Sochi Diary

Follow Hayley throughout her entire Sochi experience! Follow Hayley on Twitter and Facebook as she posts about her experience in Sochi! Also, make sure to check out the Sochi Videos section to hear more from Hayley as she prepared to leave. 

We wanted to give all of you a window into life in Sochi over the next few weeks. If you are a fan of Hayley, you also have probably met/bumped into/talked to/heard of Ceilidh: Hayley’s personal life organizer/publicist/PR extraordinaire! Ceilidh wouldn't be anywhere else but in Sochi supporting Hayley and hanging out with the Wick family. Here are some of her stories from the last few days (as we get more stories, we'll post the most recent first) ...

Gold medal day: I am not often speechless, but today, the day after the big day I am - both figuratively and literally.

I guess I will begin the morning of that day. We were suffering from a case of anxious anticipation. Some had nerves, other were just excited. It felt like torture that the game didn't start until 9 p.m. local time. Some filled the day packing to keep busy. Tanya, Trevor and I decided to search out poster paper and markers in Sochi so we could show our girls support from the stands - oh and eat some more of that insanely good Georgian region bread we had discovered before. Apparently we were all preparing to have that bread one last time, as each of us brought some and we ended up in a heavenly bread overload. Anyhow, we made our signs and the energy was getting electric among our group. Watching Noah make, "Go mom Go" almost brought me to tears.
While we are preparing our signs, we get news that Hayley has been elected as one of the two global candidates to the International Olympic Committee where she will represent and advocate on behalf of athletes. Such GREAT news! Her and I worked hard on those election documents and I feel a great sense of pride as I know what a great ambassador she will be.
Time to finally head to the Park for a couple of VIP events, dinner and the game. Tanya and I were so nervous about getting our signs into the Park. They are extremely strict about signs - size, content etc. We were right to be a bit nervous. Upon arrival at the security gates, there is a commotion because they can't completely understand our English signs, and they are going to take them away. We work very hard to explain that they are not propaganda of any kind and a few bats of the eyelashes and sad, sad faces, they finally agree to let us through! Hopefully that good fortune is a sign of things to come.
We head to COH where we meet some VIPs from Canadian Tire, including the president. They are exactly, in those moments, what you would hope they would be based on their brand. Kind, grassroots kind of guys. After a few more speeches, we head downstairs to wait for game time. We share dinner with Elvis Stojko, who shares some lovely stories and how he and his wife, who have a passion for animals, are working with officials here in the "stray dog" issue. Genuine and kind souls they are. The Hockey Canada families also present Meghan Hunter, our Friends and Family coordinator, with a gift for her tireless work.
It is finally time to head to Bolshoy arena. We arrive, as we always do, quite early. Mr. Tom (my nickname for H's dad because that is what Caeden my son calls him) likes to be there for warm up. While we are in line, CBC who is looking for fans to interview, stumbles upon us. Tom, Marilyn, Noah and Syl do great interviews. Finally, the gates open and we are in. Our tickets are amazing—perfectly high enough to see over the glass and in a semi-private area. We are sitting in front of the Spooner brothers and behind some NHL families and next to Doug and Lois Mitchell, who are Calgarians who are dedicated to amateur sport like almost no other.
Pre-warm up, Noah waits at the tunnel and high fives all the women. The girls are in beast mode, the energy is palpable. Saw everything from smiles to scowls. Biggest smile from Goyette.
Later in the pre-game, the Japanese Women's hockey team is on the jumbotron. They're ALL waving enthusiastically wearing the Canada mittens I bought them earlier this week. One of my private favourite Olympic moments.
Okay, now I won't recount the entire game, because I know you all watched it, but I can tell you our area's energy went from nervous excitement, to calm, to tension and stress. We are so wound up after that second Canada goal, almost no one sits down again for almost the remainder of the game. I am yelling (at the top of my lungs) whatever I am feeling. The poor folks in front of me. I lean down during one commercial intermission to apologize for my behavior - not only am I shouting, but I don't know the game well enough to be suggesting plays from 20 rows back. Lol! They smile knowingly and tell me to keep shouting. Passion is what this game is about. I later learned it was Matt Duchene and his family. As well as Jonathan Toews. See, I told you guys I wouldn't know them in street clothes. Haha.

