Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gold Medal Saturday

The day before "Super Sunday", it was Gold Medal Saturday at Britannia!
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.