021810 Olympic Hockey: USA vs Norway, Vancouver, BC

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Way back around the middle of 2008 the ticket lottery for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games opened up (talk about planning ahead!).  Knowing there was only the slimmest chances of getting anything – this was, after all, a world-wide event – I put in a ticket request and what do you know, my number came up and my entire order was filled.

As if the tickets weren’t expensive enough, this of course meant arranging two-plus weeks off and securing flights across the country (luckily our accommodations were free – we stayed at m’lady’s grandmother’s house in the ‘burbs), but fortunately there was plenty of lead time to save up the cash and make the necessary arrangements.

Our first event was on February 18th, 2010, and it was a bit of a doozy: men’s hockey, Norway versus the US.  Our event ticket included free public transportation throughout the city’s network so we hopped the bus nice and early and headed into the heart of the city.

As soon as we got off the bus we found ourselves in a sculpture park. Many streets were closed to allow strictly pedestrian traffic and there were art installations everywhere.  We meandered towards the arena, casually weaving through throngs of people from a hundred different countries who were likewise meandering. 

We were eager to get into the game early and a bit worried about potential long security lines so we wasted little time getting to the arena, arriving easily an hour before puck drop.  We saw a giant Quatchie and Miga on the way in, and kids were lining up to get their pictures taken with the Olympic mascots.  The security wasn’t too bad after all, very similar to domestic airport security except that everyone worked like it was their first day on the job.  

Once inside we found the place buzzing with excitement.  Almost everyone was sporting jerseys or flags or face paint representing one of the two countries, with the USA being the obvious in-house favourite.  We took our quite excellent seats to the right of the visiting goalie and joined the room in explosive cheering when the players hit the ice for their warmup.  

Though the Norwegian team only had one NHLer the American team was a who’s who of professional hockey.  Langebrunner, Drury, Kane…I’ve had almost every one of their players in my hockey pool at least once.  The whole room was shaking with anticipation as these helmeted heroes carved up the shining ice; wigs were donned, flags and banners were waved, cowbells rang furiously.

Just to our left were those commentators you always see at the big games, four of them in matching blazers talking their heads off while smurf-like cheerleaders jumped around in the aisles encouraging the crowd to stay rowdy; it was like a sports-circus.  Turned out I was seated right next to Tim Hunter, ex-Maple Leaf and Calgary Flame enforcer.  Photo ops were taken by many (not me) and it just added to the whole uniqueness of the experience.  This was no ordinary hockey game, and we could all feel it when the puck dropped at high noon.

We decided to root for the underdogs and in the second period we were given an opportunity to cheer when Norway started what almost turned into a serious comeback.  Halfway through the third period the score was still only 3-1, but in the end the American team won by quite a margin.  All but one of the goals went in on our side of the rink right in front of us – which was endlessly exciting – and when the crowd filed out in an orderly Canadian fashion at the end of the game everybody seemed pretty happy with their team’s performance.

After the game we made our way towards Gastown and finished off the afternoon among thousands of fellow-revellers before settling in for a cozy, inexpensive meal at m’lady’s favourite Vancouver restaurant: The Old Spaghetti Factory.  

And if that wasn’t enough to fill a great day, we had tickets to what was looking to be an excellent concert at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre later that evening.  But of course that’s another story.

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