Thursday, February 25, 2010

United In Their Love Of Italian Food

Now that all is right with the world and Canada truly has a "team" in every sense of the word with 12 players in on the goals and not one named Crosby! That win vs. Russia has to rank as one of the greatest Team Canada performances ever. As long as Canada takes gold it will atone for the 1981 8-1 loss in the Canada Cup Final--the only time the Russians (disguised as Soviets back then) absolutely destroyed our best.

Also, would the TV announcers stop talking about Canada's Olympic W-L records vs. various teams here? None of this is relevant as prior to Nagano 1998, it was amateurs for Canada in the Olympics vs. de facto pros disguised as amateurs (re., the Eastern bloc teams during the Cold War). Beaver tails and bear claws or apples and oranges, if you prefer, comrades.

Onto more important hockey celeb sighting. This just in from Steve in East Van at 6 pm Thursday. Team USA are having a team dinner at La Piazza Dario (located on Slocan and E. 1th Ave.). The whole crew from Burkey on down to the 4th liners are there. Apparently this is where they've been showing up the night after games so should the US beat Finland tomorrow, look for them there on Saturday night. Bring your camera and an extra T-shirt in case Patrick Kane gets wild with the honeys again.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Looking For Chris Pronger's Brain

It's too late to trade Chris Pronger for Mike Green or to get some snipers (can you say Steve Stamkos and Martin St. Louis?) to stop firing all these shots into goalie pads, but hopefully Martin Brodeur can now go play baseball with his kids and leave the Olympic goaltending to Bingo Bango Luongo.

Keep the faith and just don't mention the war and we may just see Russia vs. Canada...which was what we all wanted, wasn't it?

Say "Cheesy Photo Op"

Those with tickets that say Gate 7 and 8 when you get over the bridge you have a chance to get your pic taken with Quatchi and Sumi. Of course, there is a lineup for that, but it's the shortest I've seen at these Games.

Hockey Team Gear
The faceless and headless opposition

Inside Canada Hockey Place is a pretty good selection of other teams' T-shirts, hoodies, caps, jerseys and other fan gear. Why is this stuff not sold in stores around town? I mean, who wouldn't want a Team Latvija T-shirt or Team Slovakia hoodie?

Slovakia misses the net on this one

Located on Seymour @ Davie (in the VanCity Theatre). Speaking of Team Slovakia, you have to pay to get in their house. Let me repeat that. Slovakia wants you to pay to see whatever it is that this nation of Marians (Hossa and Gaborik) has to offer. I'd sooner spend the $60 on souvalaki, thank you.

Ontario looks so much better in 4D

Located in the Concord Pacific Place across from Canada Hockey Place. Skip the line as that's just for this 4D experience. You can walk right in and they have TV screens showing the Olympics. So, if you don't score the hockey tickets you want off scalpers, this place is so close you can pop in and watch the game there. (You do have to stand as there's no seating.)

There're also these "brain waves control the world" video screens, but maybe my brain is not as fully developed as this guy here. I tried to will the screen showing downtown T.O. to explode thereby saving the rest of us outside the Centre of the Universe more endless hours of Make Belief hockey on Saturday nights. Sadly, I failed in my task as the ghosts of Claire "the Milkman" Alexander and Dan Daoust were just too strong.
Surpringsly, the menu here is good--cheap fixing and decent-sized burgers. So kudos to the only house in town that has both edible and cheap food. There may be hope for Boretario, after all.

Yaletown Pedestrian Corridors
Got anything in red?

Located along Mainland and Hamilton Streets from Drake St. to Smithe St. Looking for pirate vendors and cheap knockoff T-shirts? Want some street food besides Japadog? Into live bands without having to line up at Live City?
Well, it's all here, and it's what I expected to see along the pedestrian-only Robson Street. It's also less crowded so those of you who need a break from LiveCity Yaletown, head up here.

Yahoo! Fancouver

Look! It's snowing finally!

Located along the Hamilton St. pedestrian corridor. Yahoo! Fancouver 2010 which has free hot chocolate, free Wi-Fi Internet with a bevvy of laptops you can use, some good giveaways from pins to daily prize drawings for things like Nintendo Wii units and a bunch of TV screens to watch the Olys. It's a pretty lively place and a great pit stop along your journey through Yaletown.

Robson & W. Georgia Pedestrian Corridors
Georgia on my mind

It's great to be able to walk down Robson St. and parts of W. Georgia St. and all, but that's not enough. Get some street vendors on these streets selling something (anything!). Move the hot dog vendors into the middle of these streets. Put up big screens at either end of the these streets. Just do something with the streets now you've got them blocked off to vehicles. Anyway, a huge opportunity missed blocking these streets off and having nothing on them. If that was all they wanted to do they really should have created more pedestrian corridors around Canada Hockey Place instead to allow the crowds to flow out smoother.

Let's light this candle!

If you haven't had the opportunity to have your pic taken with the torch, then you weren't around in week 1. It seemed like every corner had someone who had run in the torch relay offering passersby a chance for some quality time with a torch. If you can find them anywhere around, jump at the chance to feel the power of the torch in your own hands.

I shall call them Mini Me's

One of the oddest, yet most popular, pieces of "art" are these mini Inukshuks all around the northern shore of False Creek. There are also some in Stanley Park along the southern edge of the park near the Sea Wall. They stand like some ancient culture's ruins and offer this ghostly appeal that is hard to put into words. Check them out at night as they are a bit freaky in a Blair Witch Project way.

Up is down and down is up

Located to the north of Lansdowne Station in Richmond. Came across these while returning from the O Zone. They are massive, made of carved wood kept together with seriously large industrial-sized bolts. They look like Greek mythological figures or gods. Why they are there I have no idea but have a look, if you are around this station on the Canada Line.

Flame on, Iginla!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Whirl Around Vancouver Update

Brodeur saves the day

Quick take on Team Canada and you can read plenty of painful analysis online. In both games this team looks incredibly slow (Chris Pronger, would you mind not conserving your energy to play 30 mins and play a little more like a balls-to-the-wall Bobby Orr?).

Being there live at the Swiss game, you notice both Jonathan Toews and Eric Staal trying to beat defensemen on the outside and getting easily manhadled by the Swiss defensemen. It's also well and good to have a big center like Ryan Getzlaf but is he still injured?

To top it off it now looks that despite getting 40+ shots mostly in close on Jonas Hiller this team lacks finish. Where are the guys who can fire laser beams and shoot from anywhere? It also lacks a guy who can actually get his shot through on the powerplay (can you say "Mike Green"?).

