Sunday, February 28, 2010
First, the Britannia team. EVS Ethan, Super Susy, and Super Anya. It is amazing how fast we came together as a team and how well we supported each other. Have a great time at the game tomorrow! It was great getting to know you all and good luck in your future. Also a big shout-out to Chris and Jonathan, Ralph and Suman, and of course the Icemen-Glen, June, and Joe.
Next, my real-life job team. I really appreciated being given the opportunity to come out here, and I hope that I can bring something Olympic back to Queen's. I would especially like to thank the MCE team-Steph and Ryan, Grobe, LeBlanc and Jamie who kept things going while I was gone!
The last team I need to thank is my family. Sheldon, thanks for your support of my Olympic Adventure. A month is a long time (even though it was the shortest month of the year) to be the only caregiver. I guess I owe you about 20 hockey practices, 25 basketball practices and 10 soccer practices. Ainsley and Brennan, thanks for taking care of yourselves, each other and your dad. I am really looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow. Don't worry, I brought you back something!
Saturday, February 27, 2010
We were also offered tickets to see the next game, Sweden vs. Slovakia, Canada's next opponent.
I wasn't sure who I was cheering for, I liked the Swedish team from being at Britannia (they smelled the best of any team that came in) but I think Canada would have a better chance with Slovakia. Since I wasn't really invested in a particular team, I paid more attention what was going on around the game. Despite missing three goals when I was in the washroom, I had a lot of fun.
You might have seen or heard about the Professional crowd pumper-upper guy. When I first heard about him, I thought that that was kind of sad that they had to hire someone to get the crowd going, but he is really fun and people love him and cheer their brains out when he is in their section. See this link for more info...http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/35519938/ns/today-today_in_vancouver/. They really use the jumbotron well to interact with the crowd showing all of the crazy fans throughout the arena.
In between the games, we went down into the operations centre for Canada Hockey Place. With a 12 team tournament they needed more organizational place than is normally there, so they turned one level of the parking garage into team storage, meeting rooms, and offices. I actually did not notice that I was in a garage until it was pointed out to me, they had erected walls, and carpeted the floors. it was a pretty amazing set up. We also looked at their workforce operations room. It is a lot more complicated at CHP with staffing compared to BRT. They have almost 300 volunteers for each game, compared with the nine that we have. Not all volunteers get to be in the arena. More than half are posted outside directing spectators, working at the screening tents or taking tickets.
I am really glad I was able to get in for a hockey game during my time here, I know that the next ones I will be watching will be on TV.
I am heading off to work now for the last day of practices at BRT. We have the men;s semi-final teams coming in, as well as potential demonstration by the Ant-Olympic group, so it should be interesting! More tomorrow...
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Sunday, February 21, 2010
The photo below appeared in "The Province" today (a Vancouver Newspaper), so I can show it to you without breaking the picture taking/publishing guidelines! (This is Britannia arena)
I was excited for the volunteers who arrived at work yesterday. I told them at our pre-shift meeting that they were here for the best shift at Britannia in the entire Olympics! Little did they know that when they were assigned the shift back in January they would get to work at Gold Medal Saturday! We were calling it that because we had the six big teams (and eventual Gold medal winner) in to practice back to back to back...
We have 8-10 positions for volunteers at BRT, and some are "better" than others. One of my challenges is to make sure that no one gets stuck in an undesirable position for too long. There are 2 positions outside at the security tent, checking accreditation and the tickets and passes of the spectator groups. There is another position at the entrance to the mix zone and media area. This is the coldest position and the least desirable. There are 5 other positions that have views of the ice, and one other position at the outside athletes entrance. This person, although they are outside, is fun because they get to hold the door for the athletes and check for their accreditation.
After a few pre-game skates (Belarus, Latvia, Germany) in the morning, the big teams arrived for practice in the afternoon. The Czech Republic was first, followed by Russia, then USA, Canada, Finland, and finally, Sweden.
When Canada (and the bigger teams) are in the building, I try to rotate the volunteers often to make sure that they can all get to see some of practice. When Canada is in the building, we get all lot of media and requests for accreditation as well, so that makes it interesting.
