2010 Winter Olympics Photo Recap: Switzerland vs. Belarus Hockey Live in Concert
Since the United States hockey team not only qualified for a bye to the quarterfinals but also locked up the No. 1 seed, the tickets I purchased for the first qualifying game on Tuesday were no longer to watch the U.S.A.
The game featured No. 8 seed Switzerland vs. No. 9 Belarus.
To be perfectly honest, I was not entirely enthralled about this hockey game. On paper, it is the most uninteresting matchup of the playoff rounds, simply because it features the least amount of NHL players.
But as in any live sporting event, the game sometimes becomes a secondary story to the atmosphere in the arena.
This is perhaps more true of Olympic events than any other sporting event.
Pictures will not properly illustrate experiencing this atmosphere, but I have no doubt they will serve better than my words could. I will attempt to put each one into proper context.
It was interesting to see each team's on-ice pregame rituals.
Every team in the NHL pretty much does the same thing prior to the puck dropping: Warm up the goalie, skate a few laps, maybe give the goalie a couple stick taps on the pads.
Not the case for international teams.
The Swiss got in a circle around goaltender Jonas Hiller, then expanded the circle and formed one large outer circle around a smaller one. Then everyone skated around until they all fist-bumped each member of the team.
The ritual took about 30 seconds to perform in its entirety.
The sense of team unity and national pride was contagiously prominent.
Fans from all over the world attended the game, although the arena was filled with mostly Canadians who may have been able to pick up an Olympic hockey ticket on the cheap. (I have a friend who scored a single for $60.)
The Belarusians and Swiss were in attendance, with no shortage of flags, apparel, or face paint.
But no matter the nationality, all fans were just happy to be watching an Olympic event.
And in the biased opinion of this writer, there is no better Olympic event than hockey. (More on this statement later.)
This a shot of the first counterclockwise wave I have ever seen in person. I have no idea how it was initiated only moments after the standard clockwise wave was executed.
Maybe an Australian fan wanted to show his or her pride creatively.
In strict terms of a hockey game, from the perspective of an avid hockey spectator, the game was pretty sloppy.
It was clear that nerves were a factor between these two tournament underdogs.
Case in point: Thierry Paterlini (I believe) nicely received an outlet pass (not pictured here) that gave him a breakaway, but with the puck on his backhand, he lifted it well over the goal and actually hit the netting above the glass. Yikes.
But this was not Canada/Russia. (They are now slated to face off in the quarterfinals, not the gold medal game—as so many predicted.)
This was not about the NHL stars. Mark Streit of the Swiss and Ruslan Salei of Belarus are notable NHL defensemen.
But this game was about the spirit of competing for your country at the highest level. And it showed. I've never seen players on both benches standing when they are not changing lines, watching a shootout, or during anything but the final seconds of a game.
This picture was taken during the first period. Amazing.
The most interesting of the NHL participants was Jonas Hiller.
He has had a fantastic tournament and almost stole the game vs. Canada, which would have utterly rocked the hockey world.
A fantastic tournament—until one minute into this game, when he misplayed a puck that led to the first Belarus goal.
Since the game went into a shootout, this goal could have cost them the game—and thus, the tournament.
Hiller was shaken after this, and the Belarus players were very much energized.
Belarus was badly outplayed for most of the game—final shot count: 43-22—and I couldn't believe how close the score was.
The aforementioned goal could have been the reason the Swiss were eliminated, but fortunately, Hiller rediscovered his game and held on to keep Switzerland on top.
Gotta love celebrations that include tackling your own teammates.
So with low expectations about what I would be paying U.S. ticket prices to see, I was tremendously happy about the contest we saw.
It is only fitting that the ultimate team game is the best Olympic sport. Just as hockey teams can only succeed when their athletes play together, nations' citizens are united together to spectate and cheer.
I wish I could have attended every single Olympic hockey game of the tournament, regardless of who competes.