Why exactly is Brendan Morrow on this team? I get you need grit but he looks small and easily pushed off the puck...and his skill level seems to be on a par with a Jim Sandlak.

Of course, a win against the USA and all is right with the world until they play a European team with a high level of skill and the flaws maybe will outweigh the Crosby. Plus who doesn't expect Team Canada to give us all fits? They did in 2002. They did even in the 1987 Canada Cup Final (the OT Game 2 when the Gretzky Marios stood on the verge of elimnation). They did in 1984 (thank you, John Tonelli!) and they certainly did in 1972.

Until Feb. 21 in the Grand and Atrium Courts of Metropolis Mall at Metrotown, there are NHL trophies (is the Stanley Cup making an appearance?), artifacts and more whatnot. Check it out.

Hockey Gear
What? No Team Norge?

In Canada Hockey Place they have stands and the Canuck shop is now all international gear. There are T-shirts of almost every Team Canada player, but choose wisely. You don't want to be stuck with the #44 Bertuzzi like so many were in '06. Prices are high but, if you need that Slovakia cap, get it now or forever be kicking yourself years from now.

Rekha reports that early morning (like 2 a.m.) they had a good band in there. So maybe worth a second look at any of these Houses that allow the public in late (note, most are closed to the public at night for official functions).

Olympic Clock Area
Hey, Mom, how do I steer this thing?

Located on W. Georgia between Hornby St, and Howe St. (backside of the Vancouver Art Gallery). Take a pic in a bobsled, check out the massive art covering across the back of the Vancouver Art Gallery or watch Native wood carvers in action.

Big Screens
Where are they? Unlike, say, soccer's World Cup Finals where they have this down to a science, it's a challenge to find a viewing area with a big TV screen. Sure they have them in the LiveCities and pricey Molson Hockey House and some of the "Houses," but most involve lining up for awhile. If you're out and about downtown your best bet is the local bars and restaurants or my couch.

Korea House
The big Korean screen of nothing

Located on 2F of the Hyatt Hotel on Burrard near Georgia. Brutal. Went there one day right at 5 pm hoping to see the short track speed skating with a bunch of crazy South Korean fans. Uh, not so much. They don't even show the Olympics on their fancy high-tech screens there. A total joke.

Canada Line
Byron and Deanna report they saw Richard Zednik heading to the Olympic Village so maybe it's worth hanging out at the Olympic Village stop on the Canada Line if you want to do some athlete spotting or autograph hunting.

Located off Commercial Dr. near Parker St. (seven blocks north of 1st Ave). This is where the men's hockey teams are practicing. The rink itself is off-limits to all but accredited media, invited local kids groups, etc., but you can always sit on the patio at Sunrise Pizza and wait for players to show up as there is a team bus stop there.

Also, for all the fuss over using Britannia Rink the anti-Olympic activists raised the impact has been so inobtrusive it's almost unnoticeable. You can still access the community centre and library the same as usual. In fact, if you aren't even looking, you'd miss the security guard at his post off the side lane.

Also, other East Van rinks at Trout Lake and Killarney are being used by the short-track speed skaters and possibly the figure skaters.

Granville Street Art

Try to light the night on fire

Located on Granville St. between W. Georgia St. and Robson St. Go see the sculptures at night. they're so much better lit up. There are also great photo ops in these "Hole In The Wall" type participatory art cutouts of skiers skiing and skaters skating that kids go crazy for. Think the cardboard box the toy comes in--that sort of bizarre obtuse joy kids take in empty spaces they can fill in. It'll all make sense when you go down there and see it.

Ken and his kids give it the thumbs up. I'll give you his quick report:
"That worked out okay. No crowds compared to the zoo downtown. We went tonight before it started to rain. The girls had fun in the circus tent and in the activity centre tent chasing the green lights. You know the whole parking issue is kind of a joke. We parked at Lansdowne Mall where there is always lots of free parking - mall is open until 9:00pm during the Olympics and with lots of restaurants tied into the mall, they have no idea if you are a customer or park-riding. We spent some time in the mall before we took the Canada Line to the O Zone and then the bus back."

Canada Hockey Place Security Update
OK, figured out the whole Carrall St. deal. This is in reference to the majority who are coming via Skytrain. If your tickets says Gate 7 or 8, you go to the far end security gates of Carrall St. closer to False Creek. Any other gate you go through the first security gate you see on Carrall St. as you come in.

Post-game after either early games, those of you Gate 7 or 8 people can only really get out the same side you came in, but you can walk either way towards Yaletown or Chinatown. You do have to do the up-and-over again across that temporary pedestrian bridge, but they let you on the road the team/VIP buses sit on.

The long lineup you see everyday is not to get in. It's to "touch" an Olympic gold medal. You can blow by the lineup and walk in and look around at the other stuff or buy overpriced coin sets.

Definitely hit it when there are Germans involved in events they have a shot at medals or German hockey games. It's just brats and beer and basic, basic, basic but its location (next to Waterfront) and the fact it's happy Germans, it's Oktoberfest in February.

You don't need to be on the official Olympic Bus Network bus to get up there. During the day try a Greyhound bus. After 6 pm anyone (repeat, anyone!) can drive up there. Go up at night and experience the scene and drive back anytime you want as southbound traffic has no restrictions 24/7. If you can't find accommodation, this from Franz, an Austrian tourist I met at the O Zone who just updated me from Whistler, rough it and sleep in the car overnight or stay up all night and party like you're feeling like you're almost 16 again. I'm not saying you should do that, but I've done crazier things and seven layers of comforters can do wonders in a backseat.

Robson Square
Zip it good

Yes, there are the yahoos, but overall it's a happy buzz without an overwhelming hordes of idiots.
There is a laser light show mixed with fireworks every night at 9:30 pm and 11 pm.
During the day the mascots put on a skate show at 1, 3 and 6 pm. Take the kids. Guaranteed fun!
Plus the beauty of Robson Square is, you just show up. No need to line up and waste hours doing that.
The Zip Line, though, is well worth the however many hours' wait. A thrill and a half!

The Bay's Olympic Superstore
Hiromi spent an hour in line just to get in only to find what she wanted (a scarf and a jacket) sold out. Hey, some of us shopped there months ago. Anyway, go to any other Bay or Zellers in town and Shoppers Drug Mart has plenty of the mascot goods. Just look around elsewhere, folks, and you'll find stuff. I even saw mascots for sale in Granville Island shop windows.

