Diary of a commentator

Ale Xander

doesn't like to back it in
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Oct 31, 2013
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Drama at the moment in the rink, as the Canada vs. ROC game hasn't started on time - Canada came out for their warmups as usual, everything was going fine, and then when it was time to come out for the start of the game, the Russians appeared on the ice but the Canadians are nowhere to be seen. We're now 15 minutes late in starting, and wondering what the heck is going on - there's no word from anyone just yet.
ROC hasn’t sent their Covid results to Team Canada
Canada won’t take the ice until they do
 
Yeah, I'm just seeing reports that Canada has requested a 60-minute delay. I've shown some Tweets to Aaron, but interestingly he's choosing not to speculate or pass those reports along on the air; I think if I were in his shoes, I would be passing on what I would call "unconfirmed reports" of the reason for the delay, but I can totally understand wanting to play it straight and not try to break news on the air when you don't know where it's coming from.
 

Ale Xander

doesn't like to back it in
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Oct 31, 2013
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Yeah, I'm just seeing reports that Canada has requested a 60-minute delay. I've shown some Tweets to Aaron, but interestingly he's choosing not to speculate or pass those reports along on the air; I think if I were in his shoes, I would be passing on what I would call "unconfirmed reports" of the reason for the delay, but I can totally understand wanting to play it straight and not try to break news on the air when you don't know where it's coming from.
Can you ask Igor to confirm?
 

Fred not Lynn

Dick Button Jr.
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Jul 13, 2005
5,141
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I tried to explain the whole drama in a nutshell to my girlfriend, with the note that Russia (or in this case NOT-Russia) doesn’t make “clerical errors” in international sport. They’re either hiding a positive test, or (more likely) pulling gamesmanship tricks on Canada.

HER: “Then they should be disqualified!”

ME: “They’re already disqualified, but they’re still there, so…”
 
The Canada-Russia game ended predictably, even if it didn't start predictably...but my commentary game between the Czech Republic and Denmark was entirely unexpected. I'd thought the Danes were clearly the worst team in Group B, and the Czechs the best team in Group B, but somehow the Danes snuck a 3-2 victory despite being outshot 32-17. Two bad defensive mistakes and one nice power play pass and goal were good enough to give the Danes all three points, and I was actually getting proper goosebumps at the end. That's definitely the biggest win in Danish women's hockey history, which means I've now called that game and also the biggest win in Danish men's basketball history (a EuroCup qualifier away to Lithuania)...when I fly through Copenhagen for the CHL Final at the end of February, maybe I should get the Danish Sports Federation to build me a statue or something?

FWIW, I'd be pretty shocked if my commentary wasn't used on NBC's online stream for that game, and I'd be equally surprised if I won't be audible for my next game (Sweden vs. China), as Finland vs. Switzerland is taking place simultaneously over at the other rink. Puck drops for that one at 8:10 a.m. ET!
 
Thanks for the heads up. Watched the third period of Sweden - China. Wow what excitement at the end. Very well called by you.
I've just rewatched the final two-and-a-half minutes of the game (which proceeded without any stoppages), and that really might be one of my favorite pieces of commentary ever. I'll need to clip it and post it in due course...but thanks for the kind words!
 
View: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1uLth5p9hRWlpbK-tWQEATCcdi4PJ8mIN/view?usp=sharing

There's the end of the Sweden-China game, from the faceoff with 2:35 to go to my wrapup on the final graphic over the wide shot. I mean, I could nitpick a few things - I used "scramble" and "scrambling" in the final minute, I didn't mention the Chinese goalie being pulled for an extra skater straightaway, and in the final minute I kinda stopped identifying players and just focused on the drama. Although, the latter might be a feature rather than a bug: I'm really pleased with the way I slowly but perceptibly ramped up the intensity right to the very end, not getting too high too soon but getting there right at the final buzzer. It's funny, I've watched this numerous times now, and it's kinda like viewing my own out-of-body experience, because I've gotten to the point that all of this commentary is completely instinctive. I'm totally locked in, and it's such a joy both to be in that moment and then also just to realize afterwards that I've gotten to the point that I'm even capable of doing this.
 