One of my favourite parts of practice is watching the teams get on and off the bus-all of the players are very polite and will give you the "head-nod" or a "hey, how's it going". On their way out we always wish them the best in their next game, and without exception all the players say "thanks". However, the coach of Switzerland, the day before the game with Canada, actually called one of my volunteers on her, "Good luck tomorrow!" Saying, "You don't mean that, you know we are playing Canada!" OOps! Sheepishly, she tried to recover, and he just laughed and told her it was okay.
Yesterday all of the police officers assigned to the venue put on their Team Canada Jerseys to wish the team well as they got on the bus. The security officer for Team Canada was a bit worried when he saw all of these people in Canada Jerseys waiting by the bus, but was cool with it when he realized that they were the security force at BRT. The players were very receptive and appreciative of their gesture.My other favourite part of practices are the skating drills at the very beginning . Being that I am used to watching 9 & 10 year old practices, watching the best hockey players in the world do the "whistle" drill is really unique. It is not just about seeing how fast they skate and change direction, just listening to 23 men skating as hard as they can is amazing! (sometimes it is so loud that we can't hear each other in our 2-way radios).
Today, (the day after Gold Medal Saturday),we had a lot of cancellations. Most teams decided to take the day off. However, Norway decidedto comein, but just with their back up goalies, 2 players, one coach and 2 of their medical staff. After they thought that their goalies had had enough practice, they switched positions. The goalies gave their blockers and trappers to the players and they took shots on them for a change. They even got the medical team involved as well. You could tell that they were having a great time out there, and when they came off the ice, they were still having a good time, pretending to ignore all of thenon-existant media as they went into the dressing room. It was great to see that even though they have lost all three of their games, they are still enjoying their Olympic experience. I guess it is all about expectations.
PS. Team Canada also took their team picture at yesterday's practice. Between all of the players, coaches, managers etc.... there were a lot of Stanley Cup rings in the arena! We stopped counting at 50.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
I have spent many, many hours watching curling on TV on cold winter days in Ontario, so I was interested to see how it was in real-life. I was also excited to see Team Canada play because I had followed the Canadian Olympic qualification tournament in December. One other thing I wanted to see were the Norwegian's pants and they didn't disappoint. We were wondering how they came to the decision to wear those pants, what teammate brought it up to the rest of the team? Even their coach had them on!
We were sitting at the 5 rows up from the front at the hog-line close to sheet D where Norway and the USA were playing. Canada was playing across the venue on Sheet A. Before the start, all competitors were piped in, something that I thought just happened at Canadian events.
The spirit in the building was huge from the start. As soon as the first rock was thrown, the cheers started. Almost everyone was in their Canada clothing, and had come to cheer. I am not sure that they everyone knew what they were cheering for. The guys behind us 9from Boston) were trying to understand the game by comparing it to their table shuffleboard experience, but they were willing to learn more about things from the many curling fans around us. One thing about curling is that there is a lot of beer, which helps makes for rowdy fans, I think. BTW, the concessions sold an interesting variety of options, besides hotdogs, they had chili, sushi, Jamaican patties, salmon caesar salad, and of course, banana bread! Not sure if that is a curling thing or just that there was left-over banana bread somewhere.
We were treated to some exciting games. Canada won handily 9-4 (Germany conceded after the 9th), but the other games went down to the final rocks(USA-Norway even went to an extra end). Even though Canada's game was over much earlier, the crowd stayed and cheered for the remaining teams. I think that the feeling from the Olympic fans in Vancouver is that they are here to cheer and have a good time, no matter what. The spirit is there no matter whether they are at preliminary Curling or gold medal Hockey.
At the end of practice today, after the coaches had left the ice, some of the players were practicing their shootout moves. I soon realized by the way they were cheering and chirping each other that there was something else on the line. Once they scored, the player went towards the door, put down his stick, took off his gloves, helmet, and even his skates and walked off the ice. The last one off the ice (obviously the loser of the shootout) had to pick up everyone's stuff and bring it to the bus. It was pretty funny watching the player (who will remain nameless) bring 10+ sticks, helmets and skates off the ice, attempting to get through the door with all that stuff.
