The fans that packed Canada Hockey Place had a lot in common with one another. Most were born in this country. Most grew up playing hockey. And most had gone into their closet yesterday morning and purposely picked out something that was red-and-white.
But each seemed to have a different story as to how they managed to attend one of the biggest and most memorable games in Canadian hockey history.
Sandy MacKenzie of Clearwater, Alta., had a friend-of-a-friend who won a pair of tickets in a radio contest. The friend was a student who needed the money more than she needed to watch a hockey game. So she offered to sell the seats for face value.
“When my buddy asked me if I wanted to go, I said just looked at him and said, ‘are you kidding me?’ ”
Jim McGillis of Edmonton won the tickets about a year in a raffle. The last time he won something was when playing the lottery. The amount was $1,000.
“This was a lot better,” he said.
And then there was Alex Reid, who lives in Chilliwack, B.C. His wife surprised him on Friday with a pair of seats bought from a ticket agency in the nosebleeds for him and his son for the $6,000. It was an “uncomfortable price.”
But moments after Sidney Crosby scored the game-winner in overtime — and the crowd was singing and dancing together — the price of the tickets did not seem to matter.
“This was worth it,” he said. “This was definitely worth it.”
They were not the only ones who would have paid anything to see what was often described as an “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who became a bit of good luck charm for the Canadians at these Olympics, was in attendance. So was Vanoc CEO John Furlong, gold medalists Jon Montgomery (skeleton), Kevin Martin and John Morris (curling) and actor and Burnaby native Michael J. Fox.
Together with the sold-out crowd, they rang cowbells, chanted “Go Canada Go!” and proudly sang the national anthem after the host country defeated the U.S. 3-2 in overtime.
Minneapolis-born Vince Vaughn, who wore a Team USA jersey, and three-time Nordic combined medallist Johnny Spillane were among the minority cheering for what some fans called the “the enemy.”
“I prefer Canadian to Miller,” read a sign in the crowd. Another made reference to the U.S.’s previous win against Canada a week ago: “Miracles are nice but they don’t happen twice.” Even Vancouver Canucks forward Ryan Kesler, who is usually cheered by these same fans during the NHL season, was derivatively called “a hermit.”
For those who could not get tickets into the A-list event, the television was an obvious alternative. Or, if you were Joe Costa, you and your friends simply grabbed some hockey sticks, a couple of nets and recreated the game on the street.
Anyone was invited to join in and play, he said. Even the local police.
“They manhandled us,” said Costa, who is an orthopedic surgeon resident at UBC. “Probably because they were carrying guns.”
When asked if any Americans had challenged the Canadians to game, he shook his head.
“Maybe they thought they couldn’t beat us,” he joked.
He was right.
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