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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Olympic Memories: Ice Hockey

If I had to choose one event to see at the Olympics it would be ice hockey. I grew up in Minnesota and thus grew up an ice hockey fan. I became interested in the sport too late to play, which is about 8-years-old in Minnesota, but held on to that love nonetheless. So, when my father and I purchased our ticket packages for the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002, I knew I had to make sure I had some good puck in there to go with all the other events we’d see. And no, that didn’t just mean me trying to beat little kids at the game in the Olympic Park downtown Salt Lake City (at which I lost for the record).
 

 

Now, the big problem in terms of seeing any of the best ice hockey is timing. We were there for the first week of the Games. The second week is when the medal rounds take place. When we were there it was the women’s hockey, which I also love to watch, and the preliminary rounds to see which teams that qualified for the Games can get into the medal rounds with the other automatic qualifiers. We were fortunate enough to get some tickets for the qualifier games, as well as the U.S. Women v. China, but I wanted to see the U.S. men play as well.

 
The big thing though is that I also wanted to do something nice for my father. My mother passed away just months before we entered the ticket lottery for the Games, and I wanted to make sure this was an experience to remember for him. The preliminary games we saw, Belarus v. France and France v. Slovakia, were a lot of fun, but I knew they just wouldn’t be the (hockey?) icing on the cake I had hoped for as we headed to Salt Lake City.
 

 

I did some online scouting before the Games and found a site connected with the SLOC (Salt Lake Olympic Committee) that auctioned off prime seats for prime events. Any money over the actual face value of the ticket was said to go as a donation to the Paralympics. So, with that in mind, I tried a couple of times for seats. I wasn’t lucky enough to get anything initially, but then I decided to throw caution, and money, to the wind and go for the gold…in a manner of speaking. The extra money was going to a good cause, and I wanted these tickets as a treat for my father.

 

 
Thankfully, and finally, I got us a pair of tickets for an event that I knew nothing could keep me from. The only real problem, now that I had the tickets, was to keep the secret from my dad. So, after staying in the hotel room sick from our final luge event, which he went to on his own, I got dressed and ready to go out for the night. I pitched it to my father as a final night to go out together and enjoy the games as we’d be heading back to Denver the very next day.

 

 
He really had no idea, from what I could tell, as to what we were doing even as we drove to Salt Lake City from Park City. Only did he figure out we were going to a hockey game when arrived at the rink. But, even then, he didn’t know who the game was with as we saw sweaters from the U.S.A., Canada, Sweden and Finland…among many others. And thanks to the help of the venue staff, I was able to keep it a secret all the way up until we got to our seats.

 

 
Yes, that’s right, we had front row seats to see the U.S. men play Finland in their first game at the Olympics. How I got the seats, I wouldn’t tell him, as it was a gift that he should enjoy. And enjoy we both did as the U.S. walked all over Finland 6-0. They went on to win the silver medal in Salt Lake City, losing their first Olympic game ever on U.S. soil to Canada. It was an amazing treat for both of us and a game I’ll never forget as I sported a great sweater and hat that my sister gave me for Christmas just before we left on our trip.
 

And while I haven’t worn that outfit since that game in Salt Lake City, another Olympics is only four years away. Yeah, you hear that Dad? It’s only four years until Sochi, Russia. Pack your bags, I think a trip across the pond might be in order!

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