VANCOUVER, B.C.--A child's first hockey game is a right of passage in Canada.
And Thomas Challis, 5, of Coquitlam, got an exceptionally good introduction to big-time hockey, landing the chance to go with his dad to Tuesday's match-up between Switzerland and Belarus.
Thomas' dad, Roger, patiently explained some of the game's finer points, such as the difference between linemen and referees (referees call penalties, while linesmen generally do not) and why regular players have hard shin pads and goalies have big soft pads (goalies don't want to give up big rebounds that can lead to scoring chances).
But Thomas got things pretty quickly. "The boys bump each other," he says, "but that's a part of hockey."
Challis noted that he's not totally new to hockey, frequently playing in the alley in back of his house as well as some stick and puck play with his dad at the local ice rink.
"I've grew up playing hockey," the kindergartner told me.
At figure skating, all eyes on hockey
After each figure skater performed on Tuesday, there was a rush to check on the score.
Of course, wanting to know what the judges thought of the skater would be normal. But that wasn't the score that many people were focused on, at least for the first few skaters. Following each performance, many spectators would look around to find a neighbor with a radio or cell phone who had the latest score from the Canada-Germany hockey game, which was taking place at the same time.
As Canada built a solid lead in the hockey game and the figure skating performances went on, the attention did eventually shift to what was happening within the building.
By far, the crowd's highlight was the emotional performance from Joannie Rochette, whose mom died of a heart attack just days before the Olympic competition. Rochette kept her emotions in check--at least until the skate was done. Then she, her coach, and many others at Pacific Coliseum broke down in tears.
Rochette is in third place after the short program, trailing other spectacular performances from Korea's Yu-Na Kim, who is in first after an impressive skate to a James Bond medley and Japan's Mao Asada, who skated her way into second.
Hockey fever hits Wall Street
Passion for Olympic hockey isn't limited to those in Canada, of course. Brokerage Credit Suisse issued a memo, published by The Wall Street Journal, letting its New York employees know that the firm has decided to pipe in Wednesday's U.S.-Switzerland hockey games to its auditorium. However, it warns that the room only seats 225 people and standing won't be allowed. Employees, according to the memo, should try to get a manager's approval before heading out to snag a seat.
That game, by the way, is a scoreless tie after the first period, despite the fact the U.S. significantly out-shot the Swiss.