Also, I found out a way to skip the line entirely and I'm probably revealing too much. Go into the Bay up to any floor. Take the east elevator down to the first floor. Doors open and you're smack dab in the middle of the Superstore. No one was "guarding" the elevator the day we showed up so I have no clue why anyone lined up at all.

Plus on the 5th floor they had a ton of other teams' hockey gear, previous Winter Olympic hoodies and tees as well as a Team Russia meets Sochi 2014 store.

Venue Ticket Booths
Although all events are "sold out," veterans of these big events know that's not true. Yet who wants to pay scalper prices and you don't. Go to the venue and wait. Franz, reporting in again, went to the Richmond Oval on a whim. Thirty minutes prior to the start of that day's races, they were told by the person at the box office that no tickets were available but to wait. Five minutes after the scheduled 1:00 pm start, tickets at face value were to be had from the box office.

Giant Banners-A-Go-Go
Support us or else we are coming for YOU!

A whole bunch of building from the major banks to the Bay to the main post office to the Vancouver Art Gallery have large ad banners of athletes or flags.

Cambie St. Bridge
Always open to foot traffic, walk across the east side of the bridge and get a clean shot at the Olympic Vilalge and snap a pic of the Aussie boxing kangaroo banner and the various nation's flags hanging from the room balconies. Walk back along the west side and you have a great shot of the pontoon blockade and police boats guarding False Creek as well as a fantastic panorama of the Pacific Ocean out in front of you. (Why I don't have a pic of this? Uh, the batteries died that day...later on that one, but thought I'd get that info out there now.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

No Need To Rush In To Canada Hockey Place

Getting into GM Place (oops, Canada Hockey Place) is not as hairy as we thought.

The area is on Carrall St. on the part that runs right into False Creek. To your left is the Concord Pacific lot with Ontario House, Molson Hockey House, etc. To your right at the south end of that block is the entrance to the security gates.

The gates themselves are between 15 and 20 tented posts set up in a row and those of you who were at Nagano '98 know the drill. It's like basic airport security.

You dump all the stuff in your pockets out and place bags in a tray. Those go through the X-ray machine. You yourself get wanded. It takes all of maybe 30 seconds.

When I showed up for the 9 pm Russia-Latvia at 7:25 pm, there were no lineups at all at security.

After passing through security, where they didn't even look if I had a ticket to this game, you enter a giant holding area that is exposed to the elements. (It sort of reminded me of 1980s English soccer ground where they herded you like cattle before you were let out onto the terraces.) There is a Baywatch babe . . . not, in a lifeguard's chair giving instructions over a megaphone. basically, just wait there till you get the word to go in. So bring a book, your iPod or someone you like to talk to as you're just killing time there. What is actually going on is the arena is being cleaned out and up after the previous game.

Now, I assume, if yours is the noon game of the day there will be no need to hold anyone in the pen, and they can just let you go in to the rink. Anyone who can update me on that would win themselves a cookie.

Anyway, we were let in at about 7:55 or so.

Once you get the word to go in, the entrance is at the far corner of this holding area and you then have to go up and over a temporary pedestrian overpass and voila, you're on the GM Place property. Then proceed to your gate like you go at any ordinary Canuck game.

After this late game they let us leave like a typical Canuck game through any exit and those headed west, we were allowed to walk back along either the Georgia or Dunsmuir Viaduct. Again maybe they did this because it was the late game.

That's the scoop, folks. The whole thing is fairly painless and nothing to get panicked about at all.

As far as the hockey, like all Olympic sports, no stupid anthems to start games. The game just starts and away we go. No TV commercials breaks either so it zips along at a good clip. It also helps that players take less stupid penalties and there are virtually no scrums after whistles. Games wrap up in 2 hours and a bit unlike the drag-it-out 2:40- to 3-hour NHL games.

Also, unlike Canuck games, there are no yuppies texting each other and never cheering unless the scoreboard tells them to nor are there the drunk yahoos from the 'burbs. You can find all those types at Robson Square every night, in case you're wondering where they went.

The actual crowd at the game was more like a Habs home crowd crossed with a European soccer crowd without the hooligan fringe--plenty of flag waving, signs, looney fans doing goofy chants, singing and cheers. It was like being transported to a sports viewing heaven.
Aerobicize the Russian way

Don't come late and miss the warmups as they are almost as entertaining as parts of the game. Latvia warm up by lining up on the blueline, backs to the end boards then spinning around one-by-one to take shots on net. I have no idea what the Russians were doing but that was also mesmerizing. Toss in Alexander Ovechkin staying extra to take more shots and saluting the crowd after warmup and the guy knows how to play to the crowd.

The game itself you saw and all I can say is go see Russia live. The passing combined with the laser beam shots from Ovie, Alexander Semin and Ilya Kovalchuk are just wicked. Also, the KHL guys looked really good and Aleksey Morozov is the captain (imagine that!).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I Need Info And I Need It Now!

Finding links that actually are helpful has been a bit of a pain for the Olympics. You'd think there would be one central place that was easy to find what hockey fans need to know.

For rosters and player numbers, try here.

For the most up-to-date blogs especially on line combinations and injuries seems to surprisingly be the site here.

The Toronto Star (putting the Sun and Province to shame) has the best page (Olympic Tip Sheet) on what events on on, what to look for, results, etc., for the entire Olympics here. Throw in Canada's best sportswriter in Damien Cox and that's all you really need for hockey.

Black marks for the CTV Olympics site for being a mess to navigate easily to what you want (hey, they've at least finally figured out to put links up sport by sport). They do have a good hockey pool setup. My bro' adds their online video content is wonky. You're better off going to usual sports feeds at My P2P.

Now The Real Fun Begins

The men's hockey starts today so here's some bits and bobs to get you revved up.

