One of the various random encounters during the Olympics was of 2 Olympic silver medal winning Ice Dance competitors who arent each others partners. Random.
Charlie White, the silver medal winner (with his partner Meryl Davis) at the 2010 Olympics in Ice Dance was seen out & about with another Olympic Ice Dance competitor, and former Olympic silver medalist in the same sport, Tanith Belbin (a Canadian who is competing for the U.S.A. & sporting their flag on her cheek....Shame on you Ms.Belbin tsk tsk tsk).
The couple were spotted strolling thru the courtyard near where the Olympic Village entrance/exit was. They clearly were in a hurry, as they speed walked thru a throng of unaware people on their way to their destination. That destination, a U.S.A. hockey game.
Even though clearly in a hurry, the couple stopped long enough to sign a handful of autographs (although Charlie was pretty impatient once the requests seemed to run out for his autograph) on their way to the event.
Charlie White was nice, although a bit impatient. Perhaps being a former hockey player himself, he was more eager to get to the game. Tanith Belbin was incredibly nice, perhaps to a fault as she signed severla photos for 1 person, then several more for the next, all while her boyfriend tried to encourage her to get going.
I am still recovering, more than 48 hours after the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC, Canada ended. My body still aches a litt. My feet no longer hurt at least. I still need more sleep. Compared to how I felt 24 hrs after the Olympics ended, this is a massive upgrade. My body was completely running on empty, my feet were in considerable pain & I was just waking up from my first sleep since the games had officially ended.
Yet, a part of me wishes it was still going on. The city was incredible for the past couple weeks and the athletic competition in this town will never be matched again.
Of course, I am just as thankful its over. For me, it wasnt just 17 days long. Its been 17 days of hounding competitions, a week of hounding competitors coming into town before that, weeks of getting prepared before the Olympics before that & years of impatient waiting for this to get here before that. Its literally eaten up the better part of this decade in my life.
For me, the joy of it all was balanced out with stress, annoyance & pain. I had fun at times, but other times I loathed the games existence. For each moment of celebrating a Canadian victory, or meeting a new cool athlete, or chatting with people I havent seen in awhile, or ever before, there was the nuisances.
-Like not being able to eat at my favorite places because of the line ups & inflated menu prices for the Olympic cash grab competition.
-There was the absolutely brutal translink service, who if transportation was an Olympic event, would get a DNF.
-There was the overzealous volunteers & security guards who think their title as "Olympic volunteers" gave them a legal right to put their hands on me & tell me what to do. Some of them should have been choked till their faces were as blue as the jackets they were given. Somehow, I controlled myself enough to not do this even once. Several occasions I gave a variety of choice words, and even more often I just simply waved my hand at them like "go away you unimportant gnat" & did what I wanted anyways.
These things, were not part of the enjoyable Olympic experience that was supposed to be had. Neither was having SIX wannabe Mounties in VPD jackets telling several people they werent allowed to stand in a PUBLIC PLACE with no reason while they sat on horses that probably were more competent than the mountie school rejects riding them. The kicker for me had to be when 3 cops (not a single one being from Vancouver) came up to me at Brittania Ice Rink & told me I couldnt touch THE FENCE!!!! Yes, thats right, the....fucking....FENCE. Not just any fence either, the 3rd outer layer of fencing. Thats right, they had THREE FENCES. I was told the fence had a sensor on it that detected I had touched it...and it took THREE TAX PAYER PAID ARMED COPS to tell me not to touch the 3rd outer layer of fencing at a damn practice rink. Yes, this is the Vancouver I was living in for a month.
