Yesterday was the first day of pucks here in Vancouver and the event got off to a solid start. The United States beat Switzerland 3-1, Canada blew out Norway 8-0 and the Russians beat on the Latvians 8-2. I went to the U.S. and Russia games and watched the Canada at a bar.
I wish I could show off my photos but my new camera doesn't like my old laptop. Still, some random notes/observations:
*The Russians may have won by six but they did not look like the world-slayers that everyone has expected. Maybe it was a slow start but if Latvia was a little bit better, they could have made it really interesting. They blew at least five good scoring chances. Former NHLer Herberts Vasiljevs scored a goal but cost his team at least two (if not three). Poor guy.
*But at the same time, it wasn't as if the Russians were really trying. Alex Ovechkin, yeah, he's good. Right after the first Latvian goal, he skated down the rink and fired a slap shot into the upper reaches of the net to get the goal back. Just because he could.
*The in-house music guy was clearly were rooting against Russia. After each Russian goal they tried to get the crowd to chant Lat-Vi-Ya, Lat-Vi-Ya, Lat-Vi-Ya. It was pretty funny and the primarily Canadian crowd was right there with him, hating on the Russians.
*As for the Americans, while the score was close they looked pretty good. The lone Swiss goal was Ryan Miller's fault, he tipped the puck past himself. Bobby Ryan's and David Backes' goals were suh-weet while Bugsy Malone's was the result of hard work in front. The only underwhelming Americans were Brooks Oprik, who got better by the third period, and who else but Chris Drury. As the extra forward he was constantly rotated around the lineup and the only good thing that I noticed him do was win a defensive zone faceoff cleanly that caught his linemates by surprise. Ryan Callahan was Ryan Callahan: finishing checks, relentlessly skating all over the ice and juuust missing a good scoring chance.
*There were Olympic-paid cheerleaders in the crowd all day - dudes, not underclothed chicks, sorry - trying to get fans to clap, chant and do the wave. They were a bit ridiculous but most folks got into it so I guess they did their job.
*The moron who spastically dances at New Jersey Devil games showed up for the Russian game, throwing out tee shirts and twitching around like an idiot. Can't stand that dude but it seemed the Canadians dug him, at least for the free shirts.
*Former NHLer Marc Denis was the in-game host doing interviews with fans and celebrities all day. The guy honestly did a pretty good job. When he spoke to Mike Eruzione during the U.S. game the place went wild.
*There was a lot of crowd control getting in and coming out of the arena. Going in the security wasn't too bad, basic airport security metal detectors. But the coming out was annoying as people exiting the arena were packed into one small staircase to get up to the street because there were people waiting to get in for the next game at the entrances.
*By the third game, the arena showed its overuse with filthy restrooms and tired, scrambling employees.
*I made $35 off of some Canadians by picking Jarome Iginla to score first against Norway. It was awesome; so much for the 'dumb' Yank not knowing anything about hockey ...
*In the arena they ran 50/50 raffles for each game. The winner for the U.S. game took home over $11,000 - that's insane. And it wasn't me, which is just unfair.
*When they say that Visa is the official card of the Olympics, they mean it. The in-arena stores only took Visa or cash and the ATMs in the building wouldn't even take other cards. So annoying.
*There were scalpers everywhere on the streets around Canada Hockey Place and the cops didn't care in the least. It was kind of trippy, as was the public marijuana smoking (which appears to be socially acceptable in this city).
*I went ice-side for warmups at both games that I was at. For the U.S. game Ryan Callahan hit the boards by me, digging the Ranger flag. Chris Drury kind of shot me a nasty look; maybe he remembered me and my Wade Redden sign. I don't care, it was funny.
*As I tweeted, it appears that this city is still quite bitter about losing in '94. I wore the Ranger flag around and dozens of people over the course of the day talked trash, threatened to beat me up or actually admitted to be Ranger fans. When I walked into a store looking for a Trevor Linden tee shirt, the guy said he didn't have one but he had an authentic sweater with the '94 patch - I asked if it came with Linden's tears running down the front and he threw me out of the store.
Well, that's it for now - I have to get moving as I will be at Canada Hockey Place for all three of today's matches. Olli Jokinen opens with Belarus, Hank takes on Germany and Jaromir Jagr will meet Marian Gaborik. Let's go Rangers!