The rest of the game is history.
The cheers, the tears, the shared experience was amazing. I truly can't put it into words. To come from behind like that is a sign of true Canadian grit and spirit. It was beautiful and awe inspiring.
Watching those girls accept their medals is pure bliss. Hayley turns around and gives us thumbs up and blows kisses. Noah heads down to ice level to be at her side. It is all so emotional, there are many tears.
The friends and family are led away from the arena to the private party - and a PARTY it was!! When the girls arrive the joy and pride is a feeling I can't describe. We all dance, hold medals and imbibe in both the spirit and the spirits until well into the wee, wee hours of the morning. It feels like a dream. Perfect - just perfect!
Remember my last blog when I said moments, split seconds made the difference between missing the podium and standing atop it? Turns out, not only is that true, but we can add, mere inches and millimeters. 

Day 15 morning:  here are a few pics of us getting ready for the game...nerves are in full force! Today's the day! Go Canada!
Now, I am going to go off on a bit of a story here. Today we met a Fort McMurray family who has been to every Olympics since Sydney. I have fallen a bit for this amazing family. In 1998 Cliff and Ronda were watching a gold medal run and were yelling and screaming at the TV and thought to themselves, "if it is this fun in our living room, imagine how much fun we would have there." The rest is history and their two girls now 10 and 12 join them on their travels. They wear a jersey with patches from every games. Ronda tells me that they live in a place where people have big trucks, multiple skidoos, boats etc., and this is how they choose to spend their money. They have no personal tie to an athlete, they are just lovely people in love with all that the Olympics represent. They are true ambassadors for our country and I feel so proud to have met them!
Ronda tells us a beautiful story about a young boy from Fort Mac who had Olympic hopes and raced with the local ski team. During a class trip to the hill he collapsed and died of an undiagnosed congenital heart defect. This young boy's mother has sent them with a blown glass star in the colors of the Russian flag to leave behind here. Ronda thinks she will give it to our hotel host, who has become like family to those if us who have been here for a while. As she tells this beautiful story we all cry a little, but when Holly, this boy Will's friend, shows me a picture of him, my breath is taken away. He looks a lot like my boy. It is a reminder to not take a moment for granted.
At the Olympics, moments, seconds, split seconds are the difference between the gold and missing the podium all together. Life, it seems, is the same.

Day 14: I am combining a couple of days here as I suspect that I will be far too tired tomorrow morning after the game to be posting. I have heard rumors about post-game celebrations, so I am bracing myself GO CANADA!!!! 
On the bus ride yesterday we came upon a group of Dutch men who, when they learned we are Canadian immediately broke into our national anthem. It almost brought tears to our eyes as we joined in. We later learned they are a brass brand that has been invited by speed skating organizations to every Olympics since 2000. So cool.
We were headed to the park for our semi-final women's curling games. It was Sweden vs. Switzerland and Canada vs. Great Britain. Several nights before, we had actually met the coach for the Swiss women at COH. He was an Olympic curler in the 1970s and now coaches the Swiss team. He tells us that they have always found him to be quite stern (he takes this game very seriously). They love him, but told him they wanted him to sit back until they asked him for advice during the game. Lol. So, when they call him down to help with a tricky end, I can't help but smile and giggle a little bit knowing how proud he was to be called upon in the moment.
I have never been much into curling, but have always thought it would be a fun game. Turns out that they start the matches with a bagpipe procession. Well, now I really could get into this sport. I get some curling 101 as the game goes by Tanya Morgan, Marilyn Wickenheiser, Carla MacLeod and Sandra Beckman.
Trev, Tanya and I decide to finally brave the line at the Bosco Store - the official Olympic superstore on the grounds. Let's just say I didn't do much for international relations in the line. Lol. My patience for the Russian way of lining up had apparently hit its max. There was no way anyone was getting by me. I don't care if your friend is miles up! I wait an hour! Now you wait an hour!I Practiced my first "Niet" which is "no" is Russian. I literally created a physical blockade and pushed back when pushed. I am, however Canadian so I did follow it up with "izvenite" which is "sorry."
It is our last night at the Park before the big gold medal game tomorrow, so we are really working to get stuff done. Could be the butterflies about the game tomorrow morning.
On the way home the bus is about half Canadians and I am texting home to get updates on Kaillie's bobsled run and the men's hockey game and yelling out results. There were many cheers reverberating through that bus.
I plan to keep busy all day tomorrow to distract from the nerves. Imagine how the players feel.

