Sunday, February 28, 2010

All the Marbles

To quote a line from the movie "The Princess Bride": "So now it's down to you, and now it's down to me." Team USA and Team CANADA go for the Gold in Vancouver, with the winner taking more than bragging rights. For Team Canada, it's the culmination of a quest to reclaim the crown of supremacy in a game created on its icy ponds and lakes. Canada won its first gold in 50 years back in 2002. In the 2006 Olympics, the team finished in a dismal 7th place. So... there's a lot of redemption on the line here for the guys in red and white, and on "home" ice, too.

Team USA faces similar pressure. The last time Americans sported the gold, the year was 1980 and the team had pulled off a "Miracle" upset of a powerhouse Soviet team. In fact, the anniversary of that game just happened to fall this past week (February 24), adding pressure to a team already feeling the weight of history on its back. One week ago today, USA beat Canada for the first time in 50 years, since the 1960 Winter Games, the only other time Americans won hockey gold. And even though it was a preliminary game, it didn't lessen the sweetness of a 5-3 victory for Team USA fans. The fact that the team took the ice wearing replica jerseys (sweaters) from 1960 seemed fitting.

Team USA powered through Switzerland and Finland to reach this day. Canada battled past Germany, Russia and Slovakia. The arena will be jam-packed with patriotic Canadians. Canada goalie Roberto Luongo will man the net in a rink he already knows like the back of his hand. But Ryan Miller has been outstanding in net for Team USA, shutting down all comers. And his teammates have pretty much made themselves at home over the past two weeks, dominating nearly every opponent they faced.

So... it now comes down to Canada... and it now comes down to USA. Millions will tune in at 3pm Eastern/Noon Pacific to see who skates away with all the marbles.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

New Blog posts from Vancouver by Olympics (and T-Birds) off-ice official Ed Petrullo

Game-used Pucks bound for Ebay (Photo: Ed Petrullo)

Ed Petrullo, one of four off-ice officials taking a break from Seattle Thunderbirds/WHL games to work men's and women's Olympic hockey games up in Vancouver, updated his blog from the Winter Games. I've posted it over at the KING 5 site. You can catch the latest, including who's been selected to work medal games, by clicking here.

T-Birds: Hockey Challenge features former M's Catcher Dan Wilson, actors and local media celebs

Photo Courtesy: RMHC

One of the Seattle Mariners’ best-loved players will show off another side of his athletic prowess this weekend at ShoWare Center in Kent. Former catcher Dan Wilson will lace up the skates and hit the ice as part of the 12th Annual Hockey Challenge, benefitting the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Western Washington and Alaska.  

Wilson, who played 12 years for the M’s, also played goalie for the hockey team at Barrington High School in suburban Chicago, Illinois. He’ll join a host of celebrities for this year’s Challenge, including actors Michael Rosenbaum (“Smallville”), Jason Thompson (“General Hospital”); 2006 US Olympic hockey bronze medalist Kelly (Stephens) Tysland; media personalities Bill Wixey (Q13 Fox News); Ian Furness (KJR 950AM & play by play announcer for WHL games on FSNW) and former T-Birds Jamie Huscroft, Al Kinisky, Regan Mueller, Blake Knox, Lloyd Shaw, Pat Smith, Danny Lorenz and Ryan Gibbons.  A few “surprise” celebrities and former hockey pros may also make an appearance.

KING 5 Sports Anchor Paul Silvi has been recruited to coach one of the All Star teams. Ian Furness will coach the other team.

But the big heroes of the annual Hockey Challenge are the men and women at Microsoft and who recruit players, form teams and raise money for the Ronald McDonald House Charities.  In the 12 years since the Challenge began as an internal charity game between Microsoft’s US and Canadian divisions, the event has raised nearly  $4 Million dollars for the RMHC and drawn such celebrities as Kiefer Sutherland (“24”), D.B. Sweeney (“Criminal Minds”, “Cutting Edge”), Chad Lowe, Tom Arnold, Paul Guilfoyle (“CSI”); and NHL greats Pat LaFontaine, Bob Sweeney, Bruce Courtnall and the Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky.

