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Celebrity spectators soak up USA-Canada excitement

Sunday, 02.21.2010 / 10:38 PM / All-Access Vancouver

By Bob Condor - NHL.com Editor-in-Chief

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Celebrity spectators soak up USA-Canada excitement
VANCOUVER -- All big games draw celebrity spectators; it's a North American tradition. Sunday's grudge match between neighbors USA and Canada attracted plenty of rooting interest and some committed hockey fans.

American gold-medal machine Michael Phelps enjoyed the USA-Canada game from the NHL's super-size suite above one of Canada Hockey Place's goal lines. He was happy to watch his college friend and USA defenseman Jack Johnson.
 
"I went to a game or two at Michigan," Phelps, a billed cap pulled low on his eyebrows, said of the university where former NHL great Red Berenson has built a stellar program. "It's a fun sport to watch. I was out here for the USA-Norway game too. I don't get too many chances to be an Olympic spectator."
 
Another legendary multiple gold-medal winner, speed skater Bonnie Blair, is happily here in Vancouver watching hockey and, of course, both long- and short-track speed skating.
 
"I won the world championship in short-track in 1986, but it wasn't an Olympic sport back then, so I stuck with long-track," said Blair, who won five gold medals.
 
Blair explained she was spending a lot of time at the hockey venue because her 11-year-old son is a peewee and her husband is part of a business group developing a new hockey skate worn, among others, by Evgeni Malkin, the Pittsburgh Penguins star who scored two goals for victorious Russia in the Rivalry Sunday's first game.

She also has a nephew who played for Colorado College during a NCAA Frozen Four tournament and another who just signed on to play for Boston University.
 
"The crowds here have been awesome for every game, not just the Canada and U.S. games," said Blair. "The fans have really supported all of the teams."
 
While both Phelps and Blair were all smiles during a game that broke the Americans' way early and late, Canadian actor Hayden Christensen (the "Star Wars" prequels) was nervous due to the USA 3-2 lead going into the third period.
 
"Beyond nervous," said Christensen, dressed in a Canada home-white jersey and sporting a black-and-red-trim Team Canada while sitting in Section 117, Row 23. "It's been an amazing game but I don't like the score right now."
 
Christensen lives in Vancouver and said "it's incredible, such a treat for all of us to have the Olympics in our city." He is a Canucks fan, but also roots for NHLers Raffi Torres (Columbus) and the well-traveled Mike Zigomanis (right now playing for Toronto's top minor-league team).
 
"I played hockey with both of them growing up," said Christensen. "I dreamed about becoming a pro hockey player, just like most kids [in Canada]. I love the game."
 
Another Canadian entertainer, comedic actor Seth Rogen was in the NHL suite holding court and, as is the Canadian way, will be fretting about Team Canada until the puck drops next on Tuesday.
 
"This is stressful, man," said Rogen, clearly not trying to be the funny guy that earned him fan kudos in "Pineapple Express," "Knocked Up" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." "We don't get to beat America too often in any sport, so we'll take wherever we can get it."
 
Just not Sunday night.