Pictured above is the view that my buddy Geoff and I had from our seats at the first Olympic hockey match. Overall, the game was not too bad and had alot more hitting than I would have expected. The U.S. seem to be a fairly physical bunch (at least against the smaller Swiss) with some nice big smacks delivered by the likes of Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan seemingly trying to stay out of the 13th forward slot through hard work and big hits.
The second U.S. goal (David Backes blowing aound Swiss defender Yannick Weber before stuffing it past Hiller) was singled out by Bob McKenzie later in the evening as the goal of the night. It was an impressive goal, but I thought it was more a literal illustration of the talent differential between the teams. Backes, middle of the pack among the U.S. scoring threats coming down against perhaps Switzerland's second best blueliner Weber, looked like Mario Lemieux in his prime busting down the wing. There's a reason why Weber is still in the AHL.
The Americans will definitely have to be better than their two shots on the Swiss goal in the third period.
A few other things that caught my eye:
- GM Place, sorry...Canada Hockey House has had every piece of Vancouver Canuck-ness stripped of it. From the board ads, to the ads on the stairs...it's all Vanoc. Even the Canuck banners and retired numbers have been placed in storage.
-we sat in the same section as some of Team U.S.A.'s family members led by Jamie Langenbrunner's wife, mother and kids. I believe we were near Tim Gleason's relatives too, who else in their right minds would have matching U.S.A. jerseys with "Gleason" on the back...
-right in front of us was a guy from Miami, Florida with his three kids. He kept asking us about some of the finer points of hockey like "When is a hard hit like that called a penalty?" or "What's hooking?". He told us he was at the Women's Gold Medal game in Salt Lake City, but couldn't quite remember the teams that were playing.
-the only beer served in the building is Molson Canadian (ugh), but that didn't stop me from having one before 12 noon.
- upon purchasing 50/50 tickets I was told to check later on the concourse screens for the winning number as they would not be announced in the building. I assume that has something to do with the IOC not wanting to officially condone gambling.
-the in-house scoreboard host was ex-NHL goalie Marc Denis and we had a good chat with him when he was in our section. We wondered if he was still playing anywhere overseas (I kind of thought he may have been in the KHL), but he says he decided to hang them up (he's only 32 years old) after a solid season in the AHL with Hamlton last year. He said he didn't want to do the minor leagues any longer and it was a family decision to not go play in Europe. I didn't mention to him that I drafted him as my goalie in 2006 when he went to Tampa, basically costing me the pool singlehandedly with his atrocious numbers. Nor did I mention that among goalies with at least 300 NHL games, only he and Ron Low have career winning percentages under .400 (Denis barely under, Low extremely under). Denis did a good job interviewing the aforemetioned Langenbrunner family and later U.S. legend Mike Eruzione.
We found it somewhat funny when a few hockey "fans" in the crowd asked Denis to snap a picture of them thinking he was just another usher. But really, even after hearing him on the scoreboard saying his name was Marc Denis, perhaps only a small number recognized him as the ex-NHLer he was. In fact, with perhaps a few breaks in his career (not playing for Columbus for one) he could very well have been in the mix to be a member of the Canadian Olympic team. As recent as 2006 he went 4-1 for Canada at the World Championships.
Pictured below is myself with Marc Denis, and yes I'll be wearing that same get up Thursday when I attend the Canada/Switzerland game.