John Barr, who works in Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Division, got involved with the Challenge six years ago as a player. Last year, he formed one team for the event. This year, he’s recruited enough players for three teams and raised at least $40,000 in the process. Barr says he became interested in the Hockey Challenge while working for a Microsoft vendor in Reno, Nevada, nearly a decade ago.

“I saw Brian Valentine (former Microsoft Senior Vice President, now with and a longtime Hockey Challenge participant) speak about the Challenge some seven or eight years ago. It inspired me to want to play for that team. When I transferred to Corporate (in Seattle), I found a way to get involved with and participate on the Windows team,” Barr remembered.

Since joining his first Windows team six years ago, Barr has increased his participation and fundraising for the Challenge. He says it wasn’t difficult to put together three teams for this year’s event, as there are hundreds of people at Microsoft who play hockey. This weekend, he’ll play on his “E and D” team against the “Microsoft Mystery Team” (a team he put together with players from various Divisions within the company). Those two will face off at 1:30pm on Saturday. A third team he compiled will play earlier, at 11:35am against a team from Barr is most excited about this third team, called the “Spartans,” which is made up of people playing in their first Hockey Challenge.

“Six years ago, when I first participated, it was really cool,” Barr said. “My hope is that I create the same kind of excitement for these people. Not everyone will enjoy it as much as I did, but I just hope that people enjoy it and have a good time and want to do it next year.”

Barr is showing his appreciation the biggest fundraisers on his team by offering them the chance to play on one of the Celebrity All Star teams that face off following the Seattle Thunderbirds/Portland Winterhawks game Saturday night.

The Ronald McDonald House Charities thrive on the enthusiasm and philanthropy exhibited by the participants and donors to events like the Hockey Challenge. More than 80% of their operating costs come from communities and corporations. Just last year alone, the RMHC in Seattle housed more than 700 families with seriously ill children undergoing various medical treatments at nearby Seattle Children’s Hospital. Breaking it down, that’s more than 28,000 nights of housing and services to those families. In addition to the home-like atmosphere, families have use of a communal pantry and can utilize services like daily visits from pet therapy dogs and a program where volunteers come in and cook meals for families that may be a bit too focused on their children’s needs to focus on their own needs.

Vanessa Kirk Briley, RMHC’s Co-Director of Development says all these services are crucial to families, some of whom left homes far away to be with their children. But perhaps the biggest benefit for these families, is meeting others who are facing similar challenges.

She says, “There’s a support system among the families themselves that, even though the staff is here, is something we can’t participate in because they’re going through a unique situation and bond with each other.”

One big highlight of Hockey Challenge weekend for the children, she says, is a visit by members of the Seattle Thunderbirds hockey team.  Players join the kids in their giant playroom and get down to the business of fun, playing everything from foosball to tag, making necklaces or letting kids paint their faces or decorate them with stickers.  Some players, like Greg Scott from last year’s T-Birds team, act as “reporters” and file video dispatches. Here's one of those video dispatches (just click on the title):  2008 Foosball

One of the most visible Hockey Challenge participants recently underwent his own battle with serious illness. Bill Wixey, 10pm News Anchor for Q13 Fox News, has played in the Challenge for 10 of its 12 years.  He says he’s had a great time lining up alongside such stars as Kiefer Sutherland (“24”), NHL great Pat LaFontaine and fellow news anchor, KING 5’s Brad Goode. Bill has always supported the work that RMHC does and has visited the House in Seattle many times. His own cancer fight gives him another perspective.

“I am now much more sympathetic and understand exactly what these brave kids are facing,” Bill said. “Since going public with my fight, I have become a bit of a sounding board for folks who are either dealing with cancer personally know someone who is battling it, or folks who fear they may have cancer.”

Bill took his cancer fight very public; sharing sometimes very painful treatment on the air with his viewers. He also started a blog and posted updates on Facebook and Twitter, which drew thousands of followers, including those who were undergoing their own battles or had successfully beaten cancer. Bill welcomed them all. “I consider it an honor that folks approach me and discuss sensitive health issues with me.”

