Dispatches from Vancouver: The Good Ol’ International Hockey Game
Stephen Johns is camping out in Vancouver and reporting back on the 2010 Winter Olympics—with a focus on how they’re transforming one of Canada’s major urban centres.
Photo by Bradley Jorgensen.
Torontoist loves Vancouver—who doesn’t?—so when the opportunity to spend a week at ground zero of the 2010 Winter Olympics presented itself, we jumped. After calling in a few favours we landed ourselves a couch within sight of BC Place, scene of last Friday’s epic torch disaster during the Opening Ceremonies. And when we arrived downtown, riding in from the airport on board the splendid new Canada Line rail link, we walked right into the maelstrom of the first Team Canada men’s hockey game.
Make no mistake—men’s hockey owns these Olympics, and understandably so: not only is it a major international hockey tournament on Canadian soil, but it’s also conceivably the final time the NHL will allow its players to participate in the Olympic Games. (This promises to become a major story between now and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, especially since Alexander Ovechkin has already said he’ll participate even if the NHL does not. How do you suppose the words “If somebody says to me you can’t play, see ya” strike Gary Bettman?) Tickets for Team Canada games are like gold dust. And—as has been well-established—Canada’s men must win or else be considered failures.
The Canadian women’s team’s success is virtually assured: they’ve already clinched a semi-final appearance and will, barring a major catastrophe, be playing for gold on February 25. But a gold medal for Canada’s men would set off a collective national orgasm the likes of which this country has never seen. It’s remarkable how yesterday’s game, an 8–0 annihilation of a Norwegian team without a single current NHLer, totally altered this city’s complexion. Patriotism isn’t exactly in short supply here—Canadian flags are absolutely everywhere—but yesterday’s win actually sparked a wild party in the streets surrounding Canada Hockey Place.
Canadians are desperate to right the perceived wrongs that were committed in Turino back in 2006, when Team Canada finished a disappointing seventh in the men’s tournament. So while there’s a palpable energy throughout the Lower Mainland—reach out and you can practically grab it—it’ll spike noticeably whenever the men’s hockey team is in action. Vancouver is already a city transformed thanks to the Winter Olympics. Throw in a potential gold medal run for the home team in the games’ marquee competition and we’re talking a virtually unparalleled set of circumstances in Canadian sport.