DAY 11- Last Day in Torino (2/23)
Some final thoughts on my first Olympic experience…
1) The city of Torino gets a big thumbs up… people don’t immediately think of Torino when they plan a trip to Italy… I’d come back in a second… the people are genuinely appreciative of tourists and the city is easy to navigate… if you’re a fan of architecture, it doesn’t get any better than this… FYI, one of my guides recommended the first 2 weeks in July as the ideal time to visit… no surprise; food & wines were spectacular and reasonable too…. If you’re into nightlife, most bars stay open well past 3 am… every night! To our hosts and especially to the NBC logistics people, I say “prego!!”…
2) The Grind…. I remember when I first looked at my schedule I thought “8 games in 5 days” would be a grind… it was a piece of cake… a lot of our technical people worked 16-18 hrs a day the first 5 days of the hockey tournament averaging 6 hockey games per day… that’s a grind… on 4-5 hrs sleep per night, their dedication was inspiring.
3) Olympic experience… unbelievable atmosphere. Frankly, the visitors make the Olympics, not the hosts… the general population here in Italy seemed more focused on pro. soccer than the Olympic Games… the people from Russia, Canada, Sweden, Finland, and especially Latvia and Switzerland created the atmosphere here… best partiers by far; the Latvians.
4) Watch out for Mother Russia… I have no real insight into global economics but I will tell you that I was amazed at the number of affluent Russians touring around Torino… and, there was a Russian National team store on the pricy upscale shopping street Via Roma (alongside Dolce & Gabanna and other high-end designer stores)… at the ‘Russian Store’, they sold the distinctive red & white Russian team jerseys, team hats & coats… no other nation had a ‘Team Store’ on Via Roma… whenever I walked by, it was packed.
5) New friends… I made some great friendships with many in our broadcast group… several of these people I kind of knew because they have been involved in hockey, as I have, for many years…. But when you spend this much time with people for 10-12 days, the bond gets much stronger… It was a privilege to be here, and an experience I will never forget.
6) Canada vs. Russia… I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to broadcast this quarterfinal game… as a Canadian, I can remember watching the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit series AT SCHOOL (across the entire country, schools set up TV’s in gymnasiums so that all students could watch the games during school hours)… this was a great game to be present for… the atmosphere was electric… my sense was that this may have been the Gold Medal game…. Unbelievable to think that one of the 2 most talented teams at the tournament went home after the game… Russia won 2-0… Alexander Ovechkin was dominant… he’s 20 years old!
Speaking of home, I can’t wait to get there… many hockey people here are talking about the momentum the Ducks have generated… most so-called hockey experts predict they will make the playoffs… it’s gonna be a fun ride.
Good-bye from Torino…. Next Olympic Blog... Whistler 2010!!
DAY 10 (2/22)
Last Game Day- Quarterfinal Game
Yesterday was the last day of preliminary round games and my game had undefeated Finland facing off against winless Germany… it was a classic no-hitter with Germany playing their 3rd string goalie and Finland resting 37 yr old Teppo Numminen. The Finns cruised to a 2-0 win earning their 4th shutout in 5 games, setting up a quarterfinal match vs underachieving Team USA… my prediction, whoever scores first wins and moves on… and don’t be surprised if the Americans win… what is clear at this tournament is that there is little separation between the top 6 hockey countries in the world.
Great meal following the game sitting around trading stories with fellow broadcasters Peter McNab, Ray Ferraro and Ken Albert… perhaps the stories I’ll remember most… got three separate calls throughout the night “to see how I was doing”… gotta remember to turn my cell phone off when I go to bed… everyone getting a little punchy late in the game and the practical jokes getting more frequent.... it's like summer camp.
I cruised around Piazza De Vittorio today… 3 nights ago (called “White Night”) every bar/restaurant stayed open 24 hrs and ~ 100,000 people jammed the piazza partying until daybreak… unfortunately I had 2 games the next day and could not experience it (cross my heart and….) but friends that did tell me it was an absolute blast with only positive stories to report.
Check out the photo of a very popular car here in Torino… it’s a hybrid Fiat and I estimate I’ve seen about 10,000 of them… they are so short that often instead of parking parallel to the curb, residents park them ‘nose in’ to the curb, enabling them to fit into virtually any open parking space…. Great for Torino but pure suicide on the 5 freeway.