Incidentally, both of my Group B games today are now very meaningful: Japan vs. Czech Republic will determine who wins the group and gets to avoid the USA and Canada in the quarterfinals (thereby giving themselves at least a chance at the bronze medal), while Sweden vs. Denmark is now a winner-takes-all battle to reach the quarterfinals, instead of the dead rubber I and everyone else expected it would be. And again, I expect NBC will be using my commentary on both games; I'm told by Sami Jo that actually the CBC is using our OBS commentary as well on all games not involving Canada, so that's pretty cool as well.
 
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...
 

caminante11

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Nov 17, 2006
2,898
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Just started the ROC - SUI game on nbcolympics.com with your commentary.

Why don't you introduce yourself at the beginning of the broadcast?

Would love to hear you announce the quarterfinal US game. Not sure it will be possible as that is a game that will surely be on USA network.
 
Just started the ROC - SUI game on nbcolympics.com with your commentary.

Why don't you introduce yourself at the beginning of the broadcast?

Would love to hear you announce the quarterfinal US game. Not sure it will be possible as that is a game that will surely be on USA network.
Really weird - I checked out NBC's highlights of ROC-SUI, and they were using someone else. (Two guys, actually.) Huh.

To answer your question, we're specifically instructed not to introduce ourselves on OBS commentary. If RHBs want to caption their broadcasts with our names or provide any other details, they all have our biographies to hand, but we're there to provide a clean commentary feed, not big ourselves up in any way.

And re: my call of USA v CZE, I'm told by Sami that the CBC has been using our commentary on non-Canadian games, so maybe you could VPN to there?
 
By the by, my game tonight - men's Canada vs. Germany - should be one of the better ones for which my commentary should at least theoretically be available on NBCOlympics.com - 8:10 a.m. start ET tomorrow morning for you guys. (CAN v GER is taking place simultaneously with USA v CHN; presumably Kenny Albert will be calling the latter game, so I'd be surprised if they'd assign other announcers for my game.)
 

Reverse Curve

lurker
Sep 11, 2021
11
Conig - This is all fascinating to me. Thanks for sharing your journey with us for the last few years...the sport with the birds eye view of the sport. Your game narrative and goal calls are great!
 
Thanks, guys - very happy to share!

Here's a short video from yesterday with a call for all of you to judge...with just over three-and-a-half minutes left in the third period of ROC-SUI, Fabrice Herzog of Switzerland suddenly found himself right in front of the net with the puck:

View: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Uur9x88xvV2-S-pTL1jWYgzD7R5FnebE/view?usp=sharing

Am I a little too over the top here with this call? One thing I perhaps struggle sometimes is that maybe I get too excited about incidents which feel really impactful in the moment but aren't that big of a deal in the context of a season or tournament. In this situation, the Swiss had been fighting manfully against the Russians and hit the post once or twice along the way, and then this happened. On the one hand, it's a huge mistake for Herzog himself and helped deprive Switzerland of maybe a big upset to start the Olympics. On the other hand, it's still the first game of a Group Stage from which every team qualifies for the Knockout Stage in some form or fashion. I'm very happy to be The Thinking Man's Gus Johnson (TM), and to get emotional about a wider range of incidents than other commentators who to me too often sound too blase. But maybe I need to rein it in just a little bit sometimes?
 

tmracht

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Aug 19, 2009
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Not over the top. Sparkling chance in the dying minutes. Upset potential. Pain.
 
Cool - thanks.

According to my mother, apparently I was on Peacock this morning (your time) with my call of Canada-Germany, a comfortable 5-1 win for Canada. I was thinking during the game that I wasn't at my best, particularly in terms of a few verbal slip-ups like going to break by saying "Canadia" instead of Canada or the Canadians, but I listened to almost two periods of my call while doing some work in the hotel lobby - to drown out the Billy Joel playlist blaring in the background, as much as anything else - and man...I really feel like I'm at the point that my worst broadcast now is right up there with some of my best calls from even just a year or two ago. Which is a nice place to be!

I'm calling USA-Czech Republic women's in less than two hours from now - probably the only place for you to find that would be on a stream or by VPNing to another country (Australia? Maybe Canada?) using our feeds. But then I'll be calling the men's Finland-Latvia game at 8 a.m. ET tomorrow morning for you, and there's every chance my call of that might be on NBC in some capacity - online, if nowhere else.
 