Note: I wrote this post on Wednesday evening the day before the Russian-Slovakia game that Russia lost in a shootout! Maybe they should take things more seriously, we will see today at practice.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Coaches Update - February 18, 2010Another season has come to a close with our playoff loss to Toronto last night, 62-54. We opened the game very tentatively and Toronto took advantage, taking an early 6 point lead. By the end of the quarter we had settled down somewhat and trailed by 1, 11-10. The second quarter was not much different, although we were able to gain the point back and go into the half tied at 23. The start of the third quarter was our undoing, surrendering 23 points in the first 6 minutes and digging a 14 point hole. The start of the fourth quarter was our time to battle back, quickly erasing most of the deficit. Down two points, we had several possessions where neither team could find the bottom of the net. With time running out, we were forced to foul, resulting in the 62-54 final. And so our season ends.
As disappointing as the loss is, reflecting back on the season has its rewards as well. In 2008-2009 we had a league record of 7-15, finishing in 6th spot in the East (our worst finish in over 20 years). This season, with only 6 returning players, our record improved to 13-9, good for a 3rd place finish. We beat every team in our division (sweeping Ottawa, York & RMC) with the exception of Carleton (lost by 2 and 7). While there were many hills & valleys, injuries & illness, our team continued to play hard, both in games and in practice, and we continued to improve. With off-season training, continued competitiveness, and the addition of some very talented recruits, we will be even stronger next season!
Many thanks to all our supporters over the season, whether through attendance at games, or emails/letters of good wishes - all very much appreciated.
All the best.
So, we all have been taking mental pictures, I can show them to you when I get back.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Yesterday was our first day with teams on the ice at BRT. After the disappointing torch run in the am (see previous post), it was amazing to see the athletes arrive and on the ice. The first team on was Latvia. They had a full team there (since they don't have any NHL guys) and were very nice. Watching Olympic level hockey up close is pretty amazing to see how fast they skate and how hard they shoot. Even though the Latvian's are nowhere near medal contention (sorry Ryan and Val) they are still at a higher level than I have seen up close.
One of the funniest parts was seeing the guys arrive. It is actually quite a unglamorous process to come and practice. The teams leave the athletes' village to get changed into their hockey stuff at Canada Hockey place(CHP). After they get ready, they load up into the bus and head to BRT. Most just wore sandals and carried their stick and skates, but some of them got off the bus in their skates and skate guards and walked in!
Finland was on the ice next. Since THEY have more guys in the NHL, there were only 5 skaters on the ice. They even had to "borrow" a goalie that works at GM/Canada Hockey place to take up space in the net for them. After having seen how hard they shoot, I thought that that would have been pretty scary, but I was told that goalies are crazy and that they would be 100% up for it, no question.
I got to stand pretty close to Jari Kurri as well, so that was pretty cool. We are not allowed to ask for autographs or photos with the players, so I will be taking lots of mental pictures. The "Big" guys will not be arriving for the next few days as they are still playing this weekend.
Last night I went home to watch the opening, having seen the rehearsal, it was cool to see how things looked on TV. The whales and KD Lang were my faves, besides the Canadian team marching in. I wish however, that O Canada could have been done so that the audience could sing along (a personal pet peeve) as that would have been awesome (a la Oilers hockey games)-although she has an amazing voice.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
VANOC puts a lot of emphasis on treating the volunteers well. There are over 25,000 people who have given up their time to help make the games a success, so they want to make sure that they feel appreciated. As well as the awesome uniforms that everyone receives, all volunteers were invited to attend a dress rehearsal for the opening ceremonies on Feb. 10. Yesterday we also received our "shift gifts". These are special Olympic trinkets that they earn for volunteering. Each day at check-in the volunteers will get their shift card marked off. If they have reached a certain milestone (eg. 3rd shift, 6th shift) they receive .....SPOILER ALERT... either a Team 2010 pin, a key chain, a stuffed Miga or Quatchie (Olympic Mascots), or a Quatchie ice pack. On their last shift, they get a Vancouver 2010 Swatch watch. Not bad!
