What a day. Woke up feeling very bad about missing my shift at alpine skiing today. I would miss the Ladies’ Slalom race and wouldn’t be able to work on a story I wanted to write.

No matter, I thought. The reason I’d be missing skiing was that Mika had somehow managed to get tickets to the Finland-US Men’s Semifinal Hockey game in Vancouver. I hadn’t yet been to a hockey game at these Winter Games, and Mika said the atmosphere at the games was fantastic and well worth what we’d paid for the tickets.

So we woke up early, bundled the kids up in waterproof gear and dropped them off with the babysitter to see the Ladies’ Alpine event under very wet Whistler snowfall. We set off with Mika’s dad and former Finnish hockey star Jorma Salmi to see the game.

We were rushing by the time we got into Vancouver. We parked the car, ran to the Seabus ferry, and made it onto the boat with 17 seconds left. We got off the Seabus, walked quickly to the Skytrain, and again got lucky with a train that was about to leave the station. Whew.

Because Mika had to buy the tickets in sets of two, we had one extra, which Jorma agreed to sell. We split off from him and hurried in the rain towards the stadium entrance. We waited impatiently in security as a man in the line ahead of us bantered with the personnel and took  eternity to empty his pockets. How many pockets can a person have?

Finally we were through security and at the doors to the stadium. Mika handed the volunteer his ticket. She scanned it. A red light appeared.


I handed them my ticket. Rejected. I dropped my Finnish flag on the ground in disbelief.

Apparently we’d been sold duplicate tickets. Someone was already in our seats.

Think fast. Is there a box office? Yes, we were told, but they doubted we’d be able to get tickets.

We found Jorma walking towards the stadium and told him the bad news. He’d been walking with the guy to whom he’d sold the other ticket. Well, maybe their tickets, since they were part of a different set, would work. They went off to try.

We headed out beyond the security lines, now endless, and towards a gray trailer that served as the box office. Two windows were open. Above each a sign read:

Tickets To
Today’s Events Are

I asked anyway. Yes, they actually had tickets to the game.

Huh? I could have asked why the heck the signs said otherwise, but I was too relieved to care. The day was saved – wasn’t it? We called Jorma a dozen times before he answered to say he couldn’t get in either and had returned the cash to the man he’d just sold the fourth ticket to; that guy then went to see the game at a bar.

So we bought three tickets from the box office with the big signs saying they were sold out.

This time security took more than an eternity but we were happy to at least be going to the game. The two guys behind us, Canadian hockey fans who like all the other Canadian fans there would be rooting for Finland, talked about how great the Finnish goalie Kipprusoff was. “Normally he hate him, but today we love him,” they said. Kipprusoff would hold off the Americans, they believed, as he had so many other teams so far.

We got through with 8 minutes to go and sprinted all the way to the stadium. We found Jorma by the door, handed him his now legitimate ticket and ran up to our seats. Hooray! We made it with a minute to go.

Then two minutes into the game the famed Finnish goalkeeper stepped way out ahead of the goal and accidentally passed a puck back at a US player, who scored.

Then the goalie crumbled. Not used to making such mistakes, he couldn’t take it. Within minutes, he let in three more goals. We were seated directly behind the goalie in the eighth row; it felt as if the pucks were hitting us straight in the gut. I felt ill. The Finns replaced the goalie but were so shell-shocked that the next goalie let in two more goals. Do we leave now? I asked myself.

Fortunately, the Finns regained their composure after the first horrible 11 minutes and the first 20-minute period ended with no more goals. The next two periods, with the new Finnish goalie, remained goal-less and, amazingly, the Finns kept the puck down by the American goal nearly the whole time. But this was not enough to save face. Indeed, we’d put away our Finnish flags. Mika’s big flag was off his shoulders and folded into his pocket. One goal by the Finns was needed. Just one.

With a handful of minutes left, the Finns scored. The stadium erupted. Whew again.

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