1 W 2L 1T
That's Canada's record in best-on-best games played in Vancouver over the years.

vs. USSR ('72 Summit Series)
The infamous Phil Esposito rallying cry interview rant of 1972 followed an embarrassing 5-3 loss in which the fans here booed Canada off the ice. Weirdly Team Canada '72 outshot the Soviets 41-31 including 23-6 in the third period in that game so maybe Phil's rant was justified. They did play their butts off in that game but Tretiak stoned them.

vs. USSR ('74 Summit Series)
Team Canada '74 ( the WHA version) played a thrilling 5-5 tie here. Canada were up 5-1 after the 1st on the strength of a Bobby Hull hat trick. One of the best international games played ever.

vs. Sweden ('84 Canada Cup)
Only 9, 456 showed up at the Pacific Coliseum for this penalty-filled (50 minutes in minors) one. The Jekyll-and-Hyde Pete Peeters was sieve-like as Sweden won 4-2. Sweden were captained by Canuck Tomas Gradin and the other Swedish Canuck Patrik Sundstrom did Canada in with two assists in the game.

vs. Russia ('96 World Cup)
Canada opened the tournament here with a solid win. Our own Trevor Linden set up Vincent Damphousse shorthanded to tie the game up halfway through the first but it was the Wayner's two assists on the powerplay in the 3rd that did the Russians in.

Bring 7 or 8 D?
Seven teams are going with eight defencemen and 12 forwards. Five teams are going with seven defencemen and 13 forwards. Czech in '98 and Canada won in '02 with 7D. Sweden won in '06 with 8D.

I'm So Upset

In '98, despite having the best player in the world at the time, Dominik Hasek, the Czechs were the underdog who took it all taking out the USA, Canada and Russia from the quarter-finals through to the final.
In '02 Sweden with that Torpedo-style offence torqued Canada in the opener and looked a sure bet for Gold. Then Tommy Salo missed a line drive and Canada had the easiest of semi-final opponents in Belarus.
In '06 Canada was shut out in three games and Slovakia ended group play undefeated at 5W-oL only to lose to the Czechs in the quarter-finals. But it was Finland going 5-0 in their group, beating the USA in the quarter-finals and shutting out the Russians in the semi-finals thanks to (Holy Kipper!) Antero Niittymaki.

Don't Peak Too Early

So far through three Olympics with the pros, no team who topped their group has won it all.
Czech were 2nd in their group in '98
Canada was 3rd in their group in '02
Sweden was 3rd in their group in '06

A Leaf Is The Key To Glory?
Yes, all three past Olympic Gold Medal squads have a common theme--they all had at least one Make Belief player on them. They also all had one Flyer on them.
'98--Martin Prochazka (Tor) and Petr Svoboda (Phil)
'02--Curtis Joseph (Tor) and Simon Gagne (Phil)
'06--Mikael Tellqvist (Tor), Mats Sundin (Tor) and Peter Forsberg (Phil)
That streak will be broken as no team has both a Flyer and a Leaf on it in 2010.

Olympic Island Fever

As you head into Granville Island down the main drag (the street directly under the Granville Bridge span--Anderson St.) you'll spot an info booth where the road splits. They have up-to-date maps for February, so you'll know where all these houses are, as well as free Olympic Squwatchi, (or whatever that anime-like creature is called) stickers are being given out free.

Even if the houses lack a certain je ne sais croix, you're on Granville Island meaning there's plenty to see, eat and drink elsewhere.

Go Speed Racer Go!

Located in Bridges Restaurant. "The Mighty House of Switzerland at Bridges on Granville Island" was a colossal bore. It's just Bridges Restaurant with TV screens. They had some Swiss dude making cheese out front. I went there specifically to watch the downhill because I thought there'd be a huge buzz and plenty of cowbells in action. Zip. Nada. Dick Butkus!
Ended up watching the downhill on a TV set up on the outside of Bridges that had the Swiss broadcast feed (on Bridges 2F is a Swiss TV broadcast booth). The TV was just a standard flat screen that was angled in such a way it seemed to pick up the glare off the water and sky perfectly. Less than ideal. That and, if that area ever gets packed, people at the back better watch out as there's no guardrail stopping you from falling in False Creek.
Upcoming highlights:
Feb. 19 -- free Ricola (no, I'm not kidding) all day long
Feb. 21 -- 2-4 pm, free cheese samples
Feb. 27 -- Lindor Day (for the Lindt chocoholics)

Free lobster here

Located in the Arts Club Theatre. There are actually two locations across from each other. The smaller one to the west has some a sort of combination hokey storytelling and standup humor mixed with fiddle-dee-dee music extravaganza. The show has a very special title that the greatest advertising and marketing minds of the region say encapsulates the simple, yet rich, cultural heritage that is the Maritimes: "Come On In! Songs & Stories of Atlantic Canada." I thought "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" did that quite well already. Judging by the people walking out of the show when I was there, I think the "Atlanticonians" may have missed their target audience by about five decades.
In the actual Arts Club Theatre is a stage for a bunch of live acts (of which probably the only half-decent band playing anywhere in Vancouver over these Olympic Games, Sloan, played there last night). The security guard I talked to said lineups begin at around 7 pm for 10:30 pm concerts. There're also free food tastings which, if that's your thing, you'll have to also line up for. Given the public market is two steps away and with cash you can get just as fresh fish virtually immediately, weigh your options on that.

Have some coffee, shoot some hoops

Located in the False Creek Community Centre. There's now a French cafe with plenty of TV screens on the 1F gym floor of the centre. At noon on Tuesday they had no more tea or hot chocolate. Due to it being noon and a little early to start imbibing and my "Big Love" beliefs that do not allow my taste buds to savor the joys of coffee (although I can apparently marry as many Jeanne Tripplehorns as I like--go figure) I opted for l'eau de mineral. Nice enough space, good service, excellent desserts and the TVs more than make up for the bizarre tea shortage. There's also a stage for accordion bands (one assumes...either that or Supertramp cover bands being Quebecois and all) that will play nightly.
Another part of the centre is the ubiquitous "pamphlet-a-go-go come visit Chicoutimi or Shawinigan" sales pitch that all these houses seem to think is the way to promote business and tourism.

Monday, February 15, 2010

You're Travelling Through Another Dimension

Quick word on the ticket situation at the venues for those showing up without tickets. From a couple of Austrians we learned that scalpers were charging four times the face value for speed skating. But the venue box office, although they had no tickets available prior to the start of that day's event, released a bunch of tickets five minutes after the 1:00 pm start at face value.
Even if you strike out at the Oval, there's enough to do in Richmond so it won't be a wasted trip.

Eat my dust, Cindy Klassen!

Located on the corner of Minoru Blvd. and Granville Ave. in Richmond. This place has something pretty much for everyone. The "zone" is actually two zones, but first some tips on heading there.

Take the Canada Line to Aberdeen, not because it's the closest, but to eat. The O Zone's food choices are the typical burgers and fries (and we're not talking even White Spot quality here) fare. Why do that when you can hit the best food court in the Lower Mainland in Yaohan Centre which is a short walk north of Aberdeen Station? I highly recommend the Chinese fried shrimp and squid at the Golden Rice Bowl or the stands on either side of it or the Korean pancakes.

