in our little corner of Hockey House, a very amorous young man. Every time Canada scores he gets a little more loving towards his date. I suppose I don’t need to note he was drinking heavily and, by the third period was quite drunk. After Canada’s 5th goal, our hot young stud (HYS) splays himself all over his date. She looks slightly uncomfortable but finally relents and they start smooching pretty heavily. Well, soon enough another Canadian goal. A hat-trick for Jerome Iginla. The crowd erupts and chants of ‘oh-lay-oh-lay-oh-lay-oh-lay’ followed by heavy stomping and “Go Canada Go” shouted in unison. It is incredible. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice HYS…he has now lifted his date up and they are basically having sex with their clothes on. Yikes! John snaps a great photo of them and our little corner of the world is greatly amused and slightly disgusted.

While I risk being viewed as un-Canadian, at this point in the game (it’s 7-0 for Canada), I am feeling very badly for Norway and, in particular, their goalie. I imagine it must be very hard being at the wrong end of a big loss. I would just want to take my marbles and go home. I respect the effort of the Norwegians even though a win, at this point is impossible. When the final buzzer goes, Canada has won 8 – 0. Confetti cannons blast the tent with paper sprinkles while the crowd goes mad. The entire building shakes with the incredible loudness of stomping, clapping, screaming, whistling and shouting. CA-NA-DA is chanted for many minutes and it is a very celebratory time.

7:00 pm – The game over, it is now back to live entertainment. Shane Murphy and his band takes the stage. They are terrific – a blend of bluesy rock with a dash of island rhythm thrown in for spice! Shane has a great personality and he enjoys taunting the crowd with the opening riff from Lynard Skynard’s Sweet Home Alabama. He eventually relents to the cheers and plays the song but, with a twist. He makes up his own lyrics and it is very amusing.

8:30 pm – we leave Hockey House and head across the street to attend men’s hockey – Russia vs. Latvia. I am really looking forward to seeing Ovechkin (I know! I know!) as well as all of the other NHL’ers on the Russian team. Out of a 23 man roster, 14 Russian players are in the NHL and several are former NHL’ers. I think it is going to be a great game. Our seats are fantastic – so close to the ice! I am surprised by the large Latvian contingency out to support their team. The game is a good match though the final score, 8 – 2, is not a great representation of how hard the Latvian team worked. The fans for both teams – fellow Russians and Latvians – were so enthusiastic but again I am impressed with the appreciation and support being shown by our fellow Canadians. Each event we have attended has had a great display of good sportsmanship from the crowds and it has been terrific showing this side of our nation to the world.

Photos (except for the the picture of Maelle Ricker and Hockey House Hostesses) courtesy of John Fearnall; an amazing photographer and all round good guy! Check out his site and prepare to be WOW’ed!

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”.

Excellent Day!

Me and my new friend Mark. He won his jersey at Hockey House. He is a hockey trivia buff and it came in handy!

Yesterday, the 16th of February, was great. We had passes to Hockey House to watch the Canadian men’s hockey team play Norway. What a blowout that was! Then we went to the arena to watch a live hockey game – Russia versus Latvia. Hockey House was absolutely NUTS but a lot of fun. The Russian/Latvia game was really, really good. Our seats were excellent. The dude right in front of us caught a puck and was through the roof with excitement. The final score was 8 – 2 and but Latvia had a lot of love in the building and were strong opponents. The score doesn’t really reflect their effort, in my mind!

I wanted to post a quick update and will add more later.