Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Minnesotans just mad about hockey

So too, are Filipinos... Well, at least one is

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One group of fans and an individual deserve special credit for their performance in Vancouver so far.

When the U.S. men are playing at Canada Hockey Place, there is a group of fans from Minnesota in the stands wearing replica jerseys of almost the entire roster of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team. I don't know how many of them there are in total but I think they have all the Minnesotans accounted for at least, of which there were 12 on that team. Christian, Pavelich, Janaszak, Ramsey, etc. I'll quickly change my thoughts on these individuals at 6:30 p.m. Winnipeg time Sunday as they will become the enemy and thus I will find them annoying.

"ö "ö "ö

The individual fan worth noting is my friend Ron Cantiveros. He's here from Winnipeg for the entire games proudly wearing his homemade, but very real-looking Philippine National Team hockey jersey. He's going over huge out here. Interviews, photos, people wishing him good luck. Former Canuck great and Olympian Trevor Linden stopped him to ask if the Philippines indeed had a hockey team. Ron told him that in fact they did not, as in his words "You don't lie to Trevor Linden."

"ö "ö "ö

There is something refreshing about listening to Olympic athletes interviewed. It's so pure. It's real. Unrehearsed. I love it. 1,000-metre speedskating gold medal winner Christine Nesbitt is a prime example. The best interview of the Games however, took place in the stands at the Swiss/Canada men's hockey game the other night. They went live during intermission to a host standing by with a man named Gordie Robertson, who won Olympic gold back in 1952 with the Edmonton Mercurys on loan from the Trail Smoke Eaters. He was asked how he was enjoying the games, and instead of providing the token quick answer so the host could throw it to other planned intermission activities, ol' Gordie proceeded to launch into a brilliant Grandpa Simpson-esque story that went on for ages and included lines like "And then some son-of-a-gun from Czechoslovakia says something to me but I don't speak that language so I popped him one in the face and then there was a big meeting about fighting at the Olympics but we didn't know what the hell was going on so we just kept 'er going eh?" The longer he went, the more the crowd got into it, and the more the crowd got into it, the longer he went. Greatest interview ever. Most bewildered host ever.

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Unofficially, the most visited venue at Vancouver is not even a venue. It's The Bay downtown. They have an Olympic superstore inside, and every morning when I arrive at Robson Square to do my radio show at 4:15 a.m. Pacific... there are already people in line. True story. It stays like that all day. People are waiting three hours to shop.

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Vancouver is currently home to every player agent, most GMs, the NHLPA and a bunch of other people who generally have far more access to NHL information than you or I. I've asked plenty of them about the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg thing. I've gotten a variety of responses from "nobody wants to move to Winnipeg," to "Go ask Gary, he's right over there" (referring to Mr. Bettman, who was at the time on the other side of a set of doors I'm not allowed through), to answers of relative indifference. I don't think the plight of a hockey team in Atlanta or a possible move to Winnipeg is on the radar out here.

"ö "ö "ö

Have a great weekend. Enjoy the hockey game tomorrow.

Ace Burpee is the morning man at Hot 103 FM.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 20, 2010 D2

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