Or hit Yaohan and Aberdeen Centre afterwards as they are both open late every night (hey, you're in capitalist-a-go-go Hong Kong now...if there's money to be made, we're open!) to shop till ya drop or cehck out the various events going on at each. The centre atrium at Aberdeen Centre is always having some display, show or whatnot.

Hop back on the train or walk under the tracks to the next station, Lansdowne. There is a city info booth right there on the south side. They have a "Daily Hot Sheet: An Insider's Guide To The City" that is a must pickup as it gives you a detailed map of the O Zone and tells you what is going on that day. Plus snag your free O Zone stickers and magnets there.

Around there were other giveaway stands from the needed on a warm day (Ocean Spray drinks and Craisins) to the odd (free Bibles?).

Now, you can walk to the O Zone from Lansdowne or hop back on the train and get a little closer by going to Brighouse at the end of the line. Basically, though,walk down No. 3 Road (which parallels the Canada Line) till you see City Hall (corner of No. 3 Road and Granville Ave.). There's a marked entrance, and this is sort of the first "zone."

They have a big TV screen set up in the City Hall courtyard with some large papier mache animals pefect for the "hey, kid, go stand there and look cute" photo ops. This is just the start--the whole O Zone is fairly kid friendly unlike much of the downtown houses which would bore the pants off even large kids like us.

Relax, the dragon'll only singe your hair a little

In the pathway over to the O Zone is this colored chunks of ice art you've probably heard about. It looks better in the professional pics online. First of all, it's encased in glass to keep the ice frozen during this winter weather we're not having and the glass makes it virtually impossible to take a digipic without getting wicked reflections off it.

Then right beside that is BC Street which is a bunch of displays designed to get you interested to visit Smithers, Grand Forks or Rutland. Of interest to people who are poor or aren't interested in otehr cultures for vacations. I wish them luck but again you or I can skip the whole thing.

Then across Minoru Blvd. is the actual O Zone. There is "security" and once you clear that, you're in the zone, baby! There are two other entrances--one along Granville Ave. half a block west of Minoru Blvd. that allows for drop offs and another at the northwest corner of the O Zone at Gilbert Ave. and Westminster Hwy. Parking on the streets south of the O Zone is possible or you can always park in Richmond Centre Mall for a couple of hours scot-free (and, yes, that is a cultural stereotype, Jimmae!).

To your right after you come through the Minoru Blvd. entrance is the Cultural Centre which houses Richmond Public Library (home to Ralphy Rhino, the reading rhino), Art Gallery and Museum among other things. The library has a TV screen up but not exactly sure how cheering works there with the librarians shh-ing every two seconds. Directly across from the Cultural Centre is Minoru Place where senior citizens can chill out in a "Comfort Zone."

Holland Heineken House is just a short hop, skip and stumble drunk jump from this area but be prepared to line up and get searched again before going in. Those with Dutch passports or named Johnny Rep or Dennis Bergkamp can take the VIP line and go straight in. Inside is nothing much during the day although they do have Internet terminals. Just head there after 9 pm when it turns into a night club and drink and check out all the Heines and hineys then.

Past the Holland House is a large playing field dominated by a large TV screen and stage. The beauty of this area is it's a football field on field turf so it's not going to turn to some muddy mess if it rains. Next time we go we're bringing the football and the soccer ball as there is loads of space to run around.
Hey, down in front!

Circling the playing surface are stands on one side including a Club O Zone Member's Lounge (ooh, exclusivity in Richmond, too!), a BCLC 2010 Games Dome that had a huge lineup of people trying to win Closing Ceremony tickets, an Ice Zone where you can rent skates and zip around an Formula One style speed skating course, various kid play areas, a World Ice Carving Championships (do they have teams and leagues?) tent and Coca-Cola's Recycling Showcase where you budding David Suzukis can win recyleable bags.

The best things about the O Zone are it is totally family friendly during the day while being a party zone at night in the Holland House. There's plenty of room for kids to run around or for parents to pass out and chill. Throw in the big screen and it's pretty much perfect albeit not super exciting, but this will probably depend more on the buzz the Olympic events bring on the TV screen and the bands that show up there.

If you're thinking of going during the day, plan it around some Olympic event you'd want to see communally on a big screen and go when the weather is good. Plus bring a frisbee or a boomerang and go crazy! If going at night, definitely go when a Dutch speed skater wins gold. The athlete(s) will show up and just follow the lead of the fans dressed in orange as it'll be a Cruyff-tastic blast!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Houses of the . . . Holy Cow!

Day 1 of the Olympics was a bit more promising on the house hunting front. Please check the links on times these houses stay open and what's happening day to day. I highly recommend you check this area out either prior to or after hockey games. At night the Maison du Quebec (or Quebec House to the unilingually challenged) and Sochi House look pretty cool.

Sochi House
Are we not men? We are Sochi!

Located @ Science World. So far the only "house" worth lining up for. The minute you step inside, the place comes alive. They had the ubiquitous Russians in traditional costumes, but this was no cultural snoozefest. They were singing and dragging shy Canadians out of the crowd to become props in their show. One old dude had his coat taken off him and was draped in some Dr. Zhivago Siberian weather gear while being serenaded. "Cabbages rolls and coffee! Mm, mm, good!"

The first floor had some 3CP1 type Uposcrabblenyk game giveaways hosted by the actual Russian version of Rick Moranis ("Enough talk, let's get to game"). All around are beautiful large panoramic color shots of Sochi, a full scale model of the city and the Olympic layout and extremely cute and super friendly Olympic info hostesses (we're talking Anna Kournikova meets Maria Sharapova) who are only too willing (get your mind out of the bedroom!) to give you the spiel on Sochi 2014. The next Winter Olympic city looks fantastic. It's right on the Black Sea. All the Olympic venues are centralized around a gigantic circular city center or just 30 minutes away on the mountains past their new international airport. Looking at the map of the Krasnodar Krai region where Sochi is, it a little too close for comfort to Abkhazia. Those of you not up on your geopolitics and the Russia vs. Georgia (we're not talking the US state here, Hank Aaron) tug of war on the region, go here.

The second floor had some cool displays of Soviet/Russian hockey sweaters et al. Their choices were odd as there were Alexander Ovechkin, Sergei Makarov (a Lames jersey!) and Sergei Fedorov sweaters but where were the Valery Kharlamov and Pavel Bure ones?

