Archive for February, 2010

Is anyone else unable to stop pacing?

Posted in Olympics, Team Canada, Vancouver on February 28, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

Buckle up Canada. And hey, don’t worry about anything, it’s only the biggest game of all time. No disrespect to ’72, ’87 and ’02.

Go Canada Go.

Attention K-Mart shoppers, Canada wins another!

Posted in Olympics, Team Canada, Vancouver on February 28, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

This will be my shortest post yet, even though I had quite a day today. But this trip finally caught up to me and I am really losing a battle to a head cold and fever that simply can not affect my final day at these Games.

Some friends and I scored a highway pass through a local one of them knows and so we drove up to Whistler for the afternoon. We had just finished a mini tour of the village and picked our spot for food and drink when the first of our three golds on the day came in.

Three speed skaters from three completely different areas of the country, all of whom missed the podium in their individual races, managed to find enough in the men’s team pursuit. A few minutes later, we had just gotten to our table when we looked up to see Jasey-Jay Anderson start from behind the leader and still pick up the win in parallel snowboard slalom.

Then, for the best golden moment in the Games so far in my opinion, Kevin Martin capped off the 2010 Olympics most dominating performance to date by running the men’s curling table to capture Canada’s third gold of the day. How many other countries have a middle-aged, balding gold medalist??

A week ago we wondered if all athlete funding was in jeopardy because a lack of results when it mattered and because the U.S. had come here and stolen the podium we were supposed to own. Now all of a sudden we have shattered the record for host-nation golds with one hopeful still remaining and have tied the all-time record for golds by any nation. Ever.

Apparently, we took it back.

But now, of course, the nation has turned its attention toward the Grand Puba of Winter Olympic events. Men’s hockey.

The States have already claimed the overall Olympic title and Canada has already claimed the overall gold-medal title, so this game will have no bearing on these Games in the technical sense of the word. Of course, everyone on this continent not comatose right now knows this is much bigger than five coloured rings or 23 golden medallions.

This game is about a country 10-times smaller than its noisy neighbour, trying to hold on to a game we have owned since the first piece of vulcanized rubber was formed into a frozen biscuit. This game is also about that same neighbour trying to come into our backyard and take that game away.

I don’t know who will win but I know who is better, which is why I feel pretty good about this game from a Canadian perspective. If you aren’t sure for yourself which club is better, ask yourself one question. If all of the American players were Canadian, how many of them would be stepping onto that ice tomorrow?

The answer might not be zero but it’s certainly not five or more either. If Canada plays the way they are capable, the U.S. has no chance. But if Canada plays down to the aggressive Americans, they could definitely steal another one from the Red and White.

However, regardless of how it all plays out, I can guarantee one thing. If Canada wins this hockey game, Vancouver will play host to the biggest party this country has ever seen and I will be right in the middle of it.

Which is why I have to stop now and sleep or I’ll miss the whole thing. And then you’ll be able to find me standing on the edge of Lion’s Gate Bridge, whether Canada wins or not.

Good night all!

Unimpressed

Posted in Journalism, Media, Olympics, Team Canada, Vancouver on February 27, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

I awoke Friday with thoughts of multiple gold medals, semi-final massacres and one 2:30 p.m. press conference I figured would be an instant highlight of my trip.

What I got was a pair of golds – though it SO could have been one more in curling – one drubbing, one nail-biter and one presser that left me completely dejected, embarrassed and questioning my career path altogether.

First of all, congratulations to Charles Hamelin for FINALLY getting off the snide and also to the rest of his relay team for helping him win a second gold in a matter of minutes, or so it seemed.

Congratulations to Cheryl Bernard for fighting off the competition – and a wicked cold – all week to pick up silver in women’s curling. We all thought you had the gold but no one can deny her rink’s unbelievable effort and determination throughout the event.

Congratulations to the U.S. and Canadian men’s hockey teams for reaching Sunday’s gold-medal game and for giving every person in North America the exact matchup they were hoping for.

