Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sporting Favourites

It’s the season for lists so I got thinking about my favourite live sports memories. I’ve been fortunate to see some pretty unique things so here are a few in no particular order. Please share yours as I’d love to hear them!

1997 Western Conference Quarter-Final, Game 3 - Oilers vs Stars

In their first playoff series since 1992, the Oilers trailed 3-0 with four minutes to go against the Stars, a team no one comes back on. Doug Weight got it going followed by Andrei Kovalenko then Mike Grier with the tying goal all in under 2 minutes. I jumped so high I nearly landed on the seat in front of me and from clapping my hands were the colour of Flames jerseys (who weren’t in the playoffs I should note!). Of course Kelly Buchberger’s OT winner didn’t hurt either. The most amazing comeback I’ve ever seen.

1986 CFL Western Final – Eskimos vs Lions

This was my first ever CFL playoff game. The Esks were hosting a playoff game for the first time since 1982, the last year of the five in a row dynasty. They had vaulted back to finish first in the west and were hosting the defending champion Lions. A large crowd, Marco Cyncar’s diving TD, snowball fights and fans carrying John Mandarich off the field were all highlights of my introduction to the CFL playoffs..

2001 World Championships in Athletics Opening Ceremony - August 3, 2001

Being on the organizing committee for the World’s was a lifelong dream come true so this whole day I was essentially on a cloud. In the men’s marathon, included for the first time in an opening ceremony, Gezahegne Abera from Ethiopia and Simon Biwott of Kenya were going so quickly they actually adjusted the ceremony to time their entrance into Commonwealth. After over 41 km, both runners literally sprinted into the stadium bringing 60,000 people jump to their feet in unison. It was an incredible athletic achievement coupled with great fan support that made this so special.

2010 Winter Olympics

As a self-described Olympics junky it was very exciting to be in Vancouver for a week last February. Having been to Vancouver many, many times, I’ve never seen the city so alive. No matter where you walked the energy of being games host was palpable everywhere. Yes, these events cost money but it’s hard to recreate the energy and emotion people feel and carry from them.

Wayne Gretzky’s 50th goal in 39 games – December 30, 1981

I was six years old when I was taken to this game with my mom, dad and grandpa. The five goals he scored that night were incredible but what I think was more amazing was the common belief leading up to the game that he legitimately could score five against the Flyers. This speaks not only to Gretzky’s ability but how dominant he was in that era. People also often forget that he scored four goals three nights earlier against the Kings to set up the possibility for 50 in 39. An amazing experience I can still envision today and a record that will never be broken.

2006 Stanley Cup Final, Game 6 – Oilers vs Hurricanes

This was perhaps the most complete game the Oilers played throughout their crazy playoff run. A decisive 4-0 win that night really gave the 16,839 people in the building the sense the Oilers were going to win the Cup. The thing I remember that night was that no one (me included) wanted to go home. The two month experience had been so enthralling that having the home portion over was sad despite the exhilaration. We just won’t talk about game 7.

2010 Men’s Olympic Hockey Gold Medal Game – Canada vs United States

I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to be one of the few in Canada Hockey Place that afternoon. The three street hockey games randomly occurring in the streets of Vancouver only added to the atmosphere. The energy in the building was unlike anything I’ve experienced as the sea of red surrounded the few, outnumbered Americans. With a script that must’ve been written by the Grimm brothers Sidney Crosby’s winning goal was the ultimate finish. It happened so fast many of us at the other end of the arena didn’t know what had taken place. What followed was jubilation everywhere that eventually made it the proudest, craziest celebration I have never seen. There were so many people with such vigour in one place at one time that it was truly remarkable.

4 comments:

Jay said...

Great first post to the year Digluesse! Especially fitting since I was back in Etown over the holidays. :)

I thought I'd share my memories of your listed events to begin with.

1997 Western Conference Quarter-Final, Game 3 - Oilers vs Stars
-> I can remember in those days the Internet was still pretty weak, and I was able to avoid the news of the playoffs while I was living overseas. I did get a VHS tape of this series sent to me that I watched about 2 weeks later though. :) It seemed in those days, it was always the 8th seeded Oilers against the top seed Stars in the western playoffs...

1986 CFL Western Final – Eskimos vs Lions
-> No memories of this, sorry. :)

2001 World Championships in Athletics Opening Ceremony - August 3, 2001
-> Again, I was back living overseas at this point. But tuned in religiously, especially for the Marathons, with the local television station that had a big presence in Edmonton, so coverage was excellent. It was wild seeing the streets of Alberta's capital pass by on the television screen and knowing exactly where the runners were going, while I was sitting thousands of kilometers away in another country...

Jay said...

2006 Stanley Cup Final, Game 6 – Oilers vs Hurricanes
-> It was great following this run, especially since I was living in Calgary at the time. I even went to this one bar that is dedicated to watching Oilers games and for their fans (though now defunct) during the earlier rounds. Unfortunately, I had a biz trip that took me overseas during the last two games of the final, so I missed them both! I can still remember sitting in a large conference room filled with Intel executives talking about the future of the world's education when game 7 was playing, and I all I could think about was "what is the fricking score?!?!?". Such a disappointment when I got back to my hotel room and checked the result online. :(

2010 Men’s Olympic Hockey Gold Medal Game – Canada vs United States
-> I opted to stay away from the madness downtown and not watch it at my brother's place in False Creek, and did so instead in the comforts of my own home in the suburbs. But my neighborhood was rocking and you could hear eruptions of yells and voices after each Canadian goal even though I had all my windows closed. Even in suburbia, the crowds were rocking, great result! :)

As for me, if I were to narrow it down to a single sporting event that really thrilled me, it had to be the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup. I was living in Tokyo at the time and I could not believe the intense atmosphere of the city, that was flooded by visitors from all over the world. Games were broadcast in large public squares throughout the city and I caught as many as I could after work. Surrounded by fans dressed in their country's uniforms, you would get random high 5's from strangers all the time, even when I was dressed up in a suit and obviously looking like I had a long day at the office. :) I had friends fly in from London, just so they could catch the England-Brazil game, and they had no idea how to get to the stadium and had come on a whim. Wild stories like that I will always remember. The success of the host nations too had a big part of the atmosphere I thought, just as for the 2010 Winter Olympics. I think there could be an entire study done on that, how being the host country has an uplifting effect on both its athletes (who may not have been favored to win) and also the local populace's interest in the event going on around them.

Jay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Digluesse said...

Hey Jimmy...thanks for the comments. Agree totally on the World Cup. That and Euro would be great events to take in as well. As for the atmosphere that comes from hosting there's no doubt it can have a sustainable impact. People always want to talk about direct economic impact but I think there's likely indirect impact simply from the positivity that tends to come from these events. Maybe a study I should do!