There's a Russian bank-sponsored cafe that offers free drinks (non-alcoholic) and tasty bite-sized tarts, brownies and cakes that is a great chillout zone. There's also a Ninetendo Wii in there if you burn off those calories from the sweets with Wii Fit.
Enter the Green Zone

There is also a beat-the-Tretiak video game setup so try your best Paul Henderson move (courtesy Dated '70s References R Us).

The biggest area was a live stage that had some funky "What's New Pussycat?" '60s inspired swivel chairs to sit in while the screens beamed the 1972 Canada-USSR Summit Series. (They were showing the famous 7-3 Game 1 win in which Canada realized that maybe they were not going to win eight straight.)

Eat that, Ikea!

Sochi House will be showing the Russia and Canada hockey games live and apparently throughout the Olys various Russian players will be showing up. Can you say Pavel?

The IMAX theatre is also being used and has various films showing. When I was there they were showing a typcial IMAX "you're flying over the city" tour of Sochi. Throughout they'll be showing classic Russian films (Battleship Potemkin, come on down!) which I hope means we get to see Night Watch and Day Watch on the big IMAX screen as a counterpoint for the West inflicting sensitive vampires on the world.

Back on the first floor, as you leave, there's a Sochi 2014 store filled to the brim with Olympic goods and, if you're looking, for the 2010 Russian team's pretty stylish (although I could do without the flowery flourishes) backpacks, jackets, etc., get them here. Tad expensive, though, but just take a crowbar to your wallet, if you really want this stuff.

All hail the giant Q!

Located @ North False Creek. Dominated by a giant Q the entire building is light up at night, but it is tiny inside plus they were speaking French to me (OK, Japanese, I have a shot with, but my Franglais is pretty rusty). They give away nice Quebec pins (get 'em while supplies last). They also have light French fare (menu all in Quebecois French 'natch) that looked tasty and a small outdoor stage (why no roof?) out back that'll have Arcade Fire wannabe bands playing there one assumes. Has possibilities but let's just say there will be some close encounters in a space that small.

Saskatchewan House
BC Lions fans, let's get ready to rumble!

Located next to Quebec House. Wheat. Fields of wheat. Great Gordie Howe, no tall grain silo I can parachute down from top to bottom! So much for the Saskatchewan dream. Two parts to this house. One is a bubble with a bunch of nothing in it trying to get you to invest/visit the province by pamphleting you to death. Sort of symbolizes the province when you think about it--flat and empty except for grain and Ryan Getzlaf. The other part is a huge hall with a live stage and bison burgers plus Molson beer. Oh, joy, I can enjoy drinking Molson swill with those very same Roughrider fans who puke all over BC Place every CFL football season.

There's a hole in your maple leaf, Mr. Molson

Located across from Quebec House. Why would anyone who has half a brain spend $99 on a day pass to watch hockey on large HD screens and be stuck with Molson beer as your choice of brew? Sorry, I'll take any sports bar in town and a Granville Island Lager.
Here's a tip: You want to meet Team Canada players? I bet they'll show up here, so just wait outside the doors to snag pics and autographs post-Canada hockey games.

Ontario House's future hangs on strings

Located in front of Molson Hockey House. There was a lineup. I'm from BC. Do I need to explain how much the Tarrana Make Beliefs annoy those of us outside Ontario? I couldn't be bothered. Outside it looked cool with videos running against the '60s love bead curtains. Another time, I'll give you the full report, if I have the desire to see Boretario in alll its puffed up glory.

Watch out for the poltergeists on the ceiling

Located on Granville @ Pender. What, I can't mint my own coins here? Well, what is the point? Inside it looks very cool. Nice layout with the marble and coin-a-rama wallpaper that sonehow all works. Some decent static display cases of Olympic coins throughout the years, a few interactive things and a kids' room. Minute you walk in there is a daily schedule posted so my advice is pop your head in and see if anything strikes your fancy. To be honest, though, I wouldn't make a special trip there unless they were giving away coins.

Couldn't afford the Mats Sunbeam jersey

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Their Houses In The Middle Of Our Streets

OK, folks, if you enjoy free and cheaply made swag and tourism brochures, you should hit these "Houses" around town. If not, my advice is only drop by when (a) that nation's top athletes are competing as it could fill up with looney tunes fans cheering them on in front of the TV screens or (b) when that nation's top athletes win medals as they are supposedly heading to their nation's houses to party down.

So I do the legwork to save you doing the legwork and here's today's rundown:

Mi casa es su casa

Located in the Roundhouse in Yaletown. Had the most free swag (lanyard, notepad, magnet, postcard and cotton grocery bag) on Day 1 of my Winter Olympic House Hunt 2010 Tour (T-shirts coming soon!) plus free cheese samples ("Woo hoo, a chunk of cheese is mine. really? Got any wine to go with that--No? OK, I'll pass"). Other than that a total snoozefest. Very bright inside but has a few stools to sit on to watch the few screens of action. Sadly, no Serie A soccer although I did come across an Inter fan.
They did have a contest with an Italian cultural quiz ("Who is Snooki's new guido juicehead boyfriend?" was not one of the questions) to win a pizza or a trip to Italy. I forgot which.

The icicle works

Located on Beatty @ Robson next to the Player's Chophouse. OK, this is classic. I went there yesterday as I blew by the guy at the front he asked me if I was from Bell. Stupidly, I said I wasn't and he said today was "invitation only." He said come back tomorrow and that there would be big lineups.

Tomorrow becomes today and there was all of three people ahead of me in line. You get wanded as you know the terror threat on Bell is at level orange right now. I told the guy to strip search any Tarrana Make Belief fans, but Bell being an eastern company the remark did not register with Mr. Ontario. Go inside and it's literally smaller than maybe a two-bedroom apartment. You're given a set of Bell earphones (which you can keep), and you can use them inside to plug in and listen to the sound on TVs or fool around with zzzzzz-inducing corporate ads. There are a bunch of what looks like Xmas tinsel hanging from the roof and some of which are for said earphones to listen to those TVs.

Apparently they have Olympic ticket giveaways each day so go in and fill in an entry and leave. It's a lousy place to watch any sports on TV and unless you want to see the ubiquitous Bell phone sales pitch at the end, just skip it.

BC Hydro Power Smart Village

How powerful and smart are you?