NOBODY saw that game coming. During my pregame segment with Sami Jo I mentioned that you could get 60:1 odds on the Czech women to defeat the USA. At the first intermission (0-0), the odds had shortened to 45:1. In the second intermission (1:1), it was 20:1, and I was openly comparing USA vs. CZE women in 2002 to USSR vs. USA men in 1980. In the end, the Czechs only fell behind because their Peslarova (their goalie) lost her stick and had a puck deflect off of the stick of their goalscorer through Peslarova's legs.

Here are extended clips of all four non-empty-net goals in the game - including them to share some of Sami Jo's color commentary, which I thought was rather good throughout. Really pleased with my call of the Czech goal, and also my call of Knight's shot off of the goalpost right before the 3-1 goal - the latter actually gives me strong Doc Emrick vibes:

View: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1CxfMExip3EXqTKxdIsoKi96dS25HaqLw/view?usp=sharing

View: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1QuaPQkOJ1HUJe_MJN_loZqCJDJ6YXWt5/view?usp=sharing

View: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iT79yPmXJB2DSVpb3blcpAJMmlwdWUyQ/view?usp=sharing

I've now transitioned across to NIS and am watching CZE vs. SUI men, ahead of my Finland-Latvia game tonight. Had a quick chat with Tom Kirkland, who has joined our hockey commentary team today - he had DEN v ROC before this one, and I'll be working with him later on during the men's playoff rounds.
 
Did you know that if you have two different worksheets selected in Excel, any changes you make to one sheet will also be made on the other sheet as well?

After the SUI v CZE men's game at NIS, I had dinner with Tom Kirkland, the last member of our commentary team - he's an experienced broadcaster, having worked for CNN (in Atlanta) and Fox and local TV before moving to Madrid and joining the Olympic Channel team which is basically an OBS offshoot. We had a nice chat, and then I got my timings confused somewhat in thinking that my late game was starting at 9:40 instead of 9:10. So I was a bit later than expected in getting to my commentary position...but no problem, I still had plenty of time. So I started to record the Latvian lineup on my Excel sheet, switching cells around and doing various things - and getting unusual error messages at certain points, saying that I could do that to a merged cell when clearly the cell I was working on wasn't merged. OK, so then I started doing the Finnish lineup, on the Finnish sheet which had some weird formatting on it...and eventually I went back to the Latvian sheet, and all the work I'd done had been messed up, and now it was getting seriously close to game time. To make a long story short, I did manage to repair the damage (by going back to the previous version of the file I was working on, reimporting the Latvian roster and starting from scratch) and go to the bathroom and get everything printed and ready for the game with 12 minutes to spare before air time. But I cut that *way* closer than I would have wanted to.

(The game itself was fine, although my mother - in her 70s - watching on NBCOlympics.com reported during the second intermission that it sounded like my mic was too far away from my mouth and the sound seemed to be cutting in and out. I duly passed this feedback on to the control room, and unsurprisingly it was deemed to be a "her" problem, and not an "us" problem. But you can't be too careful about these things!)

USA vs. Canada first up for me today at 11 p.m. ET - no way my call of that will be taken by NBC. But then at 8 a.m. ET tomorrow I'll be calling Denmark vs. Switzerland, and they'll almost certainly be using me, although whether you would want to watch Denmark vs. Switzerland is another matter altogether...
 

Lose Remerswaal

Experiencing Furry Panic
Lifetime Member
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My buddy in Odense watched DEN vs SUI in men and women curling first but is now watching the ice hockey, he isn’t really an ice hockey fan. I expect he has a different broadcast. Big day for SUI vs DEN it seems. SUI won the two curling matches.
 

caminante11

Member
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Nov 17, 2006
2,898
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That was a fun comment. No issues with that. Had a look at Sami Jo's wikipedia page. It doesn't mention that she is an Olympic commentator. Thanks for the highlights.
 

Mugsy's Jock

Eli apologist
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Just want to say I'm so glad you're feeling great about your work. I'm certain it translates to the quality of the product.
 
Just want to say I'm so glad you're feeling great about your work. I'm certain it translates to the quality of the product.
Heh...there's a way to read this post in such a way that you could be saying, "Yeah, I don't really think you're that good, but it's nice you think you're all that."

