I think it’s safe to say that the Winter Olympics this year were a pretty special event for me and most of my friends up in Vancouver. I was fortunate enough to get up to Vancouver this past weekend and just soak in some of the festive atmosphere and the craziness! I was blown away by the number of people out on the streets on a rainy Saturday and I had no idea that Canadian paraphernalia came in so many variations. From your standard flags, hats and jackets to shoes, mittens, pants and all sorts of costumes. I even saw a guy who must’ve looked in his closet for anything red and grabbed a pair of long underwear and a life-jacket.
The Olympics started with me hosting an opening ceremonies party here in Vegas. It was odd to see Vancouver and Canada being presented to the American audience. I have only ever seen the Olympic games broadcast via a Canadian network so over the years you have come to expect highlights on Canadian athletes and brief clips on the host city/nation. I was pleasantly surprised with NBC’s portrayal of Vancouver and their spotlighting of Canadian athletes and highlights from some special events like Alexandre Bilodeau’s medal ceremony or Joannie Rochette’s incredible skate and heart wrenching story. Of course it helped that the weather in Vancouver was so un-Vancouverlike, with sunny skies and amazing aerial views.
As far Canada’s “Own The Podium” program, even when this was announced I didn’t like the title. While I wholeheartedly support the increase in funding for the top level athletes in these sports it seemed to go against much of the Olympic spirit that has been talked about in previous years. I thought the pressure of an Olympics on home soil would be enough. The biggest issue with athletes in this level of competition is that the media glare is so much more intense during the Olympics. All these athletes are used to competing on the world cup circuits for their respective sports but not hearing anything from the media. All of a sudden at the Olympics they have people watching their every move and with the additional pressure of an entire nation paying attention to them, I can’t imagine how you would prepare for that pressure. On the first weekend I figured the “Own The Podium” was in trouble when the Korean team decided to take each other out in the short track and hand the American’s an extra couple medals.
No matter the medal count, and this is horrible to say, my memory of these Olympics would come down to our men’s hockey team. No offense intended to the other athletes but I have no idea what our medal count was in Salt Lake City, I have no idea how our alpine skiers or curlers or track skaters did. I do remember a gold in figure skating since there was a big judging controversy but I’ll never forget watching the gold medal hockey game back then. It was for this reason that I made an effort to get up to Vancouver for the final weekend of the Olympics.
Audrey and I drove up early Saturday morning. The weather was much more typical for Vancouver than it had been for the past two weeks. The skies were grey, you couldn’t see the North Shore mountains and there was a slight drizzle of rain. We spent that day downtown just taking in the atmosphere. I had been warned that it would be busy but I had no idea. There were people everywhere proudly wearing their Canadian flags, jackets and tuques. After wandering downtown for a bit we met up with two of my brothers and my mom at the Irish House. It was just after noon and the place was jammed. There were a few TVs showing some of the current events. We watched the replay of some speed-skating, we watched Jasey Jay Anderson win gold in the Snowboard parallel giant slalom and the entire house erupted when Kevin Martin won gold in men’s curling. Curling of all things! It was incredible. As one of the announcers said “We have Canadian fans in the house, we have Olympic fans in the house, we might not have curling fans in the house.”. It was true, the atmosphere was festive and people would’ve cheered for anything. We then walked over to the Olympic Cauldron, took some photos and went back to Gary’s on the North Shore for a poker party and then finally some sleep.
Sunday morning a whole group of us woke up early to try and get into a bar downtown right across the street from where the hockey game would be. We were in line by around 7:30 and there were already 50 people in front of us. Initially the rumours were that cover would be $20 but this quickly jumped up to $60 and we decided to leave and go to the Century Bar. It was actually a great decision. The Century Bar had lots of extra TVs brought in, had a breakfast brunch to serve and the atmosphere was great. My only issue was that they ran out of beer halfway through the third period! You have to understand, this was still only 9:30 when we arrived there and the game wasn’t until 12:15 so we were there for a long, long time and the entire city was on a liquor shortage from the Olympics for two weeks.
So there we were all primed and ready to go. A whole crap load of Canadians wearing their hockey jerseys and Canadian flags as capes. Poor Audrey was vastly outnumbered but wore her American flag as a scarf (looking cute of course) and quickly made friends with the few other Americans in the bar. The game itself was awesome with Canada getting a two goal lead but then that Kesler (my favourite Vancouver Canuck player) had to go and spoil things in the second period with a brilliant tip in. That of course set up a 2-1 period. After Canada hit two posts in the opening minutes I was excited to see that they were still pushing the pace. However it seemed like after Dany Heatley was denied by Miller in close around the 10 minute mark (my hand were already raised in the air on that save), the Canadians let up a bit and with Luongo fighting the puck a bit the Americans pushed hard and managed to tie the game with 24 seconds left. The bar was silent. I couldn’t believe we were about to witness 4-on-4 hockey for possibly 20 minutes! The lead-up to the overtime was so stressful but it seemed like the Canadians had better pairings and kept the Americans to the outside most of the time. I actually relaxed a bit and then all of a sudden Crosby scored. When I was watching it initially I thought Iginla took a shot and Crosby got a rebound but no, Iginla just laid the puck out ahead of Crosby and he fired a quick shot through the legs of Miller. I obviously don’t remember Paul Henderson’s goal in 1972 but I know the sound of the broadcast and I think Crosby’s goal rivals that one. The Tragically Hip might have to change their lyrics to “Fireworks” – “If there’s a goal that everyone remembers, it was back in old twenty-ten. We all squeezed the stick and we all pulled the trigger and all I remember is sitting beside you. You said you didn’t give a fuck about hockey well I never saw someone say that before.” .
It was pandemonium!!! We were all jumping up and down, hugging, crying (well some of us were crying) and then before the medal ceremony we were out of the bar and on the streets! Everywhere was a sea of people high-fiving, yelling, laughing and there were even a few cars trying to navigate the streets but honking their horns and high-fiving people as we ran down the streets. Amazing! I’m so glad I was there but was exhausted from several mornings of getting up early and we were back at Gary’s by around 7 to watch the end of the closing ceremonies.
All in all I’m very glad Audrey and I were able to get up to Vancouver. It was an amazing atmosphere and I wouldn’t have believed it if I wasn’t there. Now she had just a little bit more of an understanding of what hockey means to Canada and to me. Maybe now she won’t roll her eyes when I quit climbing early to make sure I don’t miss a Canucks game , but probably not…
It did make me think though, is there any sport or event that unites (not divides) the US like hockey does for Canada. Apparently up to 85% of Canadians watched the game!! When the US was playing baseball in the 2000 Olympics I don’t even remember hearing about it. Sure the dream team games in basketball were big but 85% of the population!? Elections don’t count since 50% of the population gets pissed off. The only thing I could think of was the Apollo 11 moon landing back in 1969. I wasn’t there but I’ve heard the entire nation, if not most people in the world with access to their TVs watched the landing.
Enjoy these photos.
Posted on March 2nd, 2010 by Mike Doyle
Filed under: Rave