Bill grew up playing hockey in and around Western Washington and still plays in a lunch league on the Eastside. At last year’s Challenge, he scored the winning goal to give his team the shootout victory. But that’s not all he enjoys about playing in the yearly event.

Bill: “The Challenge, to me, is always a thrill. It's a day where I get to feel like a sort of celebrity, even though I'm really not. I get to hang out with bonafide stars and ask them why they never look to the slot when I am wide open. That's pretty cool.”

This year’s Hockey Challenge gets under way at ShoWare Center on Saturday morning at 9:40am, when the Windows women’s team takes on the Exchange women’s team. Here’s the rest of the schedule:

Hockey Challenge 2010 Schedule
Game 1 - Windows Women vs. Exchange Women, 9:40 a.m.
Game 2 - Microsoft Spartans vs., 11:35 a.m.
Game 3 - Entertainment & Devices vs. Microsoft Mystery Team, 1:30 p.m.
Game 4 - Windows Live vs. MS IT, 3:25 p.m.
Celebrity Autograph Session - 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on west concourse of ShoWare Center
Game 5 - Seattle Thunderbirds vs. Portland Winterhawks, 6:05 p.m.
Game 6 - Celebrity All-Star, immediately following T-Birds/Winterhawks game

A ticket to the T-Birds/Winterhawks game will gain you entry to all the Hockey Challenge events, including the Celebrity Autograph Session and the All Star game. For more information or to buy tickets, go to the T-Birds website. Just click here.

To learn more about the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Western Washington and Alaska, including the many ways they help families and how to volunteer your services, time or donate money, just click here.

Video: KING 5 story with 4 local off-ice officials in Vancouver

KING 5's Chris Daniels caught up with four of our friends who are up in Vancouver, working men's and women's Olympic hockey games. You may recognize Betty, Ed, Lew and Jay from T-Birds/WHL games at ShoWare Center in Kent. They told Chris they're having the time of their lives-- and ONE OF THEM gets to off-ice officiate the men's Gold Medal Game!

Click here to see the story and find out who drew the lucky assignment!
Good luck, Guys!!!!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Reliving "The Miracle"... again

I'm reposting a blog I posted last year-- about reliving that amazing Miracle on Ice game of 1980-- and remembering what the game meant to my father, a career-Army man who really isn't a hockey fan. to commemorate the 30th anniversary of that game, here's a link to the original blog:

Reliving the Miracle... through Dad's eyes

Would love to read your memories of the Game, as well.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Olympics: USA stuns Canada 5-3

Kesler & Parise celebrate empty net goal (Photo: AP)

Team USA wore historic jerseys on the ice tonight- throwbacks to the 1960 team that won gold at the Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley. It was also the last time the US beat Canada in an Olympic game. Perhaps it was fitting, then, that they took the ice dressed to remind everyone of that victory 50 years ago.  Tonight's game had Team USA fans saying, "What took you so long!"

To read my wrap up on the KING 5 site, just click here.

Mitch Love - Blog #7 Posted

I recently posted Mitch Love's 7th blog of the season. In this missive, he reminisces about former teammate Ian White, who is doing well in the NHL. Click here to read it. Mitch and the Peoria Rivermen (AHL) are trying to regain their footing following a string of losses. You can follow Mitch and the Rivermen at Peoria's website. Click here for a link.

Mitch and some teammates took time out of their schedule to attend funeral services for a 17 year old special needs student who collapsed at a Rivermen game and died later at a hospital. According to the Peoria Journal Star, Tyler Dawson was a huge Rivermen fan and was buried wearing a team jersey. The team also observed a moment of silence in Tyler's memory before Friday night's game.

Also of interest, Dave Eminian of the Peoria Journal Star, wrote a piece about 5 former Rivermen who are competing in the Winter Games. Click here to read more.