Can’t wait for the quarterfinals tomorrow…. Trying to squeeze in a few last “sights” in the afternoon after I check out the morning skates for the 2 teams involved in my game (I’ll find out who they are at midnight tonight).
DAY 8 (2/20)
One of the things that is very striking about the Men's tournament is that the Eastern Bloc coaches are inferior to the coaches from the Scandinavian & N. American countries... Here are a few examples:
Both Russia and Kazakhstan have trailed by a goal late in the game and have not even thought about removing their goaltender for an extra attacker...
Match-ups? Forget it. You'll never see short shifts from either of these teams trying to get specific personnel on the ice against specific opponents... eg. Russia trying to get Alexander Ovechkin against the #5 or #6 defenceman of their opponent. Just won't happen... but I guarantee most of their opponents will try to get a specific defenceman on the ice against the Russian line of Kovalev-Datsyuk-Kovalchuck.
Shortening their bench?... forget it! This term means that teams use specific players more frequently than other players depending on the situation. But if the Russians or Kazakhstanis are trailing in the game, so far we have not seen the coaches give more ice time to their more offensive minded players. When Russia trailed late in their opening game, Krikunov the Russian coach had defensive defencemen Darius Kasparitus and Vitali Vishnevski on the ice... high scoring defensemen Andrei Markov & Sergei Gonchar were on the bench... unbelievable.
Kazakhstan won't move on to the medal round but Russia will be at a competitive disadvantage in this medal round of this tournament because of coaching.
Did a little touring around today. The river Po meanders through the city of Torino... it's not uncommon to see single & double scull rowers on the river all day long... even when the temperatures drop into the low 40's. .. The Medieval Village of the Valentino was built in Torino in 1884 to tell the world that Torino had arrived as a center for industry.
Last night, 7 or 8 of us headed out in search of a new restaurant... we found the Urbani restaurant 4 blocks away from our hotel... Without ever speaking to any of the servers, we were presented with a 7 course meal (family style) featuring fruit, prosciutto, pasta, salmon, calamari, risotto, various dessert pastries, liqueur(s) and all the wine you could drink... they just kept bringing more stuff without ever actually talking to us... final tab $50 per person... back to the Urbani tonight!
2 games left for me... one final preliminary round game between Germany & Finland (the Germans are out... the Finns can lock up first seed in their pool)... Then a quarterfinal Game the next day... Home on the 23rd.
DAY 5 (2/17)
It was a day off from Men’s Hockey games today so I took a little tourist time, took care of a few errands and a few gift purchases for friends and family….
It’s pretty bizarre but I honestly know nothing about this Olympics other than what takes place at the hockey venues…. I have no knowledge of the medal count, world or Olympic records set in any sport or at any other venue… it is just hockey 24-7 for everyone involved in the hockey portion of these Games…weird huh?
In the morning, I visited Canada House & U.S.A. House to look around and check out some of the official Olympic merchandise options… about a 1,000 options to choose from!
Then I took in the Finns and Swedes at practice to prep for tomorrow’s games. I had a great chat with Teemu who is leading the tournament in goal scoring… to let you know how much fun he’s having, he was of just 10 Finns who showed up for their optional practice today… and he was the last off the ice…. He said he was actually more tired in the 2nd game than he was in their first; a typical reaction I’m told to jet lag. His wife Sirpa arrives in Torino tomorrow.
There was a buzz around the Swedes at practice… Peter Forsberg is coming off his 3rd groin injury of the season… the very first drill he participated in was a penalty killing drill (lots of short starts & stops and tough on the groin)!!! Afterwards, he announced he felt great and was ready to play… Flyers G.M. Bob Clarke must be having a fit… Philly cannot win without a healthy Forsberg.
I have very good news for Duck fans regarding Sandis Ozolinsh… he has been Latvia’s best players, logging about 25 mins. per game or more (one stat they don’t keep here is ice time/ GP). He leads Latvia in scoring and in +/-… I’m looking forward to seeing him tomorrow as Latvia plays the Swedes.
DAY 1 - 4
Mighty Ducks of Anaheim television analyst Brian Hayward was named to the broadcast team of NBC Universal for the 2006 Torino Olympic Winter Games.