About the Author: William Millman is a retired Foreign Service Officer providing public affairs assistance in Vancouver.
In a country that's absolutely mad about hockey, there was nowhere better to be Tuesday afternoon than at Canada Hockey Place, and if you're an American, no better game to see than the very first 2010 Olympic Men's hockey game, and the first ever on a full NHL-size rink: U.S. - Switzerland.
Starting well over an hour before game time, thousands of fans from all over the world flowed down the hills of Vancouver to the waterfront and the white oblong dome of Hockey Place. There were U.S. flags galore, as well as red, white and blue top hats, miniature star spangled banners painted on faces of all ages, with more than a smattering of the familiar white cross Swiss flags as well. But, not surprisingly, the vast majority of the 20,000 fans wore some shade of Canada red. Whether they were there to scout the U.S. team, or to root for their favorite slap-shotters, or perhaps because they couldn't get tickets to see their beloved Canadian team, they were nonetheless eager and appreciative to see their national game in action.
The organizers of the hockey venue have done a great job moving the thousands of fans through the streets and past security with minimal bottlenecks. The entry process -- annoying at the best of times -- was actually little more than a blip on the radar today.
Inside, the music was blaring and the flags and banners were waving. The first period was closely competed, if a bit sloppy, with both teams exhibiting the nerves to be expected of a first Olympic game. A late goal made it 1-0 United States, but the end result was very much still in doubt. In period two, however, the U.S. team picked up the pace and ran the score to 3-0, before the Swiss managed their only score off of U.S. goalkeeper Miller's stick midway through the third.
"Miller's the only one who can score off our team," one American quipped, and with the U.S. goalie making a number of athletic saves this day, he well may be nearly right.
Period three featured a more physical game, but just the one goal, despite several decent opportunities. Final: U.S. wins, 3-1.
As the final horn echoed in the emptying hall, out into the warm, sunny, spring-like afternoon we all surged, happy to have witnessed this small part of these 2010 Olympics and ready for our next encounter with the Vancouver Olympic adventure.