Friday, February 26, 2010

Mixed Emotions

The U.S. Olympic hockey team plays its semifinal game this afternoon against Finland, and I have to admit my rooting interest is a little divided.

Of course, as a USA-born former hockey player, I should be cheering for the red, white and blue, and I mostly will be. But through the entire game, there's going to be this little voice in my head, reminding me that someone pretty special is on the other team.

And it's going to be all but impossible for me to root against Mikko Koivu. He is the captain of the Wild, our best player, our leader and he brings his high-level work ethic every night. I love watching him play because I know that his main focus in life is bringing the Stanley Cup to St. Paul, which would be one of those now-I-can-die-in-peace moments for me.

And rooting for the USA today means rooting against Mikko, and I'm not at all sure I can do that.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Everything you need to know about Canadian health care

For more than 20 years, I've been hearing about the alleged wonders of Canada's government-run health care system. Advocates tell you how wonderful it is that the government pays for everything and no one is uninsured and care is readily available.

Of course, they never tell you about the long wait times for basic care, the disparities in availability across the country and all the other problems associated with the system, including a shortage of diagnostic equipment and the lack of medical research. You're not going to read too many news stories that begins "Canadian medical researchers discovered...."

But you don't have to believe a cyncial American. Look instead to the example set by the Premier of Newfoundland, one Danny Williams. A year or so ago, Mr. Williams was diagnosed with a leaky heart valve, and was told that it should be monitored, and perhaps surgically repaired "down the road."

Around Christmas, his condition was considered more severe, and surgery was recommended. So what did the head of this Canadian province do? He packed up and headed for Florida to have the surgery performed.

As you can read in this story, Williams told a Newfoundland TV station that the surgery wasn't available in Canada, although that is disputed by a number of Canadian surgeons. But regardless of the facts, Williams says the decision boils down to "It's my health, it's my choice."

The choice, of course, is only available if you have the means to travel to another country and pay for surgery. If you are one of the millions of Canadians without such means, you have no choice. You're sentenced to a bureaucrat-run system that gives you no choices or options and - in this case - would have required a waiting period of several weeks before the surgery was available.

Just a little story to remember next time you hear how wonderful the Canadian system is. Apparently it's good, just not good enough for the people who run it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

30 Years Ago Today...

NBC and Al Michaels did a terrific job yesterday with their look back at the 1980 Miracle on Ice game, when the young American hockey team beat the Soviets at the Lake Placid Olympics. I can hardly ever see a reference to that game without choking up, and the segment yesterday moved me to tears several times. (Just like the movie Miracle does every time. I'm just a little girl when I watch that.)

Most Americans have a couple of incorrect memories about the game. First, they think they saw it live on ABC Friday night. In fact, that was a tape-delay broadcast of a game that started about 4 p.m., Central time. ABC begged the International Olympic Committee to move the game to prime time, but the IOC refused.

The game was broadcast live, however, in Canada. Stan Hubbard, owner of KSTP-TV in Minneapolis and a huge hockey booster, arranged for KSTP radio to take the audio feed from the Canadian broadcast.

My close friend and teammate, Keith Jacobson, and I had season tickets for Gopher hockey, and we would usually meet Friday afternoons at the Varsity Bar and Cafe on University Ave. We'd have a couple beers, grab something to eat and then walk down to old Mariucci Arena for the Gopher game.

That afternoon we got there at 4:00 and the good folks at the Varsity had piped the KSTP radio feed into their PA system. So we sat there with a pitcher of beer, listening to the scratchy audio of the game as it was played in Lake Placid. By 6:30 it was over, the Americans had won, and we went down to Mariucci, where most of the crowd knew about it, and was buzzing.

The Gophers were playing UMD that night, which was always a special matchup for Keith and me. We had both gone to UMD for two years, then transferred to the U, so we had spent time watching former Bulldogs Mark Pavelich and John Harrington, who were on the Olympic team, and were classmates with all of the Gophers on the team as well. And while beating the Russians was certainly a national victory, that night in Mariucci it felt very much like a Minnesota victory.

So, while we were watching the Gophers-Bulldogs game, most of America was watching the taped broadcast of the game, which is why most people think it happened Friday night.

The other common incorrect memory most people have is in thinking the game was for the gold medal. It wasn't, and the U.S. still had to play Finland Sunday. If they lost that game, they faced the possibility of not medaling at all, let alone winning gold. Of course, they came through, won the gold and the rest is history.

But even 30 years later, it's hard to properly explain what that moment meant to a kid who grew up playing hockey in Minnesota. We were always made to feel inferior by the Canadians, and the Canadians were considered inferior by the Russians, so we knew we were a ways down the hockey totem pole.

But suddenly that wasn't true. It turns out that you could take a bunch of Minnesota kids, throw in a few Easterners, put them under the direction of Herb Brooks - the ultimate Minnesota "rink rat" - and you could beat the best team in the world.

On one level, it was just a sporting event, and I suppose you really can't compare it to life events like marriage, the birth of your children, etc.

But I still don't have any problem saying that it was one of the most significant moments of my life, and 30 years later I can still get a lump in my throat just thinking about it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

If you like great hockey...

I know that sitting up late watching hockey is not for everyone, but these games from the Olympic tournament are fantastic. The past two nights Slovakia - which has Marian Gaborik, Pavol Demitra, Marian Hossa and Zdeno Chara, among others - has been involved in two great games, both of which started after 11 p.m., Central time.

Wednesday night they lost 3-1 to the Czechs, then rebounded last night to beat tournament favorite Russia 2-1 in a seven-round shootout. Amazing hockey game, even if it left me going to bed around 2 a.m.