Located on Dunsmuir @ Seymour. Well, the employees are friendly and they do get jokes. One lonely Hydro worker was stuck standing at a kids' colouring zone with no kids in sight. Felt sorry for her and asked if big kids were allowed to colour. She smiled and laughed so one beer for me although it was not my A1 material (too early in the day).
If you got your Hydro bill there is some sort of pass that came with it. Collect all four stamps at the various displays in and outside the place and you could win Olympic tickets.
They also have renamed the cafe inside the Kilowatt Cafe. Never eaten there nor plan to so, you're on your own on that one.

Bratwurst? No Brat-best!

Located in the parking lot between Waterfront Station and Steamworks in Gastown. Free before 5 pm. Get a bizarre paper wristband that snaps on as you go in that allows you in/out privileges. This seems like a good idea during busy times as you could zip downtown all the way to Waterfront, hop out and get the wristband, cruise around to your event and head back to the German Fan-Fest at the end of the day.
After 5 pm, there's a cover charge.
Pretty basic Oktoberfest beer hall look to it--sausage and beer. No free samples sadly.
I'd say head here when the weather is good as it is just a big tent over the asphalt parking lot and not exactly warm and toasty despite the bratwurst on the barbecue.

Live, Invest, Inukshuk

Located on Hastings @ Seymour. It's hard to make a land full of empty space interesting and it shows. If you're into taxidermy or seeing a narwhal tusk, this is the place for you. If not, it's like visiting a museum of tundra without getting to experience the cold or awe of the Northern Lights.

Pin traders
Got a Sarajevo 1984?

Just on the street in the rain by the Media Centre were four pin traders. Totally silent, very unfriendly vibe, not talkative at all. What is up with these guys? Seriously, dudes, where's your spiel? And why are you trading out in the rain anyway in an area where there's almost no foot traffic? My guess is they are more into snagging media pins off media guys. To each his own.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Does He Know The Donald Duck of Liechtenstein?

Today you can see Globi, the "Mickey Mouse of Switzerland" at the House of Switzerland (in Bridges Restaurant on Granville Island) between 10 and 11:30 am and 2 and 3:30 pm.

Unless I'm losing my mind (quite possible), this is no mouse so it must be referring to the total in Globi's numbered Swiss bank account matching that of Mickey's. Nice pants though for the PGA tour.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bring Your Wallet To Party With The Slovaks

Most of these "Houses" around town are free but Slovak House (located on Seymour off Davie in the Vancouver International Film Centre) is pay-only. Take a look at its bizarre pricing concept here.

The Irish House is also pay-only but the bigger question is: When did they make hurling (all puns intended) a winter sport?

Checkpoint Charlie Brown Olympic Security Update

Thanks to a certain relative, three of us (by "us" I mean Agent X who files this report and owes me big time for getting her and two of her friends the freebie tix to this--Hogging Dogs vanilla with almonds and strawberries is a start) were able to attend the full rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony. Can't really say much as the local Stasi are watching, and we are all sworn to secrecy. You all will just have to wait until Friday at 4:30 for it all to be revealed, but "Wow!," "Ooh!" and "Ouch!" pretty much sums it up.

Can say one thing about a universal concern: The security gate lineups.
They were insane!
The lone entrance to BC Place is now sort of under and to the left of the southbound span of the Cambie Bridge. Just walk straight down Nelson St. and you'll see it. Puts it a block or two away from the actual stadium.

When we arrived the line stretched across Expo Blvd., up Nelson St., hung a right at Beatty St. and went the full block to the light at Smithe St. and was spilling into the intersection or trying to morph east along Smithe back to Expo Blvd.
The good news is it only took 30 minutes to get through security despite what at first look like a Cal Clutterbuck of a line.
That line did move fast but bring along a book, iPod or your best material to keep friends amused.
All three of us had large bags that they screen (as they did at Nagano 98) a la the airport X-ray machines you know.
You walk through a metal detector and you're in.

Sir, I'm going to have to wand you

And, FYI, one person among us had a full bottle of Coca-Cola. That made it through so bring along the Mentos and it's it's a 2 for $4 Mama burger party!

Also, for Vancouver the shocker was people actaully made the effort to be fashionable and not fashionably late. The various Canada gear ranged from a 1972 Team Canada jersey through to a 1998 very sharp Nagano 98 Team Canada jacket to everything you see selling at the Bay's Olympic superstore. Not a single UFC T-shirt, CC Sabathia sideways baseball cap wearing doofus with his pants on the ground nor even fashion challenged folks like these were to be seen. Very disconcerting as it felt like we were transported to a galaxy far far away called New York or Tokyo or Barcelona.

It was a different sort of crowd. They were "into" the Olympics. They actually cheered without some Jumbotron instructing them to and then suddenly stopping when said Big Brother Video Screen no longer ordered them to "Make Some Noise."

Make some noise or I'll run for president again

Having said that the acoustics in BC Place are still horrid. There's nothing the Olympic organization can do about that.

Anyone attending the Opening Ceremony, you'll have to work for your dinner as there is some participatory flash carding/semaphore hand clap signalling and they prefer you wear a white top. (I guess if we can't get real snow we go Winnipeg Jets Whiteout).

All I can say is hold onto your hats, Vancouver, you ain't seen nothing yet. (My vote is the short track speed skating Korean fans and the Dutch speed skating fans will be the hits of the Games as well as the Latvian hockey fans...just be forewarned, these are people who know how to make noise and have major league fun.)

Update on Feb. 16 after the Russia-Latvia hockey game on how goes it with the security lineups at hockey games.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Norweenies Challenge College Students

If anyone is into scouting Canada's first opponent in the Olympics, head out to Abbotsford on Wed., Feb. 10. The University of British Columbia is playing an exhibiton game against Team Norway. Details here.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A History Of Sniping For The Devils

Known mainly for a defensive style introduced back in the mid-'90s by current coach Jacques Lemaire, the New Jersey Devils have won Cups mainly thanks to that stifling D.

So why is Ilya Kovalchuk ending up on New Jersey really not all that surprising? GM Lou Lamoriello as the cagey post-modern Sam Pollock knows you do need a sniper or two when it comes to building Cup teams.

This article here touches a bit on the impact Alexander Mogilny had on the Devils' Cup in 2000 and the Cup run in 2001 that ended in a Game 7 loss (where have you gone, Alex Tanguay?) to the Colorado Avalanche.

