Weird game today to open the men's tournament. Not just the game itself, but also the circumstances surrounding my commentary of it. There have actually been quite a lot of people in the National Indoor Stadium today, particularly for my game (ROC vs. Switzerland - a V&N note that I very nearly called the ROC the "Republican Olympic Committee" the other day, which would have been hilarious from a certain point of view). And because our commentary position in NIS is right at the main point of entry to the stadium for most people, as I was preparing for the game, loads of people were milling around and having conversations right behind me - like, only a few feet behind me. Then during the game, Aaron (who was sitting next to me) tells me that loads of people kept coming up and taking selfies right behind me with their masks off - he was worried about us catching COVID, if nothing else! - and he had to keep shooing people away, some of which he said were Russian and seemed somewhat inebriated. Thankfully, a barrier has been erected about four or five feet behind us now that should hopefully steer everyone away and make them aware we shouldn't be bothered, but that was extremely off-putting.
In addition to that, there's a stairway up to the seats at center ice, and when someone waits at the top of that stairway, they are totally blocking our view of the far end of the ice. I hadn't had any problems with that during my previous game here (the women's ROC vs. Switzerland game), because there were so few people in the building, but after struggling early on in today's game, I've come to the conclusion that when the puck is at the far end of the ice I'm actually going to call the game off of my monitor, and then switch back to the live view when the puck comes back outside of the blue line. Which is kind of insane, but I need to assume I might call the gold medal game here and have to be prepared for the worst in due course.
The men's game is SO much faster than the women's game, by the way. I mean, duh...but we're closer to the ice here as well, and you can really feel the collisions and hear pretty much everything. (Like, for instance, David Krejci telling one of the Danes to f--- off a few minutes ago in the game I'm watching right now.) It took me a few minutes of ROC v SUI to adapt to that - heck, it's much faster than the CHL games I'm calling, let alone the women's games, in part thanks to the NHL-sized ice we're playing on - but I think I'm pretty much there now. Shame there was only one goal in my game, scored by ROC on a crazy deflection from a "shot" taken below the goal line. But it was still a really intense game, and it was great being back among players I've commentated on before; my European men's hockey knowledge is pretty solid at this point, and I'm basically back in my comfort zone.
By the way, I'll be calling the USA vs. CZE women's quarterfinal - I'm only doing one of the four, and the luck of the draw means that's the one I've got. Quite a few of the Czech women's players are here at the rink right now, and I got to chat with their backup goalie a bit as well as an IIHF journalist who has been covering the tournament and have some nuggets for Friday's game (Thursday night your time). Meanwhile, tomorrow I'm back at Wukesong for just one game, the late men's game between Canada and Germany. A nice lazy morning and afternoon, direct buses to and from the arena, a catered dinner and Olympic men's hockey from a great commentary position...what could be better?
Oh and two other little tidbits:
--A Chinese volunteer came up to me out of the blue before my earlier game and handed me a little origami of a commentary headset. How cool is that?
--I went to the bathroom here at the arena a short while ago, and when I entered one of the stalls I noticed that not only was there no toilet paper, there was no toilet paper dispenser. I went back outside and saw a communal toilet paper dispenser on the wall - you have to take as much as you think you'll need into the stall with you! That is truly messed up...