When I asked them why I couldnt touch the 3rd outer layer of a fence that was keeping me about 50-100 feet from the athletes, no word of a lie, one of them (from Calgary, a terrorist threat hotbed obviously, why else would they hire him for such an important job) actually used the reasoning "they blew up a bomb in '96".... which I responded "uhh, yeah. In Atlanta, fucking Georgia 14 years ago". After I stared at him for a minute or so blankly assuming the logic of that comment would eventually sink in he replied that they had to assure things were safe yada yada yada. At that time, I pushed the limits of getting arrested & suggested that if I actually meant to do harm, I could have stabbed several dozen athletes by now downtown. Where was the security there? They really didnt have a reasonable answer for that other than to say "you shouldnt say things like that' which I replied with more blank stares. What were they going to do, arrest me for pointing out logic? Yes, the overkill of police were keeping the state of the art.....err.....uhh...33 year old arena with seating for maybe 300 people under 24/7 watch behind 3 layers of fencing. Why? Because a public park in 1996 had a bomb go off. Maybe you shoulda had the security at one of the dozens of public gathering areas instead then? Might have seemed like a better use of at least 1 or 2 of those fences....certainly a better use of some of the no less than 11 cops I counted there. Priorities at these games were to say the least, ass backwards. Ok, I am ranting a bit here...back on track.
From an autographing standpoint, it was so-so. Some wonderful times, some downright dreadful times. The weather, which in Vancouver in February usually consists of rain, or showers, or a light drizzle had a shockingly large amount of SUNSHINE thru the early part of it & the end.
My favorite autographing ventures were
-Getting various athletes coming in at the airport upon arrivals, like Lindsey Vonn, Team Canada womens hockey team & Alex Ovechkin.
-Getting Team Canada mens & womens team multiple times at Hockey House,
-Snagging Peter Forsberg almost daily.
-Getting to go for a few of the other womens hockey teams.
-Of course, last but not least, getting Stephen Colbert during the Colbert Report filmings.
My least favorite moments.
-Constantly missing people by a few minutes.
-No cover outside the athletes village when it rained,
-Anything to do with Team Canada staff members
-Anything to do with Alex Radulov or Jaromir Jagr, who both were downright jerks here, including Radulov threatening to kill one out of town hound after their last loss.
My favorite non-hounding memories clearly include
-Watching the Team Canada mens & womens hockey team win their Gold medals in our building. I watched the womens game in a McDonalds restaraunt since all the bars were full nearby, while I managed (after getting up really damn early) to get a spot at a bar downtown to watch the mens game, just 1 block from the arena.
-Being at the Finland Bronze medal womens hockey win over Sweden.
-Being invited by someone to go into the Team Canada womens celebration party (actually declined for multiple reasons..mostly my feet were in considerable discomfort),
-Chatting with different athletes & staff & hearing them continually say how much they liked the city...
-And of course, getting to see a bit of The Colbert Report.
My least enjoyable non-hounding parts of it.
-My feet. They hurt a LOT the last few days. Had to buy new insoles for my shoes once, they last two days before hurting again. I had worn thru the heel part that quick.
-The lack of sleep. The last week or so of the games, I was finally getting some normal sleep, but at the cost of not hounding the mornings.
-The frustration of having to go to C over to L, across to E, over to Q, down to F, thru to X just to get from point A to point B. Nothing was ever a simple straight logical line.
-The continual "can I help you" people. There ware FAR too many people doing this job. Easily 10 times a day someone would ask me if they could help me...at a place I have been a thousand times before. Maybe just ask people if they truly look lost next time. I applaud your enthusiasm for trying to help, but more often than not, you were a nuisance to regulars.
In the end, it was an adventure that despite the negative points I am glad to have witnessed & been a part of. Nothing else I have ever done, nor will ever do again was as incredible, demanding, challenging & interesting as this. Going for the Canucks in a couple weeks will seem quite dull in comparison.
I will come up with a best & worst list for the Olympics soon. once I have compiled all the data I can, sorted it & have time to post it.
Does Jaromir Jagr have anything left to prove? Perhaps not. Certainly not to Czech hockey fans. That said, he comes into the 2010 Olympics probably looking to show the hockey world that he is not irrelevant just yet.
Jagr has done practically everything imaginable in hockey. Olympic Gold, World Championship Gold, 2X Stanley Cup Winner, 5X Art Ross winner, 3X Lester Pearson winner, 1X Hart Trophy winner, 10th all time on the NHL scoring list. Oh, and at the age of 36 he decided to head to Russia to help the upstart KHL get going where he lead his club team Avangard Omsk in scoring & finished in the top 10 in league points.
