Monday, March 1, 2010

The Game - The Goal - The Gold

I got kicked out of a bar at one in the afternoon on Sunday. (It's not what you think.)

After spending the morning on the backstretch at Woodbine (photos tomorrow...), I headed back downtown to watch the Carling Cup final at a local pub. As a Liverpool fan, I normally wouldn't go to my back door to watch United play but it was a cup final and a chance to spend some time with friends.

By noon, Wayne Rooney had decimated the Villa defence and United lifted the trophy.

This is usually the point where the bar empties. Instead it began to fill up with a red sea of hockey fans. Emails and phonecalls began piling up as friends looked for a place to watch the game.

I called my local at 1PM - two hours before gametime - looking for a seat and was told, "not a chance." So, we decided to stay where we were. One big problem - the owner of the pub had reserved our booth out to a group of four girls covered in face paint.

Every booth in the place was spoken for. The seats at the bar were taken. In essence, we had been kicked out of the pub.

Rejected, we hit the streets to find a place to watch the game. We were far from alone. The streets were filled with an unscheduled parade of red-sweater clad Canadians with a craving for hockey and beer.

It is estimated that 10.6 million Canadians watched the game. At 2PM, it felt like most of them were crawling across the streets of Toronto.

10.6M is almost a third of our population. If you were trying to do business with someone from Canada on Sunday, you likely didn't get very far. Canada basically put the rest of the world on hold for an entire day.

(Mid-post musing)

* Sunday would have been the perfect time to invade Canada or commit a robbery. Surrounded by the masses, I was reminded of the recent outbreak of burglaries of homes owned by Liverpool players. Essentially, the cunning criminals used the team's fixture list to identify when players would be far from home and stole into their houses to make off with the luxuries only a footballer could afford. Victims include Steven Gerrard, Dirk Kuyt, Pepe Reina, Daniel Agger, Lucas Leiva and former players Peter Crouch and Jerzy Dudek.

Granted, not all criminals are masterminds as this Darwin Award honourable mention observed.

(January 2001) Two men were taken to a Liverpool hospital on Saturday night after trying to burgle the house of pro soccer player Duncan Ferguson. Some years ago Ferguson, who earned the nicknames Drunken Ferguson and Duncan Disorderly, served 6 months in jail for grievous bodily injury to an opponent. This 6'4" kamikaze centre forward is arguably the most violent player in British pro football. The police must have arrived quickly as only one of the would-be burglars required hospitalization.

The former Everton striker would thwart a second burglary attempt some years later when he caught a man breaking into his home. So battered was the burglar when police arrived that the terrible thief filed assault charges against Ferguson.

(End musing.)

An hour before gametime my friend and I settled for standing room only at a joint on the corner of King and Bathurst.

The Lovely Amy and my friend's girlfriend joined us as the game started. Service existed for beer only. At some point, Amy smartly stole away to the McDonald's on the corner for a snack run and we ate Chicken McNuggets in the bar as stealthily as possible. It was as dodgy as it sounds but it was fun to be sharing the experience of the game with fellow hockey fans.

The game itself was incredible.

Canada got off to a quick start thanks to a Jonathan Toews goal. The team was playing smartly and peppering brilliant USA keeper Ryan Miller with a barrage of shots.

A second period goal by Corey Perry pushed Canada into position. Like a front-runner posting sensible opening fractions, Canada seemed comfortable freewheeling on the lead.

However, USA continued to fight and Ryan Kesler was rewarded for his efforts with a goal. Canada's lead was diminishing and the Americans were stalking the pace and searching for an opening.

The opening came late in the third period when Zach Parise took advantage of a deflection and buried the loose puck under Roberto Luongo to tie the game.

The two teams were set up for a furious stretch battle. The young and hungry Americans versus the experienced Canadians. The USA squad snapped off four shots in the overtime without success. Canada had seven cracks of the whip and the final slap, a lovely give and go between Jarome Iginla and Sidney Crosby, was enough to push Canada over the line first. To be fair, it could be said that the Canadians galloped out in front. They were not going to be denied a victory on home ice.

The Sounds of Victory

As the puck bulged the net, the bar erupted. The nation erupted. Crosby becomes even more of a Canadian hero thanks to the goal.

You can watch official highlights of the game by clicking here.

For all the grief Canada took about the "Own The Podium" campaign, last night's win proved to be a defining moment that our country can hold onto. USA won the most medals with 26, but Canada won the most gold medals and the fourteenth medal was the gold the country wanted most of all.

Thank you Sidney Crosby.

Cabbie interviews Sidney Crosby about his knob

* * *

Despite the hockey madness there was plenty of horse racing this weekend as well.

Malcolm Pierce trained No Use Denying was a tough second, at 18-1, in the Allen LaCombe Memorial Handicap at the Fair Grounds. The Pin Oak Stable girl stalked More of the Best to the far turn before taking over the lead and gave way grudgingly at the wire to 3-5 favourite Tizaqueena.

Tizaqueena wins the Allen LaCombe Memorial Handicap

The Woodbine News tab at the top of the page, which updates automatically throughout the day with the latest news, pumped out a few stories from the web.

* Woodbine food service workers locked out

"Some of the lowest-paid workers at the Woodbine racetrack have been locked out and told to stay home after contract negotiations suddenly broke down early Saturday."

* Wooodbine jockey Luis Contreras won the Borderland Stakes via DQ aboard Storming Saint

"Raise the Bridle, on the inside with Juan Ochoa, and Storming Saint, battling through the lane for Luis Contreras, banged repeatedly in the run to the wire. Stewards decided that the maiden Raise the Bridle, who had inched ahead in the final strides, drifted into the path of the 8-5 favorite Storming Saint and reversed the order to make the son of Sweetsouthernsaint the victor."

* Eugene Melnyk returns to Gold Cup

"Eugene Melnyk is once again throwing his support behind the Sandy Lane Barbados Gold Cup, which he won in 2004 with the seven-year-old Kathir."

* Aurora Lights Shines in Sabin

"Making just her second start on dirt in her 4-year-old debut, Chiefswood Stable’s Aurora Lights sprung a 10-1 upset in the $100,000 Sabin Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 27 at Gulfstream Park."

That last news story was a great result for a pair of Woodbine trainers. Eric Coatrieux conditioned the winner, Aurora Lights, for Chiefswood Stable and Brian Lynch is the trainer of third place finisher Amazing.

Aurora Lights wins the Sabin Stakes at Gulfstream

All in all a great weekend to be Canadian. Check back tomorrow for photos and more from the Woodbine backstretch, eh?

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