I am sitting here with a box of Kleenex and a terrible head and chest cold and I am going to share with you my impressions of my personal Olympic volunteer experience. I am fortunate to have access to one of the best seats in the house, sitting 3 rows up from the Team Canada bench, as the dentist on the medical team for the this Olympic venue. I am part of a team of wonderfully talented and committed professionals from physicians and therapists, imaging techs, paramedics and nurses from all over Canada; all volunteering their time to help these athletes get through their events as healthy as when they came in. We are all putting in long shifts and sometimes with not much to do other than watch hockey games, which in the case of Canada vs. USA is amazing or as Latvia vs. Belarus at 11pm not so amazing. Our medical team role is to be there for the athletes if and when something bad happens. We are very happy when we have nothing to do because that means everyone is playing and healthy. My access allows me to view all the greatest hockey players on this planet as they come and go and get ready for the games of their lives. I have also been doing my best to give you some inside dish for these games using Twitter and Facebook. Hope you were following.
Zdeno Chara d-man for Slovakia is unbelievably tall ( 6’7’’) , so is Chris Pronger; slick centre Nik Backstrom for Sweden is short and looks shorter in his shorts.
Phil Kessel for Team USA and the Maple Leafs remind me of our Kyle Wellwood, sort of like the guy you went to high school with and work for Home Depot now; but what a player he is.
US team and Chicago Blackhawk Patrick Kane looks like a choir boy but skates as fast and as jittery as the bee in classic Rimsky-Koursikoff “Flight of the Bumble Bee”.
Alexander Ovechkin is much bigger than you think and he has the look of an assassin prior to game time.
Everybody knew a Sidney Crosby in their life. You know the best high school athlete, good guy, good looking; every guy wants to be him, every girl wants to date him.
There is a player for Norway; his name is Tore Vikingstad, now if that is not a name for a Norwegian I don’t know what is. Well, he appears to be older player now and he has a wife and 3 children holding a huge banner saying “Go Dad Go” and a picture of him. Last Saturday night in a game against the Swiss, Tore got a hat trick. Well, his little children were thrilled to death and the Canada Hockey Place went nuts for him.
Three beautiful blonds from Latvia sitting right behind their bench. They looked like a mother and her two gorgeous daughters all wrapped in the Latvian flag. Latvia doesn’t have a great hockey team but they sure have great cheerleaders.
The “ crazy guy” who is seen dancing in a manic way whenever there is a stop in play and seems to have an endless supply of t-shirts to be stripped off and thrown in the crowd like some male version of a vaudeville burlesque dancer: perhaps in need of Ritalin. Also an honourable mention to National Post writer Bruce Arthur who wrote a particular negative article about Canadian athletes’ accomplishments.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin always personable and friendly and never seem to show any nerves. I count them as friends. Two of the greatest competitors you will ever meet.
Best Outfits: Gold medal to the USA courtesy of Ralph Lauren with the exception of the TV test pattern the bobsled ladies wore; they had the sharpest looking duds. Silver medal to Canada, a close second. Hudson Bay Co. came up with some real winners for our athletes. Bronze to Finland you got to love their blue.
Big Thumbs Up to the very cheery girl sitting on the lifeguard tower with her megaphone as we all entered the west perimeter; always happy and worked hard to get us “up” on even the wettest and coldest of days. In fact, thumbs up to all the great volunteers in blue. So many great people often taking time away from their regular jobs and sometimes being stuck doing work in not always great or glamorous conditions.
Big thumbs down to the food served to us worker volunteers (including your dentist) at Canada Hockey Place. Sample dinner: White rice, cubes of chicken and heavily steamed vegetables. Oh wait, sorry I meant a choice of white rice with cube chicken or white rice with heavily steamed vegetables. A volunteer told me that she thought the catering was done by a company that caters to the local hospitals. Note to Jeff: Do not get sick.
All world Russian Alex Ovechkin and his teammate Alex Semin rapping each other in the CUP prior to going on for the pre-game skate. Well, if that doesn’t get you pumped up nothing will?
Team Sweden playing soccer in the halls with the ball never touching the floor. Note to Canuck Hopeful Michael Grabner don’t try this warm-up again, it cost you a broken ankle and a place in the line up.
Team Sweden woman’s hockey team player showing up in the med room with her lovely therapist for a rub down prior to their game.
man in the building is one of the greatest goalies to ever have played anywhere and that is Vladislav Tretiak of the old USSR. Anyone over the age of 40 will remember how great he was against us time and time again. He played for Russia (the old USSR) for 4 Olympic teams and he has been involved as a coach in two others; one of the great Olympians of all time. He is older now and has a bit of a belly but it was still awesome to meet him and get him to sign my volunteer jacket.
Probably the biggest thing I have noticed is that almost all the teams here are pretty open and friendly. They seem loose and have played that way with the exception of the Canadian team. There seems to be lots of tension around the building whenever they are in it. I understand they want to keep the many distractions of playing here in Vancouver away from the players but maybe they need to loosen things up to help this team get back to winning.
Maybe they listened because they looked loose and hungry last night as they trounced Russia in the most electric game I ever saw.