Random notes scribbled onto a soggy napkin from the “Norm stool” at a working-class, Central Orange County watering hole during Sunday's USA-Canada Olympics gold medal hockey game . . .
12:22 p.m.: The first shot is a slapper from Canada's Duncan Keith that Team USA goalie Ryan Miller handles with 52 seconds gone. Miller and Canada's goalie Roberto Luongo seem unbeatable today.
12:24 p.m.: A guy with ink-covered arms sitting to my right and his bro standing beside him holding a cue stick commiserate on their respective Canadian roots. The tattooed love boy has family there, while the other chap has traced his roots to the Great White North. The sleeved one slurs that had he hung out with the Canadian side of his family more, he'd surely have become such a solid hockey player that perhaps he'd be playing in this gold medal game . . . instead of watching it from a barstool.
12:29 p.m.: There's already a whole lot of hitting going on as USA's Zach Parise lays out Team Canada captain Scott Niedermayer. You'd think after all these Olympic games–and now in Niedermayer's fifth season with the Anaheim Ducks–I'd have come up with a different reaction to hearing his name announced than my longtime fallback: in my best John Belushi impression yelling, “Niedermayer DEAD!” Bar patrons look at me like I'm psycho.
12:43 p.m.: Canada's Jonathan Toews scores on a rebound in front of the net. “Blackhawks DEAD!”
12:49 p.m.: Unfulfilled athletic promise seems to be going around the bar, as a fellow sitting very close to a woman in the stool to my left says that he, too, could have been a good hockey player because swinging a stick requires the same motion as swinging a baseball bat (!?!) Since he was a very good baseball player and skater in his youth, he could be up there playing, too. “Do you understand what I'm saying?” he asks the woman, still not impressed. So, Don Juan Gretzky seeks confirmation from the bartender, asking, “Isn't swinging a hockey stick the same as swinging a baseball bat?” Replies the tips-conscious barkeep, “Yeah. . . . Sure.”
12:55 p.m.: After Luongo turns aside Ryan Callahan on a 1-on-1, the first period ends with Canada up, 1-0.
1:03 p.m.: Outside during the first intermission, a young woman shielding her eyes tells the man she is with, “It's like a dark hole in there.”
1:09 p.m.: Team USA wins the faceoff to begin period 2. A sign of good things to come?
1:16 p.m.: Apparently not: Canada goes on a power play.
1:17 p.m.: After Miller is shown close up after making another amazing stop, bro with the cue stick mentions how cool the goalie's helmet is. It shows a bald eagle on one side and Uncle Sam on the other. USA! USA!
1:18 p.m.: Thanks to Miller, the penalty is killed and now Canada's Eric Staal gets tagged for a retaliatory hit, putting the U.S. on the power play. There's hope yet.
1:19 p.m.: The woman in the stool to my left says she does not like the image of Uncle Sam on Miller's helmet because it reminds her of the government taking away her money. Who knew Fox News viewers liked hockey?
1:20 p.m.: Oof-fah! A minute after the power play ends without one stinking shot on goal, Team USA is done in by a couple Anaheim Ducks, as Corey Perry scores with an assist from Ryan Getzlaf. Canada's now up 2-0. Dear God, don't let this get ugly.
1:31 p.m.: Losing by two and coming up empty on another power play, all hope appears lost for Team USA when Ryan Kesler scores on a deflection of a Patrick Kane wrister. And the bar crowd goes wild! Catching the sight of my raised fist with the big screen image in the background, I discover that I, too, have been swept up in the hysteria. Damn the objectivity: USA! USA!
1:42 p.m.: The second period ends. Team USA matched Canada shot for shot, 15-15, but they are still down a goal, 2-1.
1:44 p.m.: As NBC's Al “Do You Believe in Miracles?” Michaels interviews the hockey pundits sitting next to him in the booth, I wonder why he isn't calling the game.
1:56 p.m.: The 3rd period, and final 20 minutes of Olympic hockey, begins.
1:57 p.m.: Don Juan Gretzky is telling the woman sitting to my left that he is 45 and works in construction. She informs him she's a lot older than that.
1:59 p.m.: Canada's Chris Pronger, a former Duck, hits the post with a lob. Miller didn't see it coming. Yikes!
2:04 p.m.: Don Juan Gretzky is thinking that the woman sitting to my left should give him her phone number. Why? asks she. Maybe she needs a friend, he answers. She informs she's set in her ways. But, he presses, she still likes to party, right? Yes, sometimes, she replies.
2:07 p.m.: “They need bigger sticks,” a guy in the back of the bar says of Team USA, which can't seem to break through the Canadian D.
2:09 p.m.: “Do you like having a man in the house?” Don Juan Gretzky asks the woman, who flatly answers, “No, I do not. I am set in my ways. I like living alone.”
2:11 p.m.: Miller makes a pad save on a shot by Team Canada's Dany Heatley.
2:15 p.m.: As Don Juan Gretzky keeps yammering, the woman sitting to my left pulls out her cell phone and leaves a message for someone named Terry suggesting he meet her at the bar. NOW!