Day 13: It is hard to imagine that the days here are almost done. Today it was pouring rain and we didn't have any events, so I have to say this blog may be a little dull as I kind of holed-up in my hotel.
Marilyn got a massage this morning and when she was done, I opted to do the same. She warned me that a Russian massage is a bit different and it sure was! At one point he was standing on my back and pulling my arms behind my head. Another time he cradled my head in a towel and pulled hard! Also he talked the whole time because he wanted to practice his English, and even took phone calls and visited with the hotel host as he gave me a massage. It was rough, but I feel amazing!!! The most therapeutic massage I have ever had!
Alex, my therapist, also told me a few of the challenges the locals had to face with the coming of the games. For instance, the lights go out mid-massage, not a rare occurrence in the year leading up to the games because of all the construction. He says, like him, most locals were frustrated early on, but have changed their minds and feel quite positive. I am sure it would be overwhelming for a small resort town to take on such an influx of people.
After a nap and a feeble attempt to stream Canadian coverage, I fall asleep. Thirteen days of high activity and late nights finally catches up to me.
I wake up in time for "happy hour" at Marilyn's and we try some good Russian vodka and then off to dinner. I try some sushi and everyone else orders grilled veggies and meat platters. Russians do love their BBQ; that and pizza are the most common foods found here.
It was nice to listen and ask questions of the Wickenheisers and their past Olympic experiences. They have a great perspective on how these Games compare to previous ones, as Hayley has been to 6 Olympics (5 winter and 1 summer). Overall, they believe these to be among the best. They really like how the venues are clustered and tells us how us how much that improves the overall atmosphere/experience.
After dinner, Noah and I head out before the others. They allow smoking in the restaurant and it is killing Noah, so we are out!
On the way home, I have an "a-ha" moment. I see an official Sochi car parked on our street and notice that on the door has a sticker that looks like a seal across all of the openings (trunk, all doors, etc.). There are tattered old ones underneath and a new one on top. They must put these seals on each time they leave it unattended. I realize we have seen these seals all over the place--on public transportation on compartments for medical kits or even sun/ventilation spots, on engine doors—subtle additional security measure. Interesting for sure!!
We all jump up when we hear the sounds of explosion, only to find that we have a perfect view of a fireworks display from Trevor's balcony. There is a celebration park nearby and nightly they do a concert and fireworks, but we are usually back too late. Perfect end to the day!

Day 12: We start the day by crashing the Hockey Canada staff BBQ. We are the only player family staying in Adler. The rest of the families are staying on the cruise ships in Sochi, about 45 minutes from here. We aren't special, just anxious and got our accommodations booked long before HC had the family program organized. Keeners and a case of OCD, what can we say?

