Canadian fans relieved after close call vs. Swiss

Canadian fans relieved after close call vs. Swiss

Published Feb. 18, 2010 10:59 p.m. ET

At a lively bar a short walk from the Olympic flame, a group of Canadian hockey fans watched the unthinkable.

The most important home team at the Vancouver Games was tied 2-2 with upstart Switzerland, and although Canada wasn't in danger of elimination, this unexpected struggle put everyone on edge.

``I told you these guys were a good team,'' Vancouver resident Paul Airey said to a woman next to him.

Airey was there with his wife and some friends, watching the seconds tick down in overtime. Canada would end up winning in a shootout, something Airey didn't realize existed in the preliminary round. Through it all, he remained calm and philosophical, even after overtime when he thought Canada would have to settle for a 2-2 tie.


``It was a good wake-up call for the Canadians tonight, and the Swiss team played really well,'' he said. ``They're a very good team, and it's time for the Canadians to realize they're playing in the Olympics, and anything can happen in the Olympics.''

The Canadian fans learned that lesson in 2006 when the Swiss actually beat Canada, but now the Olympics are on home ice.

``The Olympic Games to Canadians ... will be a success only if Team Canada gets to the finals,'' Airey said.

When Canada finally prevailed Thursday, the crowd let out a rousing cheer, perhaps more out of relief than anything.

``We were panicked,'' said 37-year-old Kirsty Baker. ``Everyone was shocked.''

Panicked, shocked and a little upset with their team. But above all, Canadian hockey fans are knowledgeable, and there's still a lot of hockey to be played.

Jim and Jacinta McKinnon of Vancouver left quickly after the game - so they could make it to the arena to watch Russia play Slovakia.

``At my age, I watch it now for enjoyment,'' said 64-year-old Jim McKinnon. ``Although it's best for the home team to win.''