Speaking of the Olympic mascots, I was not really a fan before I came out here. However, now they are really growing on me! Quatchie is my favourite-he is a hockey goalie and is very cute. They are very popular and are mobbed whenever they appear. There is a whole story about them that you can read at http://www.vancouver2010.com/mascot.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Just in the past week I have seen more and more people coming into town. When I was downtown yesterday there was soooo many more people out and about. I thought I would pop into the Olympic Superstore to see what was there, and I think half of Vancouver was there as well. I tried to get a red canada hoodie, but no luck, they were sold out.
Welcoming the world also applies to BRT. Ethan, the Deputy Venue Manager is from Montreal, Chris, the media person comes from Austraila, Anya, another EVS Supervisor is from Montreal, and I am from Kingston. There are also a lot of local vancouverites here as well. Susie, the other supervisor is very local, she is the Britannia Program Director in real-life, as well the icemen and some of the tother hosts are staff at Britannia. They have been very welcoming to us as we have come in to invade their spaces.
I am looking forward to meeting more people when they come to volunteer at BRT. I really enjoy getting people's stories to see what brought them to the games.
We have finished our training at Britannia (BRT), so now it is just putting together all of the finishing touches. The venue is still in "Load in", or "Fit Out" status (which means that things are still getting set up). After the security sweep this week, it will become a live venue and we will have to get used to going through the security tent (personal screening area-PSA) everytime we go on venue.
The ice should be ready to go now. The Icemen (that is what they are called at Britannia) have been layering and layering water with a hand sprayer for the last 3 days. They are doing it this way (as opposed to using a fire hose) as it puts less air in the ice and makes it harder. They are hoping to get it to an inch or inch and a half thick. Again, they are doing the same processes at CHP so that this ice will feel the same from practice to game time. One thing that I have learned is that ice is not ice and that at this high level, the condition of the ice (for whatever sport) is important and therefore is closely monitored.
In the past couple of days, I have had the opportunity to visit two other training venues, Killarney (Short track speed skating) and Trout lake (figure skating). They are both live now, so it was good to see how they worked. We went to Killarney to pick up some signage and things for BRT and got a tour of the facility. There were no athletes there yet, so we got to go on the ice. More ice facts: Short track speed skating has ice that is 2-2.5 inches thick! They have mats about a metre thick around the ice (no boards). I hope to go back and see some of the skaters in action to see how fast they go up close.
Yesterday, I spent most of the day at trout lake, shadowing their operations. Nicole Clarke (a former Queen's athlete and A & R employee)is the Deputy Venue Manager there-so she showed me around. It was good to see how another venue works with their volunteers and how they set things up. I got some good ideas to bring back to BRT. It was also especially exciting as it was the first day that athletes came to practice. Although they had training scheduled for the day before, believe it or not, they don't take attendance at these sessions and it is up to the athletes to use the time or not.
So when Transport radioed that a van was in progress, a buzz went up in the building. The first group to arrive was a pairs team from Great Britain. All the staff was there to see them walk in. When it was time for them to get on the ice, it was amazing to see how fast and smooth they skate up close. The rest of the morning, I saw another pair from Germany, and a men's single from Italy. They expect that there won't be a full practice session for a few days as most of the skaters are still not in the village and are training elsewhere.
One thing I also enjoy about visiting the other venues is learning a little bit more about the sport. For instance, did you know that at large competitions they have a group of skaters called "Ice patchers"? Here it is a group of 14-16 (ish) year old figure skaters that come on the ice after each group has skated and patch the hole and divots in the ice (from toe picks) before the OLYMPIA (not zamboni!) comes on. They are all dressed in really cool Vancouver 2010 outfits and do this at every practice and competition.
That about all for today, let me know if you have any questions. I hope that you all have a great Superbowl and that the WF curling team continues on their winning ways!
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
There are many other people that will also be working and volunteering in the venue. Transportation coordinates the teams' arrivals and departures from the village and Canada Hockey Place (CHP) (the Olympic name for GM Place). There are also people from Sport, they work with the teams to make sure that they have everything they need for their practices. They also expect a lot of media to be at the practices, so there is a Media manager and some volunteers to help out in the media lounge and in the mix zone. I may have got some of the titles wrong, but you get the main idea.
