So far since the Olympic athletes have been arriving, its been a slim trickle of identifiable faces & a lot of "I think they might be an athlete" blank stares from us.
But Sunday, the party really started up for the majority of the hounds. A group of generally 5-8 of us that had been out all week for other athletes, were suddenly dwarfed by the never less than 15 and as many as 70 fans, lookie-loos & just arriving hounds from other locales. They were all there because the glut of NHL players were coming for the Olympic games came thru Vancouver's YVR airport.
The media was there. There was lots of Canadian, American, Swedish, Finnish & even a couple Asian media personnel around.
Things really started for us, Saturday late night when Peter Forsberg & various other European based Team Sweden players & the Belarus team came in. Foppa was an incredibly willing signer, very talkative & quite personable. For those hounds (myself not being 1, I was on a different mission at the time) that were there from the time he got into the publics sight, reports of 5 & 6 autographs per person were boasted. Even for my friends & I, who showed up to the party very late (literaly as he was heading out the door to the security area that you cant get them in) we managed 2 each. It was then off to rest up for Sunday.
Sunday morning I slept in, and missed a terrific signing session by Finnish star Miikka Kiprusoff. One of the locals pulled 10 items out of the scrum. Team Canada superstar Jarome Iginla was less receptive to signing and did maybe 10 total from all reports I heard for the crowd of about 20 people at the time. Jeff Carter, who came as a hopeful replacement signed for the hounds before getting the punt by Team Canada the next day.
By the time I arrived in the early afternoon more than a dozen players had come thru, some signing, some being rushed thru the protected Olympics only doors to awaiting vehicles well away from the public. When I arrived everyone was getting prepped for Alex Ovechkin, probably the greatest hockey player there is currently playing. A couple guys came out before him like Thomas Greiss & Joe Pavelski from the Sharks, then came the Washington Capitals posse. Nick Backstrom came over and signed quite a few, most people leaving with more than 1 item, while the other Alex, Alexander Semin ignored the crowd, along with Semyon Varlamov. Alex Ovechkin however did sign, barely. A crowd of 50 or so waiting fans & lookie-loos anxiously begged him to sign, and he scribbled his rushed minimal effort autograph on 4-5 items, I was lucky enough to get one. Sure it looks like crap, but I still value a BAD Ovi at $50. Which last time I looked is better than NO Ovi at $0
After that scrum we hurried over to the domestic arrivals to grab a flight with a couple Bruins on it. David Krejci, who signed only 1 per person got the crowd of 20-30 people warmed up. Then Patrice Bergeron, Team Canada member, came thru & the crowd seemed to double out of nowhere. I was watching for Marco Sturm who saw the crowd swarm his NHL team mate & he took the chance to try & leave. I went over for him & got 2, only 2 other people got him before he slipped out the door. As I got him I jokingly said "waited for Patrice to go before you made your move eh?" which he replied with a smirk "hehe, yeah". The crowd around Patrice was so thick I had time to get over to him & snag an autograph before he was rushed out by security & overzealous volunteers who pushed people around. It then was noted Eric Staal was trying to sneak away as well, but was nabbed by a few from the crowd before his handler declared he was done & shooed him away.
A couple small scrums for guys like Dan Boyle for Team Canada and Jonathan Quick for Team USA filled the dull hours in between, but for the mostpart, the mid-evening was slow.
Reports that Martin Brodeur & other Devils had slipped in nearly undetected surfaced which was met with disappointment by some & acceptance by others more experienced in hounding large events where you understand you cant be everywhere at once.
Next was Pavel Datsuk who was greeted by a pile of collectors, dealers & fans on the international side. Myself & a couple others who were late in reacting only got 1, while most got 2 or 3. While the crowd followed him outside hoping to crack him on signing again, we noticed other players coming out in the security area. We rushed over to the fence, which for some reason had been moved up maybe 75-100 feet on Sunday, making access to them more possible. Valtteri Filppula and others came out, came over to do interviews for Finnish TV & then signed willingly. I got 4 from Valtteri, before collecting my things & moving on to look for more. A handful of other Finnish guys including Joni Pitkanen, Jere Lehtinen & Tuomo Ruutu also came in around that time as well. My luck wasnt as good with them. Mainly because looking for items when your carrying 1500+ items can be time consuming. It certainly cost me more than a few times. Pitkanen & Lehtinen both signed but I didnt have the time to get into my stuff, get back into the moshpit of hounds & get them.