The BBQ was amazing!!! Shish kebabs or Sashlik, as it is called here. Cool watching the BBQ technique and even better enjoying the amazing food. Full and happy, we headed back to the hotel to get geared up for the semi-final game!!
Before the game, we hit up a gigantic cultural and regional series of displays. It was awesome to see all the regions of Russia. Tanya takes part in some Siberian drumming, which was cool.
Off to the COH to meet the whole gang- it is, after all, semi-final day and we should spend some time with our compatriots. There are quite a few athletes in the house, so I take the opportunity to get some vids for my son, Caeden wishing him happy birthday. My guilt over missing his birthday is working in his favour.
We are feeling pretty relaxed. The Swiss team is pretty good and their goalie is incredible, but I think us spectators are feeling pretty confident.
As the women are heading out of the tunnel for warm-up, Noah stands over the glass to give his mom a high-five as she walks by. This is the same kid that wanted to bring a book to the Vancouver gold medal game "in case I get bored." LOL! I know it meant the world to Hayley that the love of her life was there, cheering her on, engaged in this whole crazy experience. (She confirms later it actually made her "well up" and "totally made her day.") As a mommy, I totally get that.
The game is a good one. By the end of the game both teams are getting pretty physical. Several cheap hits and a little stick slap to Hayley's chest behind the refs back has us all pretty worked up. So, when one of our players literally delivers a Swiss player, upside down into her own bench it garners cheers—especially because that Swiss player had just pulled a cheap shot on Watchorn away from the play.
Aren't Canada and Switzerland supposed to be friendly? Lol
Canada takes the game 3-1 and we are headed to the gold medal game. Really growing to love the “Wick, Spooner, Agosta line.” They are on fire! I especially like watching Spoons play as a rookie and notch so many points with Wick.
After the game, we meet Hayley at the base of the Olympic torch at the centre of the park and after a quick visit, we start back to the hotel.
Along the way, there is debate about hitting up the only country house open late at night - Switzerland, but we decide it isn't the best place for a group of Canadians tonight.
It is great to get home, talk to family and catch up on some Canadian coverage of these games. You know, being AT the Olympics surprisingly means you don't see much of the Olympics. You definitely see more on your couch. Don't get me wrong.... I am NOT complaining, as this experience is amazing, but it is kind of funny that we are dying every night to get home so we can see how Canada did for the day.
Another day in the books for this Olympic crew.

Day 11: Headed straight to P&G Family House today to get very patriotic manicures. But I’m anxious that I am going to miss something cool as I have yet to head to the far side of Olympic Park... Only 5 days left and we have worn a familiar path. 
We ran into PK Subban (Montreal Canadians!) who was walking along the grounds listening to tunes and making his to way to the official Olympic store, but the lineups were particularly bad because there is probably double the usual amount of people on the grounds today. He checked out the chaos and headed back to COH where he was swarmed, but was so gracious with everyone. He slipped into the bathroom area (which is getting rank with the port-a-potties) and we mused about how disgusting it was in there. But sorry, no picture—maybe because I’ve been fortunate to work with some very recognizable people over the years and have seen how energy-drawing getting swarmed can be (but usually they are always gracious to do it!). Maybe I am just too goofy. There were some other NHLers in the house tonight too, but couldn’t tell you who because I didn’t recognize them by sight. Sorry!
Also spent some time again with figure skater Gabrielle Daleman' parents and grandparents. They told us about their adventures getting fish pedis where you submerge your feet in a giant aquarium full of fish and they eat away. Sounds tooooooo ticklish to me.
Also ran into the Tessa Virtue’s family (figure skating) - Tessa's mom and sister and I have built a rapport with after a chance encounter at the potties. Gee, it seems I meet at the cool people at the potties... Either I am I there a lot, or it is where the cool kids hang out.
I headed home on my own last night as we were short one ticket for the men's game and I volunteered to miss it, mostly because I missed my kids so much I wanted to get home to FaceTime them. Some of you crazy hockey fans might think I am crazy, but it was worth it to me.
The rest of the gang went wandering with Hayley pre-game and saw the NHLPA lounge, got a glimpse of the IOC lounge and the front area of the Athlete's Village. Then they headed to the game, which was a another nail-biter. They tell me the Bolshoy Arena is awesome. I will get to see it for the women's gold medal game.
When I got home, I laid in bed and watched a movie without anyone bugging me. Bliss!

