2010Feb 23

Waiting for an Elevator with Wayne Gretzky….

Todd Guthrie & Randy Pascal, SPAD85

by Randy Pascal, SPAD’85

As many of you are already aware, I have been fortunate enough to be living the dream of a lifetime, volunteering as an off-ice official with both the men’s and women’s hockey competition at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. With memorable experiences occurring on almost a daily basis, I thought I would take a moment to share just a few of the highlights of the week and a half that Todd Guthrie (also from Sudbury) and myself have enjoyed at the XXI Olympiad.

The mere fact that we are here is an incredible merging of both good luck and the result of years of dedicated commitment to our craft. A little more than a year ago, retired NHL linesman, Dan McCourt, who hails from Skead, happened to be taking in a WHL game in Vancouver

McCourt has remained active with the NHL officials, helping mentor candidates working the junior ranks who may show signs of promise and potential to rise to the next level. Sitting next to one of the VANOC Olympic hockey organizers in the press box, McCourt carries on a conversation that eventually notes the lack of qualified off-ice officials applying to work the Games.

That conversation would open the door. From there, a resume that included some 1,500 games that have been scorekept at virtually every level of hockey, from novice to juniors and university, allows for the opportunity to interview and, eventually, work the Women’s Canada Cup in September on a trial basis.

Safe to say that both luck and hard work entered into the mix for Todd and myself. It is difficult to discuss the experience we have enjoyed without having this column read like an endless barrage of name-dropping

Because of the nature of my role, heading down to the team dressing rooms to get the lineups filled 90 minutes before game time, returning as the teams exit the warm-up to finalize the starting roster, sitting at ice level in the penalty box, proximity to the athletes is a given.

With all twelve dressing rooms in the same general area, the scene is incredible as the two competing teams, at any given time, are joined by those either heading or returning from practice facilities

Within a half hour of arriving for my first men’s game,  I had walked past Alexander Ovechkin, Jaromir Jagr and most of the American team. One of the most interesting evolutions I have witnessed is how quickly my mindset has moved from star gazing to undertaking the talk at hand.

Sure, there are still times when you note those in your surrounding. Waiting for the Canadian roster, it was certainly interesting to see Brian Burke chatting with both Steve Yzerman and Kevin Lowe just a few feet away.

But for the most part, we tackle our role at the Olympics in much the same way we have for hundreds of games leading to this point. A tight timeline to work through the various processes in play makes this more or less essential.

Once the puck drops, it is surprisingly easy to forget that it’s Sidney Crosby or Peter Forsberg who has just been assessed a penalty. Or that my focus in helping note that # 11 got his stick on that puck means Daniel Alfredsson has scored for Sweden.

Make no mistake – there are moments, between stoppages or perhaps at intermission, when the scope of what we are involved with really hits home. The deafening roar of the crowd when goals are scored, making it next to impossible to relay the information from the game officials to IIHF data entry people located perhaps two seats away in the penalty box

But during the game itself, it is more often than not business as usual. Away from the games, perhaps a little less. Working the Canada-Norway men’s opener, I found myself (with my scorekeeping partner) waiting for an elevator with Wayne Gretzky and a friend for some 30 seconds or so.

Yet the local connections are easily as memorable as the daily encounters with NHL stars. Getting to opportunity to spend just a few minutes catching up with both Rebecca Johnston and Tessa Bonhomme after their lopsided win over Sweden.

Running into Sudbury native Pat Lizotte at the Sweden-Belarus game as he sat, with his wife, just a few rows back of the penalty box. Getting a brief chance to say hello to Brian and Sue Gates as they ventured away from the curling venue to take in a little women’s hockey action out at UBC.

I listened to a recent Gold medal winner being interviewed as she noted that, in the moments that followed the realization of achieving her dream, most everything seemed nothing more than a blur.

Athletes will often acknowledge, years later, that the true impact of what they accomplished is something that is felt over time. Given all that is happening around us right now, I suspect my experience will be much the same.

And I consider myself very fortunate to have enjoyed this opportunity.

Leave a Reply