Canada-U.S. hockey game created a buzz near arena 

Cousin over country.

Taylor Gemmel is a proud Canadian, but citizenship took a back seat to blood on Sunday because his cousin is U.S. goaltender Ryan Miller.

Gemmel was wearing a blue sweat shirt while he had lunch at Cactus Club Cafe, a hip restaurant a couple train stops from the arena, a few hours before the game and planned to root loudly for Miller and the Americans against Canada in their highly anticipated marquee matchup at the Vancouver Games.

He was lost in a sea of red at Canada Hockey Place, sitting in a second-row seat Miller's parents gave him so that they wouldn't distract their son during the emotional game.

"I'm all in for the U.S. and it's not even a second thought to pull for Canada," said Gemmel, who lives in nearby Chilliwack. "Most of my friends back home understand that."

The streets around the venue were packed in the hours leading up to the game.

Some were selling tickets, some were buying. Cops let it all go, too. Despite laws against reselling of tickets, "the priorities for city by-law officers and police are on other issues," Vancouver Police spokeswoman Jana McGuinness said.

Everyone was having a good time. Police didn't have any trouble keeping the peace.

Just outside the Burrard Street train stop, Garrett Gorham was shooting a tennis ball with a hockey stick into a shopping cart tipped over on a plaza.

"A friend is meeting me up here and we're going to pull people off the street to play," the 23-year-old Vancouverite said. "I'm a little broke so I won't be watching the game at a pub, but I'll find one of those screens they've got for the public."

An 81,000-square-foot tent near the arena housed the Molson Canadian Hockey House along with private areas for Hockey Canada, the International Ice Hockey Federation and National Hockey League Players' Association.

Family members of Canada's hockey team had their own VIP area, outfitted with black leather sofas and chairs, big-screen TVs, a buffet, bar and section for kids to play Wii, stack blocks and do puzzles.

The Molson Canadian House expects to entertain 50,000 fans during the Vancouver Games, but just 1,900 people had passes to get into the sold-out area on Sunday.

Fifty-foot wide video boards, a band, lavish buffet and cash bar was available to people willing to pay $99 to get in.

There was a VIP section for those willing to pay at least $450. Accessed by going up a red-carpeted ramp, this area featured a Wolfgang Puck-catered buffet, as much booze as they wanted and the chance to rub elbows with former Canada hockey players such as Cam Neely.

Patrick Obester, a 27-year-old fan from Fort Collins, Colo., was milling among the crowd with a U.S. flag like it was a cape, along with 24-year-old Tim Stiller, a 24-year-old fan sporting a U.S. hockey jersey.

Somebody's got to represent for the USA!" Obester said.

The buddies didn't have tickets.

"We don't need them and we don't want them," Stiller said. "We're just here for the atmosphere."

There was plenty of that.

A street vendor was hawking flags — U.S. in one hand, Canadian in the other — for $5 a piece or $8 for eight.

Sitting in a lifeguard-like stand, a volunteer nearby tried to get passerbys whipped up in a frenzy.

"Let's hear it if you're rooting for Canada!" she shouted.


"Is that all you got?" she said "Let's hear it!"


Kyle Krake and Jeramey Weldon of Eugene, Ore., — both wearing U.S. flags as capes — were among the first in the long line to enter the arena.

"We feel pretty lucky because we paid only $200 each for seats in the lower level," Krake said.

Others paid more.

Much more.

Jim and Julie Sacco of Nashville, Tenn., paid $2,500 for three tickets on StubHub. They got free tickets from Ellen Degeneres to the first U.S. game because their 5-year-old Josh got over 2 million hits on YouTube for an impression of Herb Brooks, the coach of the American team that beat Russia in what is known as the Miracle On Ice.

"It was worth it," Jim Sacco said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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