But when I opened my eyes Friday morning with all of these events still to play out, the only thing I could think about was the Canadian women’s hockey press conference, which was set for mid-afternoon at the media centre.

It started out great; one nervous reporter broke any ice I was worried about when he asked his question to “Stephanie,” when none of the four girls were named anything even close to that. Then, I got up to ask a question I had pre-rehearsed.

I wanted to know if they had spoken before the game at all about the reverse-resemblance this tourney had to the Salt Lake Olympics, when the Americans had dominated leading up to their own Games but then lost the gold. Jennifer Botterill addressed my question and said they had definitely discussed it but felt they wouldn’t be in jeopardy of the same fate.

Guess they were right.

I wasn’t even back to my bag when I saw my phone light up with a text from a former classmate: “I just heard you ask that question on CTV!!” Well, I’m no broadcast junky, that’s for sure, but I have to admit I was kind of pumped to know I had made my national television debut and hadn’t come out looking like a tool in the process.

But as far as I’m concerned, the tools were just getting started.

The first time the question of the girls’ celebration tactics came up, one of them quickly gave an obviously prepared statement, complete with a public apology. As much as I felt the question was irrelevant in the first place, I was expecting it and so were they.

OK fine. To the gentleman who started it, you are off the hook. But as for the numerous so-called journalists, who simply couldn’t leave well enough alone and decided to pester them over and over again about their decision to smoke a cigar and have a drink, I’ll say what the girls should have said.

Screw off.

That’s not journalism and if it is, I don’t want anything to do with it. All they are proving is how lazy and inadequate they are as members of the media. These girls had just won a gold medal for their country, yet well over 50 per cent of their questions had nothing to do with hockey, let alone winning.

One reporter from a very well known media outlet, who I knew of before, actually came only to embarrass the girls and then he left completely. His question?

“Do you really believe your conduct after that game was setting a good example for other people?”

What’s that, dad? Do you really believe that well-respected company gave you a job requiring journalistic skills?

Media are not at press conferences to lecture people or show their own opinions. That’s what columns and blogs are for. If you happen to be the first one at the microphone and simply have to ask the question, you say “What is your reaction to the complaints coming in regarding your on-ice celebration?”

And then you sit down, shut up and listen to their response. Then you act like a real journalist instead of some sensationalism-chasing jackass and ask a question about their flippin’ sport, since that is what actually matters.

You don’t continue to repeat the same stupid questions rearranged with new words.

Should I be calling out my colleagues when I’m simply a freelancer, one year out of school, sporting a blog with only a few hundred readers? A budding yes-man with plans to be like everyone else and a hope he can hold down job security if he just chases negative crap for the next 30 years might want to hold back these opinions.

But I didn’t start this to blend in and I didn’t get into this business to be like everyone else. I got into this because I want to be a great writer one day.

However, if I have to become the kind of reporter everyone hates in order to do it then I think I’ll just stop now. Of course, I might just stick around a bit and see if I can’t be a royal pain in the ass for the lazy journalists instead.

Besides, it all worked out fine for Jerry McGuire. Enjoy the second-last Olympic day everyone!

A typical Vancouver day.

Posted in Olympics, Team Canada, Vancouver on February 26, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

The following is dedicated to Andrew Koenig, aka Boner Stabone:

I don’t want to make anyone more jealous than they already might be but I really believe something unbelievable is brewing out here. And if there is any way possible for you to get here by about 4:30 p.m. PT on Sunday, you need to make it happen.

It was somewhat of a back-to-the-grind day for me on Thursday and I’m really happy it was.

I woke up after a decent sleep, ate breakfast with my aunt and uncle, which has become one of my favourite moments of the day – and the quietest. Afterward, I caught the tail end of the women’s curling semifinal, where Cheryl Bernard advanced to the gold medal game in far scarier fashion than needed and then I headed to the train station.

