hockey and mountains. and good friends :)
23.09.2008 - 24.09.2008 11 °C
Tuesday morning began with profuse sunshine, and upon receiving an invitation from two family friends from SA to join them on Grouse Mountain, I accepted. I had intended climbing up the 'Grouse Grind' - what is apparently a Vancouver right of passage, but instead was kindly heralded up the mountain in a cable-car and treated to lunch to top it all off!
Grouse Mountain is one of the three ski hills in close proximity to the city centre, and is heavily used by city-dwellers during the ski season as all the slopes are floodlit. During the summer season, the ski-lift functions to ferry tourists to the top and hikers back down! The summit itself is quite commercialized, with a number of packaged experiences such as zip-lines, helicopter rides and 2 captive grizzly bears on offer... We found this a bit disappointing, but it is incredible to have such a place so easily accessible. The view towards the south and Mount Baker in Washington State (USA) was particularly spectacular - the icy peak poking up above the line of low (although still incredibly high!) mountains - looming over the Vancouver floodplain.
Last night I headed out to watch a pre-season Ice Hockey (or, if you are Canadian, just "hockey") match between the Vancouver Canucks and the Edmonton Oilers. I found it more interesting as a cultural exercise (especially when comparing it to rugby) as the whole timing system seems really strange... Three 20 minute 'periods' with two 15 minute breaks in between, not to mention all of the shorter 'time outs' that are calling during the periods. And above those - the time-outs for fighting! I was amazed when, mid game, one of the players threw his stick and gloves onto the ice, put his hands in front of his face and started a fight with one of the opposition. What was even more amazing was how the refs simply stood back and waiting for them to finish! Crazy. Our South African commentators would refer to that as 'throwing handbags', and not treat it with much tolerance. Strange...
Equally amazing (and part of my assessment of the whole affair as a cultural reflection) was the obsession with crazy advertising. As far as I was concerned, the myriad of breaks and pauses were merely marketing vehicles for beer and food... At each break, massive illuminated signs would 'advise' "fans" that "beer stations are to the left of each exit!!" Every person coming back to their seat would be holding some beverage or food... I am being very cynical though, and can only imagine that the States is 100 times worse.
Overall, the hockey match was great. The crowd really got behind their team (the Canucks) and 'oohed' and 'aahed' or 'ouched' every time one of their players got the puck or got thrown (or threw himself) into the glass safety barriers around the ice. I would like to know more about it so that I can enjoy it more; who knows, maybe I'll go watch a match when I'm on the east coast!
During my week here I have also been able to catch up with some old friends from Cape Town, which has been really great. There are a couple more people who I'm still to meet on my travels east, which I'm really looking forward to.
The weather today was very rainy and miserable, especially after the wonderful weather yesterday. I was quite shocked when, after spending the day in relatively cool 'autumn' clothes, I walked outside this evening to what felt like mid-winter on a snowfield! I may need to re-assess my wardrobe for the the trip eastwards...