A series of bad decisions lead to me being shut out for a couple hours, even with players coming in. I chose to sit on Russian goalie Evgeni Nabokov for awhile thinking with only a couple of us still waiting, he would surely sign. But after 45 mins of him sitting talking to a fairly fat puckbunny, he ignored all autograph requests & left. While I was there getting kicked in the balls by Nabby, Team Anaheim came in (minus the Canadian guys). Selanne signed a few, Koivu signed some & the others got away either without being asked, or with Team USA personnel wooshing them thru the crowd.
A late night flight with a handful of Boston Bruins came in & I thought afterwards my luck was turning around....but I again made a foolish choice it seemed. I got in & nabbed 3 Zdeno Chara autographs, 2 Tim Thomas along with 2 Miroslav Satan autographs. Generally getting 5 autographs from the most recent major trophy winners liek Chara (Norris) & Thomas (Vezina) would seem like a great score, but they came at the price of missing more Red Wings players in Lidstrom & Zetterberg. At least I got SOMETHING this time, but I still felt a bit disappointed that the 2 Miro Satan autographs I waited an extra 5-8 mins to get might have cost me the 2 Wings stars.
There was 1 final group of the night. A large group that included a lot fo east coast guys. On the flight were New York Rangers stars Henrik Lundqvist & Marian Gaborik. Along with New York Islanders Swiss star Mark Streit, a few other various guys from the Tampa Lightning & other Rangers All in all, about 8 to 10 players. I came out of the whole debacle with 2 Marian Gaborik autographs and 2 Mark Streit autographs. Most of them didnt even come over, and Lundqvist signed maybe 4 autographs for the 20 or so people waiting at 1 AM before walking back to the vehicle that was picking him up & leaving.
That was the end of the NHL arrival main day. A small handful of guys arrived early Monday morning, most notably Daniel Alfredsson. He signed willingly for the fans that went out.
A lot of the Canadian Olympians did not come thru because private charters were picking them up at meeting locations & taking them in to our smaller airport in Abbotsford (about an hour away) along with a few other non-Canadian Olympic team guys. With no decent access, and lots of uncertainty on who exactly would be on them, we never took the gamble to head out there..which probably was for the best, but we'll never know. With a star studded line up that came thru including the likes of Crosby, Fleury, Malkin, Getzlaf, Perry, Kane, Toews, Seabrook, Keith, Nash and many more on them, it might have been worth the gamble to go out & try. But the uncertainty deterred anyone from trying.
The defending Olympic champions come into the 2010 Olympics ranked 3rd.
Sweden will be looking to repeat their 2006 performance. They seem to have a Gold, bronze or 5th place mentality when it comes to the Olympics in recent years. They havent finished in a spot other than those three places since 1972. 2 golds, 3 bronze, 3 5th place finishes in that time.
The team will be coming in with a legitimate star studded team that could include the likes of Peter Forsberg if his comeback over in Sweden is coming along as well as he hopes it is. With the Sedin twins, Alfredsson & Zetterberg rounding out the top offensive units, you can expect them to be able to play a run & gun game with any country out there.
In goal, all world star Henrik Lundqvist will be front & centre. The back up role will likely go to NHLer Johan Hedberg. The 3rd string goalie may be NHLer Gustavsson if he is healthy enough to play, but its more than likely going to a SEL goalie, perhaps Markstrom.
On defense they have Nick Lidstrom. Do you really need more? Some of their younger guys like Enstrom, Edler & Stralman have all had terrific years & make their d-core much stronger than it might have been even a year ago.
Henrik Lundqvist- NEW YORK RANGERS (NHL) The top goalie in Sweden is undoubtedly Lundqvist. He'll be given the number 1 spot & even if he stumbles, its unlikely he'll be replaced.
