Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Our Father, who watches hockey in heaven...

Pair happy to pray for Team Canada

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Today is Feb. 24. The same day in 2002 we won gold in Olympic men's hockey in Salt Lake City.

It's arguably the greatest sporting anniversary of my life, along with Dave Ellett's OT winner in April of 1990, Donovan Bailey's run in Atlanta on July 27, 1996, and Teemu's hat trick to break Mike Bossy's rookie goal scoring record in 1993. I would love to add another memory to the list this Sunday. I don't know if it was the right thing to do, but I asked the people in the accompanying photo to pray for our men's team. Apparently I was not alone, as the dude on your left in the photo told me he had been asked for that same prayer repeatedly all day, and was happy to oblige.

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I spent Sunday afternoon in advance of the big USA/Canada men's hockey game embedded with the scalpers that lurk on every corner of downtown Vancouver during the hours leading up to an event. They come from all over the world to scalp tickets. It was fascinating. One man from Wales, another from Louisiana, and a third from California made up the group I stuck with. They've all met before at Super Bowls, soccer World Cups, and various other events all over the world. They're professional scalpers. This is all they do. The dude from Louisiana, who goes by the name T-Bone, reaped the biggest reward on this day, buying a pair of tickets about two hours before game time for $500 each and re-selling them for $1,200 each 15 minutes later. That's $1,400 profit in 15 minutes of work. The rest were not so lucky. They all conceded they've never seen fewer people willing to part with even a single ticket than this particular game. They made exactly zero dollars on one of the biggest events of the year. They were not happy. Super Bowl Sunday, on the other hand, usually yields at least 10 tickets bought and sold for a cool $7,000 to $10,000 profit. Apparently the easiest and most profitable events are curling (lots of draws means plenty of spare tickets at the gate) and speedskating (scalpers love the Dutch. They'll apparently pay anything).

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Forget anyone in the media or any fan for that matter, I met The King of celebrity encounters at these games. One of my many cab drivers, Bingri, showed me his little note pad of autographs from the Olympics so far. It was impressive. Wayne Gretzky, Alex Ovechkin, Alex Mogilny, Sergei Federov, Cindy Crawford, Jennifer Heil, Peter Forsberg... he had at least 20 autographs. Best tippers? Gretz and Ovechkin. Only one of the bunch that may or may have not been out a bit too late the evening before a game? He wouldn't say, only that it was not one of our men's hockey players.

Bingri also regaled me with stories of his athletic achievements back in Toronto as part of a championship Punjabi tug-of-war team, easily the greatest story I've heard over the past couple of weeks. He said he told Wayne the same story and that Gretz was very interested in learning more about his achievements. Bingri I like. Best cab ride ever. I would also like to point out that when he asked me where I was from and I told him Winnipeg, he scolded me for our treatment of cab drivers. I was embarrassed and apologized.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 24, 2010 C2

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