I do think I'm doing a great job, particularly given the circumstances in which I'm performing. 1-2 games every day for a week-and-a-half now, doing all of my own research (and certainly nobody whispering stats in my ears), mostly working without a commentary partner, even keeping up with all of the live stats myself and narrating highlights packages live in one take without having seen a shot list. I don't think there are more than 5 or 10 people in the world who could do this as well as I'm doing it; I think there are some technical aspects of my commentary that I could definitely improve, but emotionally I'm right there, I think I can be pretty humorous at times, and I don't think there are many better storytellers or educators than me in the business when I'm confident of my content. And I certainly think I've found my hockey voice at this point, even if I had a brief panic when listening to one of my replays on a bus ride somewhere and thought my voice was in a bad and more shrill register than I'd thought all along. (I think there must have been some distortion in those headphones that day, although it was a useful lesson in terms of thinking what I could sound like if I push my voice too far in the wrong direction.)

Anyway, Denmark vs. Switzerland was my favorite start-to-finish call of the Olympics so far, and hopefully I can keep building on that one today. Finland vs. Sweden first (solo), and then China vs. Canada (with Sami Jo); once again, if anyone cares I'm certain NBC will use my call of the latter, especially with the USA playing Germany at the same time. Also, my in-laws in Scotland said they'd heard me on the BBC yesterday, so that's cool - quite possibly on my call if USA vs. Canada?
 

Mugsy's Jock

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Don’t misconstrue… you want to hear confidence from your quarterback, your closer, your heart surgeon and your play-by-play commentator. (Color commentators, whatever…). I’ve only listened to the clips you’ve posted here so far (do hope to find a slot where there’s a Peacock game I can watch), but I swear I can hear it in your calls. And it’s a good thing.
 
Thanks. :)

I certainly don't feel as confident after calling Canada vs. China with Sami Jo tonight. But really, it was an impossible task: I had just called Finland's 4-3 OT win over Sweden (after being 3-0 down after 2) on my own, and then I had to transition to a much worse game, with a partner, and with a Chinese team full of Canadians who I felt obliged to explain were Chinese over and over again. Also, I really am getting tired! But I'll listen to the playback later on, and I suspect it'll sound better than it feels right now, sitting on the floor of a bus back to the IBC.

By the way, for anyone who has watched me on NBC/Peacock etc. - is the audio mix OK? My mother has been watching, and she insists that my levels are too low for me to be heard clearly. (Tonight she said Sami Jo sounded fine but I didn't.) I mean, it's all fine on my end - as you'll hear on the videos I'm posting - but she swears it isn't on her end, and it's starting to drive me crazy.
 
The men's playoff draw is out, and I couldn't be more pissed about my assignments. In the playoff round on Tuesday, I get LAT v DEN and CAN v CHN (again!) instead of GER v SVK and SUI v CZE. And then for my one quarterfinal, I get ROC vs. the winner of LAT/DEN - not USA vs. SVK/GER, or FIN vs. CZE/SUI, or SWE vs. CAN. Grrrrrr.
 
A new record for the most goals in a single hockey game I've ever called, in the first women's semifinal - Canada 10, Switzerland 3. It was a ridiculous game: Canada scored 5 goals in less than four minutes in the first to go up 5-0 (a new record for the fastest 4 and 5 goals in a row in women's Olympic history...and of course, I had the figures immediately to hand), but then the Swiss scored late in the first and early in the second to make it 5-2 before deluge resumed. If the USA somehow wins gold, it might because Ann-Marie Desbiens is not in peak form right now in the Canadian goal.

Meanwhile, we had a bad audio glitch at the start of our commentary. I was going through the intro with Sami Jo as normal, but I soon became conscious that technicians were scrambling to my right, and I was getting all sorts of feedback from the control room in my ear (even when I was speaking). First it was very off-putting, but then they started yanking Sami's headset between the 2nd and 3rd of the three ports on the box that relays our voices to the truck, and as the game started, Sami was unable to speak - so for about two minutes of game time, I was doing a solo commentary again. Apparently, Sami was speaking in such a way that I could be heard, but nobody else could hear her - everything had been fine during the audio test, but suddenly her power just failed. I just turned off the feed from the control room and tried to go about my business as best I could, and everything was fixed and Sami was back on the air before any goals were scored, but that was a bit of an adrenaline kick.