After my soothing ride on the West Coast Express I made my way up to the media centre at Robson Square, about six blocks from the station. I made it through security in no time, as I’ve pretty much perfected the craft at this point – though I must say I’ve been searched by the same guy so many times I feel he should meet my parents – and then slipped down the stairs.

Who’s downstairs in the press theatre when I get there?

This guy:

Skeleton champion Jon Montgomery addresses the media in the International Media Centre Thursday afternoon.

Had I been 20 minutes earlier I would have caught all of his presser instead of just the tail end. However, I did snap a couple of photos and then sneak up to the front to shake his hand – among a crowd of course – and quickly let him know I promised a buddy I would make sure I met him. To which of course Montgomery looked utterly confused but still managed out a “Right on, man!”

When that was over I headed back to the hospitality suite to watch some coverage, where I chatted with some volunteers while Finland took down the Swedes in overtime for the women’s hockey bronze medal. Not too long later I headed up to ground level to meet a couple of Aarons, who have just showed up this week to take in the festivities.

I’ve discovered since arriving here that I can bring visitors into the media centre and today I found out I can bring at least two. I took the Aarons through security and down the stairs to show them around.

Who’s downstairs in the press theatre when we get there?

This guy:

Errol Kerr makes up the entire Jamaican ski team but represents it well

Since his face won’t be quite as recognizable as Montgomery’s, I’ll tell you a little about him. This is Errol Kerr, the lone member of the Jamaican ski team, who just came off his ninth-place finish in the inaugural ski cross.

He has been skiing all his life and trains near Lake Tahoe in the States. Aside from being a really nice kid, he is obviously pretty badass in this discipline and at just 23, could very well be standing on the podium in Sochi, four years from now.

All pressers begin with the athlete and/or delegates giving a prepared statement of some kind and then the floor opens up for questions. Not all pressers are packed with reporters either, especially non-Canadians, and this young man was left sitting there in silence once his initial statement was finished.

Well, I didn’t care whether I had a story to write about him or not, I wasn’t leaving him there like that so I hopped up to the mic, introduced myself and began asking questions.

Once I was done, thankfully the ball got rolling a little and some more inquiries followed. Meanwhile, the Aarons were clearly enjoying themselves because one had his camera out and was taking pictures from every angle and the other sent me back to the microphone with two questions of his own.

And with all due respect to the author of this blog, I think his questions were actually the best ones asked. But that’s neither here nor there.

After chatting with Kerr, we started to make our way back to the hospitality suite when I was introduced to this family from Sydney, B.C.:

Adorable much??

The gentleman in the back there is Eddy Butler, who just so happens to be the man responsible for the LED-lit Olympic rings, which have been lighting the harbour since the Games introduction. But what many don’t know is Butler is also responsible for designing the Olympic rings on his daughter’s head.

And every morning, they wake up and he does Victoria’s hair, which is now actually down to just a 20-minute chore.

After bugging the Butler’s for a while to ask them questions and take their picture, I took the Aarons back to the hospitality suite, where they crammed in with all the other media, staff and I to watch what we all hope is the first of two gold medals in hockey this week. On the big screen adjacent to the game we also watched K-Mart beat up the Swedes to advance to the men’s curling final on Saturday.

With about two minutes left in the third period of the hockey game, we ran up to the street where the Robson Square big-screen TV sits and I filmed this:

After the game I took the boys all the way down to Global Plaza, where on the way we stopped in a Moxie’s to see the girls receive their medals and sing O Canada with everyone in the place. Before reaching the plaza I showed them these, which by the way there is now about 2,000 of along the water:

Inukshuks are sprouting up all over

The balancing acts blow my mind

Once we arrived at Global Plaza, we didn’t stick around long. But it was just long enough for ScotiaBank to think they swindled me into applying for a credit card.

However I ASSURE you the joke is on them.

Anyway, we were pretty hungry so we decided to hoof it into Gastown, where we went to Steamworks pub, which has kind of become my go-to spot lately. We had just finished our food when the whole bar stopped to watch Joannie Rochette win easily the most heartwarming bronze medal in the entire history of time.