Another group that is important at and arena are the ice attendants. Since my first visit to the area, I noticed that the temperature was colder inside the arena than outside (BRRRRRRRR!) They have been preparing to build the ice and need it to be -8 degrees. The ice build has been under the direction of Dan Craig, the "Ice Guru", who has built the ice for the last Three Oympics and is also the Facility Operations Manager for the NHL. He was on hand today to supervise the build. It is important that the location of the lines matches the ones at CHP since they will not get to practice very often at CHP.
Once they had applied 2 or three layers of water, it was time to paint the lines. They made it look so easy. The coolest thing is that they let us paint the red line. I think we did an okay job,
we didn't see them making too many repairs once we left the ice!
Tomorrow is the first day that we are required to wear our uniforms. With 50,000 people working as part of the Olympic workforce, I think that it will be a sea of teal tomorrow in Vancouver!
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
"I have been on both ends of the spectrum in my hockey career of winning and losing big games. But Sunday was a real tough one to let go and I have still not. I cannot be more prouder of our team and am very happy with the progression of our program at Queens. Payton Liske has established himself as one of the most dominant players I have seen in the 5 years I have coached in the OUA. Our defence really stepped up in the play-offs. To see Stephane Chabot play in the deciding game with a separated shoulder shows how much this team wants to win. As for after the game it is the worst speech a coach as to give as you are never prepared to give it. I am going to really miss my graduating players. Clinton Mccullough has been with me for 5 years and has seen all the highs/lows of this program. Clint came in as a 18 year old kid and has graduated as a man. It is a cliche but if you have seen the development like I have you would understand. Mike Bushby will go down as one of my favourites. For some reason over the last 3 years I have managed to apologize to Mike more then my wife. Their was never a moment in the 3 years that Mike questioned me and he always supported the direction of the program. TJ Sutter was my 1st ever recruit and when he got to Queens I think he thought I was crazy. Here is a player that started on my 1st line in year 1 and ended as a role player but fully accepted it. Goes to show the development of the program. TJ season came to an end way to soon because of injury but he was always a part of the team. Tom Franzon was a player who I have cut twice at Queens but this year he really deserved to make the team. Tom never once complained to me and truly became a better player as the year played out. Last is Jeff Johnstone. He will be coming back I hope but if not he was a real pleasure to coach. Jeff started last season on thr 4th line as I knew very little about him. He ended this year on the 1st line and 3rd in team scoring. I loved the way Jeff responded to my challenges and was always up to any situation I put him in, but like I said he will be back I hope!
Overall I am never completely satisfied with our season until the day we can bring a OUA Championship back to Queens but that is not to say that I am not proud of the guys. We faced alot of adversity this season and I learned alot about coaching this season. I want to thank Andrew, Aidrian and Nick for another great season as a staff. I could not ask for better guys on the bench and what you do does not go unnoticed. Jonsey, Dave, Jon, Graham and Don thanks for all your behind the scenes work without you guys this team does not operate. The Booster Club committee of Dave Descent, Murray Douglas and George Hood thank you very much for your support and guidance their is not a day I don't appreciate your help. As for next year I am off to Manitoba and Alberta Saturday to recruit. You cannot wait and reflect about this season I am already gearing up for September as we still have lots of work to do.
Thanks again to Queens Athletics for all your support and I look forward to seeing you at the rink next season!
Monday, February 1, 2010
Once we got in, it was very organized. First, they confirmed that I was actually who I said I was and that I was supposed to be there. Then, I followed the red line to get my photo taken (no smiling!), and then the yellow line to pick up my accreditation. Once that was all done, it was onto the white line to get my uniform! The uniform consists of a bright blue waterproof jacket, a fleece vest, 2 long sleeved shirts, a touque, and a pair of pants. I am a bit concerned about only having one pair of pants for a month! The uniform is pretty good, although very bright.After all that was done, it was time to go to Britannia to meet the other people that I will be working with and to get a brief orientation to the facility and the job (and lots of acronyms!). It is hard to believe that in less than 2 weeks the best hockey players in the world will be in front of me the ice. Check out my next entry for more info on what happens at Britannia, and other adventures.
GO CANADA GO!