I bought my ticket early for the Red-White scrimmage, and I’m glad I did. Before the game I thought that it would be “really good” to see more than 40 of Canada’s top hockey players on the ice at the same time. “Really Good” doesn’t even come close to describing what it was actually like to sit in the stands at the Saddledome and watch this Team Canada hockey scrimmage. It was unreal and it was worth every one of the 3500 pennies I paid for the ticket.
What made it that good wasn’t just the hockey. Sure it was freakin’ awesome to watch the likes of Iginla, Brodeur, Crosby, Lecavalier, Luongo, Heatley (yes, I said Heatley), and the Stalls on the ice at the same time. But I found that the best part was to watch the Canadian Hockey Fan in it’s native environment and to see how pumped people are for the 2010 Olympics. There are numerous others who’ve posted about the game itself – who played well, who stunk, who played with whom, etc. But I choose to focus on the fans.
This will be the first time in 20 years that Canada host the winter games on our home soil, and we stand a legitimate shot at gold. The players know it, the fans know it, and the scrimmage’s sponsors knew it.
The fans showed up in record numbers on Thursday to catch a glimpse of the players that will play for our nation in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. I went into the Dome at about 2pm on Thursday to pick up my tickets and visit a friend and was surprised to see the Canadian women’s team playing the US women’s team. I watched the entire 3rd period as the Canadian squad took a 1-1 tie and turned it into a 3-1 victory. Nice work Ladies! As I was about to leave, my friend advised me that there were only about 200 tickets left for the scrimmage, and that it looked like it would sell out. I admit I was a little surprised. I expected 15,000+ but I didn’t think it would really sell out.
When I came back just before 7pm, it was absolute madness in front of the Saddledome. There were easily 2,000 people waiting outside in the ticket purchase line (not the will-call line!). As we breezed past into a packed Dome, it looked like this sell-out was legitimate. When a couple thousand fans miss out on a game, you know you’ve made a good decision by paying the $4.00 fee to ticketmaster to buy your seats on Tuesday.
Inside, the atmosphere was electric. The players were rocketing around the ice, and the 2 best goaltenders in the world weren’t letting anything past them. The Beer line-up was ridiculous, and there were thousands of fans wearing hockey jerseys of all sorts. I saw Flames jerseys, Canucks jerseys, Habs jerseys and red and white Team Canada jerseys. I even saw a #55 Jovanovski Team Canada jersey and thought, “who in their right mind would buy/wear something like this?”
Then it dawned on me: this wasn’t just the fans of Calgary in the stands. Sure they made up a majority, but people had come from all across the country for this game. The cheers of “Luuuuuuuuuu!” weren’t lead by Calgarians as much as they were by fans who’d made the trek out from Vancouver. The Boos that accompanied Dany Heatly every time he touched the puck were coming mostly from the Ottawa fans and the Edmontonians who were pissed that he dissed their team and said that he “wanted more options.”
When I saw a french-speaking family in Team Canada jerseys (and a Hockey Canada T-Shirt that read: Canada, home to the best hockey on earth) on my flight back to Montreal the next morning, I knew that this was truly Canada’s game. Hockey is a part of our heritage and we will always love and support our hockey teams.
It didn’t matter how many times Dany Heatly was booed during the game. When he scored a goal in the shootout, those boos changed to cheers in a heartbeat. The Fans made their point to him in the game: respect your contract, but they also showed that they’ll support him if he can light it up in Vancouver. Because, at the end of the day, if we’re home to the best hockey on earth, we deserve nothing less than gold in Vancouver.