Vancouver 2010 — even the pilot is a hockey fan // The Crime Traveller

By Edward Prutschi

On Wednesday February 17th, 2010


The moment is finally here. After nine months of planning and anticipation, and following three days of watching the Olympics non-stop on TV, it’s finally my turn to hit the action in person.

I know I’m in for something special. As I boarded the monorail to Terminal 1 at Pearson’s parking garage, four people entered my car decked out in full Team Canada gear capped off by cardboard maple leaf cowboy hats fashioned from abandoned boxes of Molson beer. It doesn’t get more Canadian than that.

Thanks to the magic of Aeroplan, I secured business class seats using my points but, even booking nine months in advance of the games, had to be routed through Edmonton on my way to Vancouver. At the time, this seemed like a minor concession. Now, hovering at 35,000 feet in a prolonged holding pattern over a fog-bound Edmonton I began to panic, fingering my Team Canada hockey tickets wistfully.

Finally, the fog lifted enough to permit my plane to land. I bolted from the jetway into the airport with only 20 minutes to catch my connecting flight to Vancouver. I stopped the first official I could find to ask for directions to my connecting gate. “Don’t worry,” said the kind man with the wings on his lapels. “It’s the same plane you just got off of, and I’m your pilot. If I need to burn a little extra fuel to get you to the game on time, so be it.” God bless you, Mr. Pilot.

True to his word, one hour and 35 minutes later I collected my luggage and boarded the gleaming new Canada Line train for the ride directly to Canada Hockey Place (more commonly known as GM Place and the home of the Vancouver Canucks) for a chance to watch the premiere of Canada’s powerhouse men’s hockey squad as they took on Norway.

The streets of downtown Vancouver were clogged with pedestrian traffic and spotted with hundreds of blue-jacketed Olympic volunteers. There was a palpable excitement in the air. The city felt alive in some James Cameron-esque symbiotic celebration of co-existence. I felt compelled to high-five complete strangers on the street simply because they were there. The elderly gentleman dressed head-to-toe in a powder blue snow suit, scraping his way past me in front of BC Place on cross-country skis — despite a complete absence of snow — hardly even stood out as unusual. High-five, ski dude! And on I went.

I passed a squad of Norwegian-horned Vikings draped in their country’s flag, clearly on route to the same hockey game as me. We smiled at each other, secure in the knowledge that the result of this game was not in any doubt, but would be a moment to remember nonetheless. Every one of Canada’s eight spectacular goals over the hapless Norwegians was greeted by an explosive cheer. As soon as the game was over, I shuffled out of the stadium, turned right around and lined up again to return to my seats for the next game: Russia vs. Latvia.

You haven’t lived until you’ve chanted LAT-VI-A with 15,000 crazed Canadian fans trying to help the underdog Latvian team by drowning out the boos of 4,000 Russians.

I left the stadium in search of the subway at 11:30pm Pacific — making it 2:30am for my body, which was still firmly planted in Eastern time. Despite that, I felt like lingering in the warm night air of downtown Vancouver. The streets were filled with revellers from all around the world. I passed a clearly odd yet reassuringly friendly man bedecked in the rhythmic tinkling of thousands of Olympic pins fastened to a massive vest so over-burdened that it dragged across the ground as he shuffled by. Had I met this man on Toronto’s streets I would have felt compelled to furtively cross the road and avoid eye contact. Here, in the context of Vancouver’s Olympics, I just gave him a quick high-five and continued walking down the street.

I finally arrived at my host’s home just before 1am local time. Since starting my travels this morning in Toronto, I have now been awake for 21 straight hours. I wouldn’t have changed a minute of it.

When not jetting around the world as his alter ego, The Crime Traveller, Edward Prutschi is a Toronto-based criminal defence lawyer. Follow Ed’s criminal law commentary (@prutschi) and The Crime Traveller’s adventures (@crimetraveller) on Twitter, read his Crime Traveller blog, or email <