As if we haven’t been bombarded with overwhelmingly emotional moments already, this young lady is about as inspirational and amazing as a human being can be and took the term “capturing a nation” to unprecedented levels.

Suffice it to say, another off-key rendition of barroom O Canada followed and pride engulfed the room.

Afterwards, the three of us met up with some blasts-from-the-past, went to their Gastown apartment, which has about 17 floors and a waterfront view on every one, and sipped some extremely expensive scotch, while we talked about just how great life can be sometimes.

What did you do yesterday?

Could these Games be an athletic success after all?

Posted in Olympics, Team Canada, Vancouver on February 25, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

I have to keep it real short for my first post today because there is just too much going on out there. I did reach a blogger milestone though, as I’ve finally heard from my first hater. But, while they made it clear they dislike my opinions in almost every way, they said “for the most part,” which only tells me they keep reading my stuff regardless of their feelings. And that, as they say, is the whole point.

Anyway, I’ll try to get one in before bed tonight but here’s a quickie anyway:

Don’t look now but Canada might actually be turning it on at these Games.

I don’t know what the four-medals-in-one-day party would have looked like had our hockey team not embarrassed the Russians in quarterfinal action but I do know I’m extremely glad I didn’t have to find out.

However, if the scene that took place in downtown Vancouver last night is any indication, I almost shutter to think what a gold medal on Sunday evening could cause.

When the Olympics started, the crowds were as boisterous and crazy as you could imagine but as the first week played out with Canadian results being less-than expected, the excitement began to wear off. But the last few days have proved to be quite lucrative for the home team and the mood on the streets is reflective in every way.

Negative reports from our favourite moronic tabloid reporter in London have greatly subsided – maybe Great Britain’s grand total of one lonely medal so far has contributed – and the spotlight of shame has shifted over to the Russians – President Dmitry Medvedev cancelled his trip to Canada for the closing ceremonies within hours of their hockey defeat.

But what’s really got this place buzzing right now – aside from the failures of nations with big mouths – is the fact Canada has pulled into a tie for the lead in gold medals. Now, believe me, I’m fully aware they no longer recognize that title as the actual champion. And I know we won’t act like the rules don’t apply to us like some countries, which for example advertise the 200-metre champion as fastest man on earth because the 100-metre champion isn’t from there. But you have to be extremely impressed at our athletes’ turnaround right now and have to admit it would look pretty sweet to see us finish in first place more than anyone else.

And as tough a task as that could prove to be, one has to like our chances right now, with our curling and hockey teams all still in serious contention. But even if we don’t win more golds than anyone else, we have already tied for the most we’ve ever won before.

And I’m pretty sure that was Own the Podium’s plan all along.

Told you I had to be short. Off to the streets, take care all.

Finding our mojo where we’d least expect…

Posted in Olympics, Team Canada, Vancouver on February 24, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

If you were expecting a blog to discuss the importance of the Canada vs Russia quarterfinal taking place tonight, you will be disappointed. I don’t think any of you need a blog to tell you how enormous this game is. That being said, maybe I can show you that there are other reasons to be a proud Canadian right now:

Earlier in these Games I suggested the pulse of this entire nation rests on our men’s hockey team.

While I’m positive there is some accuracy to this theory, I wonder if I may have overstated it. When I woke up Monday morning to realize the 5-3 loss to the U.S. had not been a terrible nightmare, I was deflated to say the least.

When I went downtown to reacquaint myself with the never-ending party, I noticed everyone else was wilted too and the regular commotion, which had been the cause of my 24/7-adrenaline rush, was reduced to a sombre march of depression.

A country had literally waited years to put on the performance of a lifetime but, instead of living up to the lofty expectations, was seemingly faltering at every turn. Other nations were starting to use the opportunity to make fun of us and it was beginning to irritate a lot of patriotic Canadians. But no matter how awful our performance in the overall medal count was, we knew if we could just win men’s hockey we could save face.

Then our dream team lost.