Jaromir really has nothing to prove. But he probably doesnt see it that way. The NHL world (namely the fans & media) has essentially cast him aside as washed up. His last NHL season was very unspectacular by Jagr (71 points in 82 GP) standards & many thought he was losing a step. So he headed to Russia & played very well there, but many in North America still dont take the KHL all too seriously. So he is for the mostpart seen as "washed up". But thats hardly the case.
JJ will be in Vancouver showing the world he still has "it" & that the NHL is missing "it". His KHL contract is up at the end of this season & its widely speculated he will be using the Olympics as his audition for an NHL job next season. So yes, Jagr has lots to prove.
The Czech Republic is hardly a medal "favorite" by anyones rankings this Olympics, but with Jaromir Jagr on the team those odds get better, and with him wanting to go out & prove he is still a force in the game he was dominant at for more than a decade, a medal suddenly seems very possible for the Czechs.
If you want to know how strong Finnish goaltending is. Just ask anyone in the Nortwest Division of the NHL. Whether you are the Oilers, Canucks or Avalanche you see it almost every time you play one of the other two division rivals. In Minnesota there is Niklas Backstrom. In Calgary there is Miikka Kiprusoff.
The man affectionally known as "Kipper" to his fans will be relied on heavily by Finland at the 2010 Olympics to carry them to the podium. He put the pressure on himself by stating he wont go if he cant be the starter. So he has put the pressure squarely on his back. Luckily for Finnish fans, hes been under major pressure before and done quite well.
If Kipper struggles, Niklas Backstrom will jump in & the Finns will be just as confident in his play. He didnt make a big spectacle about wanting to be starter, he just took whatever was given to him. If its the back up spot, he'll do it. If he is called upon to be the starter, he'll do that too. Much like how he has handled goaltending controversies with his club team, the Minnesota Wild, where he has been the back up and the starter.
Finland certainly has strong goaltending with Kiprusoff & Backstrom at the helm. But they lack scoring depth. Sure they have NHL capable scorers, just not a lot of them & not overly lethal ones. So goaltending will need to be strong. Luckily for them, it is.
Kiprusoff has a Vezina trophy in his trophy case. With 3 silver medals in international play (2 World Championships & 1 World Cup) he is hungry to add a Gold to that total. Something his counterpart Backstrom sports, albeit at the World Junior level. Something else Backstrom has that Kiprusoff does not, an Olympic medal. A silver in 2006. Niklas also sports a Jennings trophy for top goals against average in the NHL by a team. He is a Vezina trophy runner up. Both goalies have something to prove. Whether its Niklas trying to prove he is really better than Kipper, or Miikka proving he desrves to be the #1.
Finland isnt going in with a lot of people picking them as medalists because of their scoring. But with goalies like Miikka Kiprusoff & Niklas Backstrom, you could theoretically only need to score 1 to win. A medal is not unrealistic for them, a gold is even possible if either of these two is in the zone.
With Joe Sakic officially retired, Jarome has become "the man" the offense looks to for leadership. Once seen as the up & coming potential leader for Canada, Jarome now IS that leader. As a captain on his club team, the Calgary Flames, Jarome has taken his team to a Stanley Cup final. He has won 2 Richard Trophies for top goal scorer in the league. 1 Art Ross for points leader, and 1 Pearson for league MVP as voted on by players.
On the international scene he has just as impressive of a resume as ayone. He has a gold at every level. World Junior champion, World Cup champion, World Championships champion, Olympic Champion. There is nothing he hasnt accomplished for his country yet. Add to that 2 Memorial Cup trophies with the Kamloops Blazers and its clear he has done it all at practically every level.
A 2 time 50 goal scorer in the NHL, Jarome will be heavily relied upon to score goals in Vancouver during the 2010 Olympics. His tough, go to the net style makes him good for popping in opportunistic rebounds, and he can carry the puck just as well too.