Mikael Tellqvist- KAZAN AK-BARS/LUKKO RAAMA (KHL/FINLAND) A former NHL back up, Mikael started the year in the KHL did well there, but recently moved to Finland to play. I originally had Johan Hedberg in this spot, only to find out he isnt eligible for the tournament.
Jacob Markstrom- BRYNAS IF GAVLE (SEL) Barring injuury, Markstrom is probably just here to watch the tournament.
Nick Lidstrom- DETROIT RED WINGS (NHL) 6 Norros Trophies. Enough said.
Niklas Kronwall- DETROIT RED WINGS (NHL) If hes healthy enough, hes in for sure.
Tobias Enstrom- ATLANTA THRASHERS (NHL) Having an exceptional year offensively. Tobias will very likely be seen as a QB for the PP.
Alex Edler- VANCOUVER CANUCKS (NHL) Having the best year of his career so far, Alex has a minor injury right now, but is expected back in plenty of time for the Olympics. Will be primarily 2nd unit ES & PP.
Anton Stralman- COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (NHL) Another player having an exceptional career year, Anton will get some PP time & probable 3rd unit ES time.
Niklas Hjalmarsson- CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (NHL) Expect him out there on most PK situations & ES.
Henrik Tallinder- BUFFALO SABRES (NHL) If the are looking for more defensive responsibility, Tallinder might draw in ahead of Stralman. Another PK option.
Daniel Sedin- VANCOUVER CANUCKS (NHL) After an early season injury that kept him out 6 wks, he has returned with a vengeance & has helped his twin brother vault near the top of the leagues scoring leaders.
Henrik Sedin- VANCOUVER CANUCKS (NHL) Right now 3rd in the entire NHL in pts. Henrik showed he isnt just an exceptional passer this season, but capable of scoring too. His brother & him will be 2/3 of the top line.
Nicklas Backstrom- WASHINGTON CAPITALS (NHL) One of the top players on one of the top teams, Nicklas has cemented himself as a probable number 2 centre. Only question will be if Forsberg is handed that spot instead.
Daniel Alfredsson- OTTAWA SENATORS (NHL) Whether its Forsberg or Backstrom, Alfie will be the other top end scorer on the 2nd line.
Henrik Zetterberg- DETROIT RED WINGS (NHL) Probable top line linemate for the Sedin twins. Question right now with a recent injury. If it is long term, he might not be added.
Peter Forsberg- MODO ORNSKODLSVIK (SEL) Absolutely dominating the Swedish league since returning. Peter could be the #2 centre, if not he'll at the least have the 3rd line spot.
Tomas Holmstrom- DETROIT RED WINGS (NHL) One of the best 2 way players in teh game, Tomas will be looked upon for offensive support, and defensive responsibility. A 3rd line lock who could fill in 2nd line duties if someone struggles.
Loui Eriksson- DALLAS STARS (NHL) An offensive contributor, will likely get 3rd line duties here.
Samuel Pahlsson- CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (NHL) A checking forward who is a near lock for the teams checking line.
Mikael Samuelsson- VANCOUVER CANUCKS (NHL) I'm not sold on him being there, but due to a lack of other options (Bergfors ineligible & Franzen still injured) Samuelsson will probably make hiw way onto the team. If Franzen is healthy, he'll bump Samuelsson most likely.
Tom Wandell- DALLAS STARS (NHL) Will probably be another checking line addition with Pahlsson.
Mattias Weinhandl- MOSCOW DYNAMO (KHL) Strong contributor in the KHL offensively, Mattias might sneak into a top line spot with the Sedins where he has played & had success before.
Tony Martensson- LINKOPING HC (SEL) The top scorer in the SEL, Tony will probably be here more for image in Sweden than actual playing time. Might get into the line up, but will more likely be scratched most nights.
maybe- Jonas Gustavsson, Johan Holmqvist, Viktor Hedman, Doug Murray, David Petrasek, Johan Franzen.
Canadagraphs Hockey Blogs
From time to time I have something to say on hockey. Whether its the Vancouver Canucks, NHL in general, Womens Hockey or International Hockey...if I have something to post, it will be in here.