2:18 p.m.: Team USA's Brian Rafalski gets into the circle, but Luongo covers up.
2:19 p.m.: Since the woman sitting to my left likes to party sometimes, Don Juan Gretzky continues, she should give him her number. What would he say if he called? asks she. Let's get together for a couple drinks, he says. They are drinking now, she informs.
2:21 p.m.: After an icing, the U.S. gets a face off in Canada's zone and Paul Stastny takes it.
2:20 p.m.: "Well, after a couple drinks . . .” says Don Juan Gretzky, his voice trailing off. "Yes?” demands she. "Well, there could be sex,” he finally informs with 1:22 left in the third period.
2:21 p.m.: "Look, this week I turn 56,” the woman to my left says loud enough for half the bar to hear. "And I like living alone.” So, she no longer has "the sex”? Don Juan Gretzky asks. Yes, she does, but . . . "I'm just not into you,” she finally informs with 1:21 left in the third period.
2:22 p.m.: A dejected Don Juan Gretzky stands and walks away.
2:23 p.m.: Team Canada's Sidney Crosby is stifled on a breakaway by Miller.
2:24 p.m.: The bartender comes over and the woman to my left asks him if the guy who had been sitting next to her has left because he was "creeping me out.” The bartender notes, "You seem to attract them,” then says he must wait until creeps cross a certain line before he can physically toss them. Good to know; he's a big dude.
2:25 p.m.: With just over a minute left and no options left, Team USA pulls Miller out of the net.
2:26 p.m.: Before the bartender and the woman can stop talking about him, Senor Gretzky suddenly reappears, catches the gist of their rag session and stumbles for the exit. Oh yeah, and time out, Team USA.
2:28 p.m.: The woman next to me tells the bartender she was laid off by a national taco chain. When she had her phone interview to collect unemployment, she was told the corporation was claiming she was not fired and therefore not entitled to an unemployment check. Fortunately, the interviewer sided with her. The bartender says corporations "pull that shit all the time.”
2:29 p.m.: Parise rebounds a Kane shot that hit off Team USA captain Jamie Langenbrunner. Luongo comes up empty on a mad reach as the puck dribbles into the net. USA SCORES!!! producing the loudest outburst in the bar, with 24.4 seconds left in the third. A couple walks into the bar exactly two seconds later, asks what they missed and, when told, promptly turns around and leaves.
2:32 p.m.: It's overtime! Everyone in the bar is dumbfounded as to how that will work. Does each team pull the goalies? Is there a shootout? The woman who'd earlier remarked on the blackness of this hole skillfully lays out the NHL overtime rules like she's the commissioner. She obviously knows hockey better than anyone in the place, although she's not exactly sure what the overtime rule is in an Olympics gold medal game.
2:33 p.m.: Everyone turns to the bartender for a ruling. "I don't know anything about sports,” he jokes.
2:40 p.m.: It's discovered somehow that we're in the middle of a full 15-minute intermission, followed by a 20-minute sudden-death period.
2:43 p.m.: The woman sitting next to me tells the bartender she is now taking classes to become a nurse's assistant. She doesn't want to become a nurse, she says, because she can't stand the sight of blood. Explaining that he used to date a nurse, the bartender tells the woman she'll be seeing a lot of blood, piss and crap. No, she insists, she'll only be giving sponge baths. "Imagine having to give a sponge bath to a half-dead, 400-pound guy,” offers the drink pourer. "I'd rather deal with blood than that.”
2:47 p.m.: OT begins.
2:50 p.m.: It appears a pizza delivery man has arrived, but it's not pie in his flat box, it's costume jewelry. He sits down next to the woman to my left and shows her the assorted necklaces, bracelets and rings inside. She really likes a ring with a pink heart.
2:54 p.m.: After Team USA players have whiffed a couple chances to clear the puck and the camera catches them seemingly skating in sand as they come off the ice for a shift change, the guy in the back who'd made the big stick suggestion mentioned how tired they look.
2:55 p.m.: Terry arrives, and when the woman asks him to buy her the ring, he refuses, saying he does not believe in it. "I won't even buy jewelry for my mother,” he says. The woman suggests they go home and have sex (wonder what gave her that idea?). He says they need to wait. Man, it's like All My Children in here.
2:58 p.m.: Crosby scores off an assist from Jarmoe Iginla–and the entire country of Canada makes a collective sigh, then prepares to party. Meanwhile, the party's over in the bar.
3 p.m.: Turns out Terry is also unemployed–but like others here in the same leaky boat, he can afford a drink. Go figure. Oh, and he's about to leave on vacation.
3:01 p.m.: Driving home, dejected, a sports talk announcer on the radio lifts my spirits. "Imagine, if Canada lost, they would be dwelling on it for the next four years. But the USA team loses, and we forget the next day. Now we're thinking about Lakers basketball.” And how did the Lakers do Sunday? They beat their Western Conference foes, the Denver Nuggets. USA! USA!