Pumped up Canadians put on show to remember

Mon Feb 22, 2010 3:37am EST
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By Julian Linden

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Sunday's Olympics ice hockey grudge game between Canada and the United States was billed as the hottest show at the Vancouver Winter Olympics for good reason -- bragging rights alone can mean more than mere medals.

This was no ordinary game. It was three hours of non-stop end-to-end entertainment that captivated a whole nation and lived up to all the hype.

The pubs and restaurants in downtown Vancouver were overflowing with patrons watching the drama unfold on television while the Canada Hockey Plaza was transformed into a heaving mass of red, white and blue.

For the 17,000 lucky people who got to watch the match live, it was like possessing one of the golden tickets to Willy Wonka's fabled chocolate factory.

Seats for the match sold out ages ago and unless you were moguls skier Alexandre Bilodeau, who has been wheeled out at more events in Vancouver than the IOC president since winning his country's first gold medal on home soil, your only chance of getting inside the venue was buying a ticket off a scalper for 10 times the face value.

Inside the hockey arena, the atmosphere was electric, a sea of red and white maple leaves sprinkled with blue stars and stripes. The entertainment started before the teams entered the rink and continued long after the match ended.

The action on the ice was riveting as the two great rivals locked horns in a classic match that had the capacity crowd more excited than teenagers on prom night.

There was no pomp and ceremony or staid national anthems. This was a carnival to rival Rio.   Continued...

<p>Brian Rafalski of the U.S. celebrates his goal against Canada in front of goalie Martin Brodeur in first period of their hockey game at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, February 21, 2010. REUTERS/Bruce Bennett/Pool</p>