Team Canada might have a captain in Scott Niedermayer who has done it all, but he will probably share the leadership role with Jarome Iginla. Someone that on the international ice, has done it all as well.
When North American fans think of Hnat Domenichelli they dont think "Swiss player'. They think Canadian. He is afterall a World Junior Hockey Champion with Team Canada in 1996. Yet in 2010, he will be trying to beat Canada as a member of team Switzerland.
He actually has a nice resume put together after all these years. 1996 WJHC Gold. 1994 & 1995 Memorial Cup Champion with the Kamloops Blazers & 2003 Calder Cup Champion. He has been in the top 5 in Swiss league scoring 4 times, including being the leagues top goal scorer once. He can even lay claim to outscoring NHL superstar Jarome Iginla for 3 seasons, while they both played in Kamloops (Hnat finished 3rd in the league, Jarome 4th in their best season).
Hnat will be making his Olympic debut. But he already has a wealth of international experinece between World Junior Championships, Spengler Cups & other tournaments.
Does Hnat Domenichelli expect to win a gold in Vancouver? Probably not. Hope to? Sure. Expect to? No. What Hnat likely does expect to do though is compete hard for Switzerland, and help them do as well as they can. If Switzerland has any hopes of some incredible upsets, Hnat Domenichelli will need to be a key piece of it.
Do I really need to explain to you what Alexander Ovechkin can do on a sheet of ice with a puck & a stick? If I do, well then.... welcome to hockey.
"Ovi" as the world often refers to him as, is more than likely the uncontested most exciting player in the world of hockey right now. He scores goals, he plays all out 100% every game & is an entertaining off ice interview at times. He seems unstoppable. Imagine if Superman were playing pro hockey. He might be confused with Alexander Ovechkin.
Team Russia knows that Alex can score, they know he can change a game with 1 rush, they know he wont take a night off. Seeing Ovi playing for the country must give every Russian fan goosebumps at the prospect of their team in a tight game, late in the period, and seeing #8 jump over the boards to join the play. Because everytime he hits the ice, you truly wonder "whats he going to do this time?". More than often, the answer is "score an amazing goal". They know as long as Ovi is there, they always have a chance to win.
With a Calder, an Art Ross, 2 Richard,s 2 Harts & 2 Pearson trophies in his show case at the NHL level, he will be one of the crown jewels on display at the Olympics for the NHL.
He has a World Championship, and World Junior Championship. So far, he has yet to strike Olympic Gold though. This is something he plans to rectify in Vancouver, whether he has to do it all alone or, whether he can rely on the glut of elite talent he is surrounded by to help him out.
As a strong supporter of the 2014 Olympic games in Kochi, Russia, and openly stating he will play in them regardless if the NHL does, its no wonder that he is so adored in Russia.
The only thing Alex wants more than to play in 2014 Olympics right now is an Olympic gold medal in 2010. The only thing that might get in his way of winning one could be Kryptonite.
How good is Ryan Miller? Answer- so good he will be the starting goalie for Team USA despite them having the reigning top goalie of the NHL award winner on the team in Tim Thomas.
Another answer could have been, great. He is currently 2nd in wins, 1st in GAVE, 1st in SPCT, 1st in SO amongst goalies who have played more than 50% of their teams games. So in other words, scary good.
Although he doesnt have the cool trophy sitting in his trophy case that fellow American netminder Tim Thomas has, Miller has consistency. He has been great all year, he was great last year, and the year before. He is just plain great. Where as Thomas has been a little inconsistent this season after an incredible season last year that saw him win the trophy for leagues best goalie.
He will be making his first major foray into international competition for the U.S. since 2003 after 3 consecuitve World Championship appearances, Ryan has not made the national team since. Mainly because he was usually still in the playoffs of the NHL or injured since then. Carrying his team to back to back eastern conference finals. Ryan has shown he can step up in pressure situations.
Team USA has a legitimate chance to get a medal in Vancouver. Surely the likes of Kane, Kesler, Parise and the Johnsons will have a lot to do with that. But really, that legitimate chance is because of Ryan Miller.