Monday, March 01, 2010

Vancouver: 2/28/2010

The most amazing sporting event I've ever witnessed. Sums up my Sunday. I woke up Saturday morning with the bright idea of heading up to Vancouver either Saturday night or Sunday morning. I sent Schaubs an email, seeing if he was going to a pub to watch the game to meet up and he responded within the hour saying that he had family plans, but I had a place to stay if I came up Saturday night. Having never met him, that is a pretty cool and generous offering. Must be something in the water up in Canada, because everyone I met up there was nice. I ended up not needing the place to stay, because I got invited to a home game in Seattle Saturday night.

I left Seattle at 7:30am, trying to get up to Vancouver to find parking and a spot at a bar as quickly as possible for the 12:00pm game. I arrived in the city at 10am and spent about 30 minutes trying to find a free parking spot, which I miraculously came across less than a mile from downtown Vancouver.

10:30am was too late. Pubs had HUGE lines outside, and were already at or near capacity. Here is a photo of The Lennox Pub at 10:30am...

Just down the street from there is a wine and liquor store, again... 10:30am:

After walking around the city, looking for a pub and really just soaking up all the atmosphere, I find what looks like the best bet. I really want to experience the Olympic feel and excitement, and the only guarantee I have is the pre-game festivities. If USA wins the game the streets will be somber after the game. If Canada wins it will be unforgettable. So I root for Canada... actually, I also root for USA, the underdog. It is a win either way, really, and I'm just happy the two teams are playing in the finals.

I don't know the name of the pub (which sounds silly, and I didn't get any pictures of its name, which seems weird to me), but the line was only about 30 people deep, and I still had an hour before the game got started. Also, I could watch the game from the line if I didn't get inside in time, because they had TVs pointed out towards the patio. After waiting about 30 minutes, and watching the group of Canadians on the patio heckle any USA flag-wielders who walked by, the bald guy below showed up draped in a USA flag.

Every single other USA supporter laughed and shrugged off the Canadian hecklers, but this guy had a cowbell and balls of steel. He leaned over the railing of the patio and wrang his cowbell in their faces, shouting "USA! USA! USA!" for a good minute or two. I was scared for the guy's safety, but the Canadians didn't do anything. Bald guy called their bluff! It was all in good fun. About ten minutes before the game starts, the floor manager of the pub comes out and greets the crazy American guy, asks if he is alone, he says yes, and then the manager lets him skip the line and get in--I thought that was awesome, even if I got cut. As the Canadian national anthem is being played just before the start of game, the bouncer lets in everyone waiting in line.

The pub is completely packed, they have to be over capacity. There are no aisles for the waitresses to move through the crowd. Luckily, most of the pub is already drunk, so getting up to the bar for a pint is easy. The game itself is a blur. It is a great game, and I am starting to understand all of the intricacies of hockey, enough to appreciate the sport and the high level that this particular game is being played. The entire bar screams whenever Canada does anything good, so that helps me learn quickly. If Canada is a man down and they clear the puck, the entire bar shouts. If the camera pans to William Shatner or Michael J. Fox, the bar goes CRAZY.

The guys next to me are loving their spot. They have spoons and are clanging these hanging kegs every time something goes Canada's way. The entire game the pub is at a high energy, especially with Canada up 2-0. USA Scores to make the game 2-1. I'll be completely honest--before the game even started, I had a gut feeling that the game would go to a shootout. Even when the USA was down 2-1 with only a few minutes remaining, I did not think the game was over. The pub, on the other hand, started celebrating with about 10 minutes left to play on the clock, and the level of jubilation at any little thing Team Canada did positive was just insane. After every positive thing, it sounded like the team had won gold by the volume of the cheers. The first time I thought the USA might not make it to a shootout was when I snapped this shot:

The quality is terrible, but the photo sets the scene. 1:17 left to play in the 3rd period. 2-1 Canada. USA has an empty net. I have seen this tactic used quite often at the end of close hockey games, and although I'm sure it works occasionally, I have never actually seen the tactic work out for the empty net team. I think 90% of the time a team pulls its goalie, the empty net gets scored on. Here is when I thought Canada had the game in the bag.

And then the incredible happened. USA scored, and the entire pub fell silent. Oh. My. God.

Most patrons in the pub were feigning optimism during the 15-minute break between the end of regulation and the start of Overtime. "We've got this!" "Yeah." Without near the enthusiasm that they were spending on friggin' icing calls against USA five minutes earlier. People weren't sure how many overtimes there were, and if a shootout would happen after the overtimes or not. Most people thought the momentum would carry USA to victory.

And then Canada won.

And then the pub went ape-shit.

It was amazing.

I celebrated with the guys around me, then rushed outside to experience the streets as soon as possible. Shrike does a good job of describing the experience out on the streets on his blog, and I will try to do the scene justice, but I doubt I can put that experience properly into words. I was out on the streets way before Shrike, because he was actually at the game, so I got to see a lot of the build up, and also experienced the complete sardine-feel outside The Lennox Pub an hour after the game.

Easily the most happy people with smiles on their faces I have ever seen. The most high-fives I have ever seen. Strangers were high-fiving strangers, police were high-fiving strangers, I even saw a person high-five a bus-driver through the bus-driver's open window while he was stopped at a light. On the drive home I saw a car going 40mph on the bridge with a passenger high-fiving pedestrians... ouch! Easily the most car-honking I've ever heard.

My camera ran out of battery at the end of these photos, so I didn't get to capture the really good sardine experience, but here's an example of how many people there were. I took out my cell phone to snap some 20x10 photos in the middle of the bedlam. I held the phone above me and snapped a few pictures. It was so crowded I couldn't lower my arm and put the phone back into my pocket.

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Blogger BamBam said...

I <3 this post!

Know that if you ever make it to Eastern Canada, there's a place for you here as well.

Oh and having actually met Schaubs, you're really not missing that much.


6:56 PM  
Blogger Schaubs said...

Great post MHG. I was wondering what happened to you and if you would make it back in one piece!

It sounds like the city treated you well. I am glad to hear it went well.

The benefit os staying with BamBam is that you would get to drink all of his scotch... the downside is he would probably make you snow BLOW his property for rent money.

I hearby anoit thee an Honorary Canadian.

The offer still stands.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Shrike said...

Some great pictures there. I wish you'd e-mailed me, I would have extended the same offer that Schaubs made.


1:55 PM  

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