For those fans who had trouble getting inside Canada Hockey Place for a taste of Olympic hockey live and in person – and let’s face it, there weren’t nearly enough seats for the number of hockey fans that converged on Vancouver – there was only one place to be: Molson Canadian Hockey House.
The centre of the hockey world for 17 days, Hockey House brought together Molson Canadian, Hockey Canada and the International Ice Hockey Federation for one of the largest parties Canada has ever seen.
And there to help out with the festivities? Thirteen Hockey Canada alumni, who made the experience all that more memorable for the thousands of fans who descended on Concord Place during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
But the experience wasn’t just memorable for the fans … it was just as memorable for the alumni.
“It was first class, all the way,” said Yvan Cournoyer, one of the alumni who were on hand in Vancouver. “It was a VIP experience not only for the alumni, but for the fans as well.”
“It was such a fantastic experience,” said Cam Neely. “To see, feel and hear the excitement everyone had, from the fans to staff and volunteers, was amazing.”
Alumni at Hockey House had meet and greets with the fans, took part in Q&A sessions in between games and helped cheer Canada’s men’s and women’s teams on to gold on home ice. Many also ventured out to a makeshift street hockey rink set up in the Concord Place parking lot to take part in clinics with lucky children.
And they were in Canada Hockey Place to watch every second of the action as Canada completed an unprecedented home ice Olympic double, wrapping up the men’s tournament with Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal-for-the-ages, which brought back memories for one alumni in particular.
“When Crosby scored, I got that feeling,” said Cournoyer, who assisted on Paul Henderson’s historic goal in Game 8 of the 1972 Summit Series. “It’s once in a lifetime you get to experience something like that, and it took me back to 1972 and having Paul Henderson in my arms.”
Crosby’s goal, watched by more than 20 million Canadians, set off a coast-to-coast party unlike anything seen before, and started a party in downtown Vancouver that might only be rivaled if the hometown Canucks manage to one day hoist the Stanley Cup.
In fact, it wasn’t just the hockey gold that got Canadians excited – red and white Team Canada jerseys were prevalent at every event, from the hills of Whistler and Cypress Mountain to the curling rinks at the Vancouver Olympic Centre.
“I’ve never seen so many red jerseys in one place,” said Cournoyer. “Win or lose, there was so much pride, so much excitement for Canadian athletes, that was just amazing to see.”
“There was such a good feeling in Vancouver,” said Serge Savard, another Hockey Canada alumnus who was on hand. “It (the Olympics) made the people proud to be Canadian.”