I decided this year to show Canadian pride and maybe demonstrate Olympic spirit by venturing out of my man cave to forage for food, drink and to find sanctuary at a public venue to watch the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics Men’s Gold Medal Hockey game between Canada and Sweden.
Sporting a Canada logo hooded sweatshirt, redder than a matador’s capote, I drove into the Winnipeg morning at a time when the residential intersection traffic lights are without the controls suburbanites depend on for orderly movement of vehicles to their daily salt pounding industrial work centres. The red and yellow flashing reminiscent of a lighthouse, beckoning me to Smitty’s Restaurant on Meadowood Drive for a 5:00 AM opening.
I was the vanguard sent to establish the base camp for friends who wanted to sleep later but still have a seat for game time. To my dismay the watering hole had exceeded it’s capacity at 5:07 AM, with bleary eyed adolescents already bivouacked at the tables. I mapped an alternate location, settling for a table that minimized the awkward neck angle needed to watch the 52 inch TV located in the back room section of the restaurant.
I am not accustomed to socializing with juveniles of my species in the early morning hours. The dawn silence of the restaurant was randomly pierced by shrill back shivering caws of female voices, laced with adjectives of profanity, at decibels of sound levels released from their governors by jugs of ale. Curled up in a chair, tethered to one wall was a female underling in distress. Her fruit phone was needing adapter power if she was to browse the multitude of texts, tweets and SMS messages she surely was receiving at 5:00 AM in the morning. To accomplish this task, she was forced to separate herself from the herd.
A follower in the juveniles, acting on her own volition, then accusing the crowd for the request, attempted to adjust the side panel recessed TV volume controls using a table as a step ladder. The actions failed to raise the volume that was piped through speakers other than the TV’s. It did interrupt the game previews and render a blue screen of death on the 52 inch wall mount. Five minutes of catcalls and repeated requests to remove her head were sated by a proprietor minion using a remote to reverse the damsel’s errant actions.
At 5:50 AM one of four of the camp followers who were to arrive later, located my table in the dining room and proceeded to adjust his seat for optimum screen viewing position and comfort. Of the three that failed to make it, one relied on his PVR to record the event and returned to bed. The other two failed to locate me and went to another establishment.
Sometime around 6:30 AM a server made it to our table and took food and beverage orders. We skipped ordering the pitchers of beer that were gracing other tables, opting instead for the staple of bacon and eggs with toast and coffee or green tea. We were quick to accept our lost youth and the stamina to survive on liquid breakfasts.
Hot, kitchen prepared, menu requests were delivered to our table in what appeared to be very quick time. This serving feat with a restaurant full of guests, is a credit to the management and staff who no doubt prepared to accommodate the influx of fans for the game. Refills of coffee were not in short supply helping to eliminate any dependency for grain produced libations.
The room erupted in cheers as Jonathan Toews opened the scoring for Canada at 12:55 of the first period with a puck deflection off a Jeff Carter pass. Canada went to the dressing room with a one goal lead.
The din of partying of fans that were only interested in watching game play, made it hard to hear Don Cherry’s Coaches Corner commentary during the period break. His lips being out of sync with the voice coming over the room speakers did little to assist those who think they can read lips. I’m pretty sure I recognized the words Toews uttered when he scored the first goal.
With 4:17 left in the second period, Sidney Crosby swiped the puck from Jonathan Ericsson as he attempted to cross the Canadian blue line and beat the same defender in a foot race to deliver a backhand shot that put the puck just past the pad of a sprawled Henrik Lundqvist. The room filled with raised arms and shared high fives to celebrate the team’s extended lead. Sweden would be facing a two goal deficit when the third period started.
With 9 minutes left in the third, Chris Kunitz skated to the opposition goal and used a wrist shot to beat the rented mule that was minding the Swedish net. The response from the room was elation and back slaps of confidence feeling Canada had surely secured a win. The final score 3-0 earned a gold medal for Canada.
Looking out the windows at the end of the game I could see the light of morning. The supporters of Canada’s Olympic gold hockey dream finished drinks and fed plastic cards into point of sale terminals hustled from table to table by weary waitresses. The goal of these morning creatures was to exit quickly in the hopes of seeking a warm bed to start their postponed sleeps.
I finished my second pot of tea, now long cold after a refill during the second period, before requesting a bill from a table clearing waitstaff. Payment was in cash and after a leisurely drive home I sat at my computer to capture the moment with computer keys.
I put forward an effort this year to participate in this Olympic event. I could have watched from the comfort of my couch and listened to the voice of a single fan cheering. The government’s reprieve on the times establishments could open, provided a welcomed relief to this twitching Jets fans suffering from hockey withdrawal.