From the WHL to the Olympics: 4 local off-ice officials live a dream in Vancouver

From left: Lew Sellers, Betty Petrullo, Ed Petrullo, Jay Carbon (photo: Ed Petrullo)

Four off-ice officials who work all the Seattle Thunderbirds home games are living a dream in Vancouver right now. Jay Carbon, Betty Petrullo, Ed Petrullo and Lew Sellers were selected to work as off-ice officials for men's and women's Olympic hockey games.  Ed is blogging for KING 5.
Click here to read what he's written so far.

Betty is blogging for the students in the Shoreline School District, where she works.
Click here to read her blog.

Lew is blogging for the Kent Valley Hockey Association.
Click here to read his blog.

Brief wrap up: USA v. Norway, Canada v. Switzerland, Russia v. Slovakia

Posted a brief wrap up of Friday's men's hockey excitement at the Vancouver Olympics, where the US beat Norway 6-1 but did not look amazing doing it; where Canada needed a shootout to beat Switzerland 3-2; and where Slovakia stunned Russia in a shootout 2-1.
Click here to read the wrap up-- and also be linked to some awesome coverage from the Games themselves.

My Favorite Olypmics Commercial

Hands down, it's this tribute to moms of Olympians, very deftly produced by P&G.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Friday, February 5, 2010

A weekend of games: Silvertips, T-Birds, Totems and more!

Hockey fans in the Western Washington area have a number of games to choose from this weekend, to get that fix. If you’ve made a resolution to experience a hockey game for the first time, you’re in luck too. You can start out by catching the Seattle Thunderbirds face off against a strong Portland Winterhawks team in Portland. The Western Hockey League (WHL) will air this game LIVE on FoxSports NW at 7:30 tonight. Like what you see? Then head to ShoWare Center in Kent tomorrow night to see the two teams in action (in Game 2 of a “Home and Home” series). The puck drops at 7:05. You can find more information about the T-Birds and buy tickets by visiting their website. Just click here. You can also listen to all T-Birds games on the radio- at 104.9 FM Funky Monkey.

Head up I-5 to Everett tomorrow night to catch the red-hot Everett Silvertips in action against the Spokane Chiefs. The ‘Tips will be looking for revenge against the team that snapped their 14-game winning streak on Wednesday night in Spokane. Tomorrow’s game is also Firefighter Appreciation and Public Safety Night, so get there early to enjoy any pre-game activities at Comcast Arena. Find more information about the ‘Tips and buy tickets. Here’s the link to their website. You can listen to every Silvertips game on the radio- at NorthSound 1380 AM – KRKO.

The Seattle Junior Totems are dominating the Northern Pacific Junior Hockey League (NORPAC). They face off against the Rogue Valley Wranglers tonight and tomorrow night at Olympic View Ice Arena in Mountlake Terrace. There is absolutely no love lost between these two teams and what’s more, a ticket to see the action up close is just $5. For more information, click here to be linked to the Junior Totems website. 

If you feel like catching some hockey, Canadian-style, take in an Abbotsford Heat game. The Heat are the AHL affiliate of the NHL Calgary Flames and play at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre. Tomorrow night, they take on the Chicago Wolves (the Atlanta Thrashers’ AHL affiliate). The puck drops at 7:30pm. Click here for schedule, roster and ticket information. (Note: Former Everett Silvertips players Riley Armstrong and Leland Irving play for Abbotsford. Former NHL great Chris Chelios is in the Wolves’ lineup.) Check the Heat’s website for suggestions on how to watch or listen online.

The Victoria Salmon Kings feature up and coming players within the Vancouver Canucks’ organization (representing the ECHL). Tonight and tomorrow night, they drop the puck against the Utah Grizzlies, who are affiliated with the New York Islanders and the Calgary Heat. Both games start at 7:05 at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Center. For more information, click here. One fun way to take in the Victoria experience is to take the Victoria Clipper, have high tea at the Empress Hotel, take in the beautiful Butchart Gardens then cap off the day by cheering on the Salmon Kings. 

In addition to junior and minor league, there’s plenty of hockey featuring a great number of talented youngsters across Western Washington. Contact your local ice arena for more information.