Yet the article really doesn't go far enough. To do that you have to go back to 1991 and the deal for Stephane Richer. Richer was two years removed from a 51-goal season with the Montreal Canadiens. (The deal was also significant for the Habs as they got Kirk Muller in the deal from the Devils and he went on to play a big role in the Habs' Cup of 1993.)

The Habs, though, were fed up with Richer after his goal total fell to 31 the year after his 51-goal season. The Devils then saw him put up seasons of 29, 38, 36 and a prorated 41 (23 goals in 45 GP the lockout-shortened 1994/95 season). Those '95 playoffs saw Richer lead the Devils in scoring with 21 points in 19 playoff games as the trap team upset the mighty Detroit Red Wings in the Final.

Fast-forward to 2000 and Mogilny's on the Devils. We all remember him here in Vancouver. First season with the Canucks--55 goals, 107 points. Here we go! Oh, hold on, that was his contract year. You see, Mogilny had this uncanny ability later in his career to play phenomenally well when in a contract year. The other seasons, not so much.

How did the Nux not win a Cup with these two guys?

That's why after oft-injured 18-goal, 14-goal and 21-goal efforts the Mogil was traded to Jersey in the March 2000 Brendan Morrison deal (which also worked out fairly well for both clubs so Lou really is an equal opportunity GM). The following season Mogil was on fire with 43 goals and 83 points (many assists courtesy of rookie center Scott Gomez) and contributed a decent 16 points in 25 playoff games as the Devils won their second Cup.

The Devils that year led (yes, led!) the Eastern Conference in goals for thanks to the power of Robbie Ftorek's sweaters...which got him to the altar but only to see Larry Robinson take over with eight games left and coach the Devs to a Cup. Robinson's 2001 Cup Finalist team continued the scoring trend as the Devils finished atop the league in goals for (yes, you are reading that correctly, New Jersey led the league in goals for).

Mogilny, of course, left as a free agent after the '00/01 season to sign with the Leafs and promptly dropped to 24 goals in 66 games. So much for 40-goal seasons let alone the amazing 76 he scored in '92/93 with the Sabres.

Now the '03 Devils Cup team did not really have a sniper per se as their own draft pick Patrik Elias was two years removed from a 40-goal season, '02 late season pickup Joe Nieuwendyk had not scored 40 since '90/91 and both Jamie Langenbrunner and Jeff Friesen, who led the Devils in goal scoring in the playoffs, would never be considered snipers by any stretch.

What does getting the Devil sniper-for-hire in Kovalchuk all mean? Well, so far, the Devils have not gone deep in the playoffs since Scott Stevens' hits retired and Scott Niedermayer's playoff beard left for the West Coast. With one of their best puck-moving defensemen, Paul Martin, out for four to six weeks with a broken arm the Devils did need a shot in the arm (all puns intended), they are hardly likely to break that poor playoff run.

Kovalchuk certainly is a huge upgrade on a latter career stage Mogilny or Richer, and as many of you who have seen him play live, he not only has a killer one-timer but can chop wood with the best of a Steve Yzerman. He is physical but in a way that's both dirty and sneaky. This helps create that space for him to wind up and blast those one-timers. Add in that cocky attitude (who can forget his in-your-face goal celebrations against Canada at past World Juniors and the World Championships) and he makes the Devils worth watching despite being coached by the anti-Larry Robinson.

Of course, all this talk that he'll love New York means ...he's signing with the Rangers once his free agency kicks in on July 1? For some reason no one ever says players will love the Garden State when they get traded there. I wonder why that is?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Can't Make Trades In The Cap Era--Phaneuf Said!

Dion Phaneuf! JS Giguere! And now Ilya Kovalchuk is on the block?
Did Mike Keenan and Trader Phil Esposito return to the NHL's GM ranks?

Now supposedly it's difficult to make trades in this salary cap era, but Leafs GM Brian Burke for all his bluster may be a trailblazer. Why not just trade salary for salary to improve your team seems to be his way of thinking. Kudos to him!

The Flames absorbed $4.4 million or so for the rest of the season picking up the four Leafs (and two Rangers in Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalik). They shed $4.7 million in sending Phaneuf and Fredrik Sjostrom to the Leafs and Olli Jokinen (Check out Olli Jokinen's moves over the years here) and Brandon Prust to the Rangers. Keith Aulie's contract, which the Leafs picked up, does not factor into the equation as he is not playing in the NHL right now.
The Leafs all tolled shed $6.9 million (remember this is just for this season) in the deal with Calgary and sending Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala to Anaheim. They absorb just $4.8 million and, let's be honest, either made their team better or now have one HUGE tradeable asset down the road in Phaneuf.

Did somebody say Rangers?

Going forward Sjostrom is a wash at $750,000 for next year then he' s a UFA at age 28 in 2011.
Giggy is expensive at $7 million next season but he's a UFA at age 33 July 1, 2011, so that's a win-win for the Leafs. Either Giggy returns to form, or worse comes to worse, they trade him next season to some team like Philly who love to rotate goalies on an annual basis, or let him walk after getting soem mileage out of the Conn Smythe winner.

Phaneuf, if you truly believe he's the next Chris Pronger (with his own Web site!), is an expensive version of such being signed through 2013/14 at an average of $6.375 million per. The upside is he's only 24. They'll love him in Tarrana because he's basically a defenceman version of Wendel Clark (who ironically played D as a junior his entire career with Regina). Hey, if Bryan McCabe can be thought of as an all-star and the second coming of Ian Turnbull, what are they going to make of Elisha Cuthbert's boyfriend? Methinks Dion needs to start thinking of opening up a chain of donut shops. Isn't that what Leaf defensemen who are physical specimens do there, Tim Horton?

The Flames rid themselves of a guy who just did not fit into the Sutter system. Really, with Jay Bouwmeester there, do you really need a Dion Phaneuf when you add in a Robyn Regehr (he has his own Web site, too?) who can provide the toughness without taking dumb penalties?

Lastly, Anaheim got rid of Giggy's contract so until the end of the 2010/11 season now save $9.2 million and added close to $4.5 million in Blake and Toskala. The Vesanator is a UFA at the end of the season. So with Ducks' goalie Jonas Hiller signed for a reasonable cap hit of $4.5 million over the next four seasons, look for the Ducks to cut Toskala loose at season's end or sign him dirt cheap. Blake still is an expensive second liner really but he's a servicable player who once outside Toronto should return to his pesky 20- to 30-goal plateau. All in all, the Ducks have some needed cap space to go after free agents in the summer.

So, all I have to say why wait for summer, is bring on the Kovalchuk trade!