And just to make sure the sword reached our vital organs, they were defeated by the worst possible nation.

No offense to the Americans, who are producing more and more unbelievable talent every year, but they shouldn’t even sniff the podium in a tournament where Canada, Russia and Sweden send their best. If these teams played over the course of a season or played a seven-game series, I’m positive that would simply prove itself over time.

But in short events like this, when everyone has a potentially great goaltender and some guys who can put the puck in the net, absolutely anything can happen and it did. Our “best of all time” paled in comparison to their “best of right now” and the result was that ugly mess we all witnessed.

But, while I’m sure the rest of the country found ways to put those terrible thoughts in the back of their minds and go on with their Monday-morning lives, Vancouver is not exactly the most ideal place to pretend sports don’t exist. A buddy of mine had flown out to see this crazy place for himself and I was showing him around downtown but I felt horrible for him because the vibe was just not the same.

Before Sunday, you couldn’t walk a block without running into some type of Canadian celebration and not many minutes went by without hearing the faint sound of our anthem being sung off in the distance. All of a sudden on Monday, the crowds were single file and mundane, while the regular annoying sounds of downtown – sirens, horns and bus engines – is all that was evident.

With a full week to go in these Games, I felt very worried and wondered how this broken city would recover.

Enter Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue.

My buddy and I had made the most of our day as best we could and then decided to meet up with Peshaunquet Shognosh – my new Anishnaabe brother (that’s Ojibwe for Ojibwe by the way) – at the Aboriginal Pavilion for some drinks. We were all still talking about how much we hate hockey and pretty much sports in general when these two dancers hit the ice for their big moment.

Now I’m not going to sit here and lie to the world by saying I was on the edge of my seat or anything. Hell, to be perfectly honest I didn’t really pay any attention to them at all because I was feeling pessimistic and was awaiting the mistake that landed them in fourth position.

Then when their score came in showing them in top spot with only two pairs left, I had no choice but to make this my top priority. Especially since my friend back home, who is a guy’s guy in every way, was texting me his approval and excitement by the truckload.

Well, by the time the last pair received their score to solidify the home gold, needless to say I was right in it with him. The quietest room I had been in since arriving in Vancouver had turned into bedlam.

Everyone was cheering and singing and hugging and high-fiving. The news reached the people outside and the crowd went crazy. The masses sprung to life and began waving their flags again and bellowing out O Canada for all of the lower mainland to hear.

The party was back.

And it was reaching the rest of Canada too. I received a text from a grown man back home, who I’ll refrain from naming, that read something like “My God, I cry a lot. I mean it’s ice dancing for Christ’s sake.”

Now I’ve definitely told you all of some pretty moving moments throughout my trip so far and I’ve tried to show you what an emotional time it is to be a Canadian but this one really got me.

Here was this nation in turmoil because we were losing the sport, which matters most to us, at a time when we are under the world’s spotlight and receiving less-than rave reviews, and yet we were happy. Ecstatic in fact.

Our heads held high again and our egos were strong. We were back to the proud, colour-showing Canadians we are so lucky to be and we were standing in the face of those trying to tear us down and shouting, “We’re No. 1!” with everything we had.

In the wake of the toughest hockey loss in recent memory, we had found away to break through the pain and show the world we’re not so easily knocked down.

And we did it thanks to ice dancing.

God I love the Olympics.

Simple.

Posted in Coaches and General Managers, Olympics, Team Canada, Vancouver on February 21, 2010 by Scott Schmidt

All I can say about that hockey game is:

Major coaching fail.

Brodeur may be the best of all time but he sucked tonight. The fact he was even in goal for the third and fourth goals is absolutely ridiculous. How a Detroit Red Wings coach gets caught showing loyalty to a New Jersey Devils goaltender is beyond me.

We lost for two reasons:

Our goalie had a bad night.

And our coach was the last person to figure it out.

Anyone who calls out the rest of the team didn’t watch.

I think it’s fair to say Bob Luongo is playing the rest of the way. Have a great night all!