Some people complain that the long grind of an 82-game NHL season leads to dull, boring hockey. I don't necessarily agree with that, but if you feel that way, you should be watching the Olympics to see hockey at its very best, played with speed and passion and excitement.

Case in point: Gaborik, whom I love watching (see posts from last April), normally takes the night off if he has almost any kind of injury or soreness. But the last two nights he's been out on the ice, playing with 21 stitches just above his knee because it's that important to him to play for his country.

Sunday is the end of the preliminary round, a day they are calling "Rivalry Sunday." The U.S. will face Canada, the Russians play the Czechs (with a rejuvenated Jaromir Jagr), and we also have the Scandinavian Super Bowl as the Finns (with three members of the Wild) take on the defending gold medalists from Sweden. It will be a great day of hockey, and THEN we get to the elimination rounds for the medals.

And for those of you who aren't hockey fans, tune in for some of Sunday's action, and you may begin to understand why some of us love this game.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A little hockey flashback

I'm sitting here late on Wednesday night, watching the Czech Republic take on Slovakia in hockey. Tons of talent in this game...the Hossa brothers, Gaborik (playing hurt for a change), Jagr, Demitra, Havlat and Zidlicky from the Wild, Vokoun, Elias, Kuba...lots of fun players.

Flash back a couple of years. The Wild - with Gaborik and Demitra - are facing Atlanta, with Marian Hossa. It's early in the day and the teams are going through morning skates. In the hallway between the locker rooms, the three Slovaks are chatting away in their native tongue.

Wild coach Jacques Lemaire walks by, sees the three of them and says, "They must be discussing backchecking."

If that doesn't strike you as funny, you aren't watching enough hockey.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Warning: Cute baby photo ahead

We know his sister is the smartest little girl in the universe, and now we have photographic evidence that grandson Sam - a.k.a "The Slammer" - could be the cutest little boy in the universe. At 5-1/2 months, he posed in the high chair at lunchtime today.

The D.C. Blizzard

Here's my favorite photo from the blizzard that hit Washington, D.C. and much of the East Coast today. This is taken just a block or so from the Capitol.

In my Washington years, I was always amazed at how just 3-4 inches of snow could shut down the city, and there's really no doubt that they are weather weenies out there.

But what they've had the last week would crush almost any city. First they got 20+ inches of snow, and before that could even be adequately cleared, they got another 10 inches or so, accompanied by high winds that blew everything into drifts.

Generally D.C. snow is no big deal because the temps go back to 50 in a couple days and it all melts. That won't happen with this snow, and for all my friends back there, I wish I could send you my snowblower. Good luck.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Best Super Bowl Ad

The folks at Audi did us a favor here by giving us a glimpse of the future. The "Thought Police" are already here, chipping away at freedom throgh campus "speech codes" and other forms of political correctness. Here's what it's going to look like when the enviro-nazis get their way. Enjoy.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Happy Birthday, Gipper!

The greatest president of the 20th century was born 99 years ago today. Among the many differences between him and the current Oval Office occupant, Ronald Reagan would have understood the need to preserve Western civilization by winning the war on terror.

For a story about how Reagan was not just a great man, but a good man, click here.

I still miss him. God bless, Gipper.

How dumb is this guy? (Part 5)

I don't mean to sound like a broken record here, but, REALLY? This guy is considered smart? He got into Harvard? Holy affirmative action, Batman.

Here he is at Thursday's National Prayer Breakfast, reading (again) from his teleprompter. He comes across the word "corpsman," which is pronounced core-man (as anyone who ever watched a war movie knows). Instead, boy genius pronounces it "corpse-man." And just to prove that (in his mind) it wasn't a mistake, he does it again a few seconds later.

If it's final Jeopardy and the players are this guy and Dan Quayle, my money's on Quayle every time.

Imagine that: The commander-in-chief of the mightiest army in the world doesn't know what a corpsman is, or even how to pronounce it, even though there are corpsmen stationed in the White House itself. Yeah, that helps me sleep better.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Really? This guy is smart? (Part 4)

I know it seems like we just touched on this subject a few days ago (see January 19 post, and previous entries mentioned there) but I can't get over the increasing evidence that this president just isn't very bright.

Last year he managed to anger a large chunk of the Nevada electorate when he told a bunch of businesses that had taken federal bailout money that "You can't go take that trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on taxpayers' dime." The engine of the Nevada economy is tourism, and when the President of the United States starts telling people not to go to Las Vegas....well, let's just say that in a city with one of the nation's highest unemployment rates, Obama won't be the grand marshall of any upcoming parades.

But surely he learned a lesson, right? When the Mayor of Las Vegas, the Senate Majority leader and the Governor of Nevada are all angry at you, you wouldn't be stupid enough to make the same mistake twice, would you?

Well, our guy would. Yesterday in New Hampshire, he decided to lecture a group of town hall meeting attendees about their personal spending habits. "When times are tough, you tighten your belts...You don't blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you're trying to save for college."

The quick response came from the President's own party. Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leaders from Nevada said, "The President needs to lay off Las Vegas and stop making it the poster child for where people shouldn't be spending their money."

Perhaps someone should sit the President down with a map and a crayon, circle the state of Nevada and explain to him that Reid - who has spent a year as the President's personal toady on Capitol Hill - is in an uphill battle for re-election, and that Nevada is a swing state that has gone Republican in eight of the last 11 presidential elections.

Or maybe they don't need to. The voters of Nevada will probably start explaining all of this to the president in about nine months.