I may have needed that kick, because I was so tired before the game - to the point that in my own audio check before the game, when I was asked to ramp up to a high level and give them a fake goal call, I could clearly sense that I just wasn't there. But once we got on the air, and particularly after that start, I was buzzing and in some of my best form of the tournament. It was so much easier working with Sami Jo on a women's game, where she knows the players (especially the Canadians, of course) and her interjections don't feel at all forced; we have talked about ways she can maybe contribute better when we work together on our final men's game (ROC vs. LAT/DEN), both in terms of content and in that maybe I can take a bit more of the load, and instead of always turning to her and offering her an opening to come in, she'll turn to me and raise her hand when she has something to say. But that's in two days' time; today, it was our best collaboration so far as well.

Here are NBC's highlights of our call - I say "our", but there's only one moment here where you can hear Sami Jo, and that after a (great) save rather than a goal:

https://www.nbcolympics.com/videos/canadas-women-beat-switzerland-return-gold-medal-game
 
One humorous, V&N-related aside: there have been multiple occasions now when I've seen "ROC" and started to say "Republican Olympic Committee" instead of "Russian Olympic Committee" before just stopping myself in time. I wonder why that could be?

Incidentally, I have been sorta wondering if there's actually a very positive reason I've been getting some of the lesser assignments - which is that the bigger networks (NBC, CBC etc.) will be using their own commentators for the most part on the bigger games but taking our OBS calls for the lesser ones, and therefore I'm the guy who can be trusted to deliver for them. Probably reading too much into that, of course! But in listening to my calls over and over as I have been, I've been reminded of the old Al Franken as Stuart Smalley bit from SNL: repeatedly hearing how good I (think I) am is the equivalent of "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!"
 

ernieshore

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Aug 24, 2006
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I just turned on DEN v LAT and said to my wife “hey - this is the guy from the Red Sox message board.”

“Get the hell out of here!,” she replied. :)
 
Exciting news: in the men's tournament, I'm calling both semifinals, and the bronze medal game, and the gold medal game! Of course, Aaron is calling all four of them with me, and I don't know for which ones I'll be play-by-play, but still....

Also: I was asked today if I'd be willing and able to stick around for the Paralympics! Ideally to stay in Beijing straight through, which I really can't do, but I may be able to fly back to Beijing directly from Copenhagen, the day after the CHL Final in Sweden. More on this presently.
 
Follow-up: just got called and was told I'll be doing play-by-play on one semifinal and the bronze medal game, and color on the other semifinal and the gold medal game. Which is...disappointing, although frankly, I'm happy to be involved in every game, and maybe it'll be better for Aaron to get the final this year so I can get the best-on-best final in Milan in 2026. ;)
 

teds_head

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporter
Aug 1, 2006
151
@CP - maybe I missed it upthread, but watching on TV the rink seems to be North American sized, rather than Olympic sized. Is that the case, or is it just the camera angles?
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Jan 23, 2009
17,518
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@CP - maybe I missed it upthread, but watching on TV the rink seems to be North American sized, rather than Olympic sized. Is that the case, or is it just the camera angles?
The NBC commentators during US-China last week were making a big deal about the larger ice surface, so I think it's just the camera angles.
 

Ale Xander

doesn't like to back it in
SoSH Member
Oct 31, 2013
55,393
Just viewed the 6 minute highlight package of the ROC DEN game on Youtube. You and your partner were fantastic, love the enthusiasm. You are much better than John Walton and a little better than Burke too.
Only the tiniest quibble is the Gusev pronunciation; may want to ask Igor.
 
Just viewed the 6 minute highlight package of the ROC DEN game on Youtube. You and your partner were fantastic, love the enthusiasm. You are much better than John Walton and a little better than Burke too.
Only the tiniest quibble is the Gusev pronunciation; may want to ask Igor.
Thanks! Sami Jo is getting better every game - shame that she's only got one more to go (the women's gold medal game today).

Re: Gusev, FWIW I've been going with the audio pronunciation on this page, which sounds to me like GOOSE-yev:

https://www.eliteprospects.com/player/75169/nikita-gusev
 

Ale Xander

doesn't like to back it in
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Oct 31, 2013
55,393
Cool
I heard a Goosh
You may have been correct 99% of the time and it was a one time thing