Day 10:  Today is our first day up to the mountain cluster (well, on purpose anyway.) We have heard that the trek is a long one, so we head out midday for our night event of ski jumping, supposing that we would do some sight seeing.
Up the mountain there are even fewer people who can speak English with us, so it takes some time to get our bearings. One volunteer says, "sorry by bad English"... No dude, "sorry by bad Russian!" Ha!
Found a great market in the main chalet at the very top and was finally able to find a couple of perfect gifts for my boys!
There are so many hotels up here. I wonder how they will possibly make money once these games are over. Most everything looks done here, except a giant Major Brand hotel that appears to still be under construction—missing out an a very profitable opportunity!
Honestly though, from our perspective the Russians have done an amazing job at these Games and I am so fortunate to be here. We are really "doing the Olympics rock star style" and for that I am sooooo grateful!
Speaking of rock stars, I don't know if this is typical, but the people and the places in Russian seem to be up late! The hair salon down the street was still open and hair was being done at 12:30 am.
We catch dinner where the food was equally as amazing as the service was horrible, but the atmosphere was great. They only gave us one option to eat and it was pretty spectacular.
The Russia vs. USA game was playing in the bar on the other side and it was PACKED. We could hear the cheers, sighs of relief, disappointment, elation from across the chalet. Then there was the shoot-out!!! Crazy!
A quick train ride back one stop to the ski jumping centre and up in a cable car we went to our seats. Well, our "stands" perhaps more accurately. The cheap seats allowed us standing room only. We met a wonderful Russian girl volunteering and who told us that being at the Ski jump as a spectator was her "life dream." She was awesome and spoke almost perfect English. Geesh where was she a couple of hours ago as we wandered aimlessly. Lol.
After the event we headed back down the mountain, which takes about half the time going down. Good thing because it is late. The event didn't even start until after 10 p.m. - which is pretty common so the events can get decent coverage in other time zones. That is 11 a.m. Calgary time.
We are begging anyone with internet access to give us there results of the women's' games back at the Park, as they determine who Canada will face in the semi-finals. TWO upsets. Sweden beats Finland (big shocker) and Switzerland beats Russia. This means we play Switzerland in a couple of days. Not the opponent we expected, but crazy things can happen at the Olympics.
Another late night, will mean another late start tomorrow. Love the sleep-in. Goodnight all!

Day 9: We woke up this morning to discover our "I am Canadian" beach pic had been tweeted by Hayley and retweeted by everyone from major news networks to the Canadian Olympic Team. Have to say if I was going to choose a pic of me to go viral, I may not have selected a pic in swimsuits. Hahaha.
Today was simple and lovely. We did a little shopping - more trinkets - lol! I had a lovely experience exchanging the strap on a little travel purse I had bought early. The shop lady was a stereotypical vision of a little old Russian lady - deep wrinkles, weathered face, kerchief on her head, and probably the warmest smile I have ever seen. She didn't speak a single word of English, but we managed to communicate.
I, on the other hand, feel silly at my total lack of ability to pick up the Russian language. Ninety-five per cent of the tourists in this area in a usual year are Russian, not foreigners, so there has been little need for them to learn English. I find with my (former) fluency in French, I am able in many parts of the world to kind of fake it with the language. I can't here! I can barely even try. It’s been over a week and I can barely string together a "hello" and "thank you."
While in the market, we pass an older man who shouts "Can-ah-dah" as we pass. We offer him a Hockey Canada pin and he seriously wells up and throws his arms around me like I am his long lost grandchild. So sweet. I really do love the people here!
We head to the Park in the late afternoon and finally discover the P&G house for the families of athletes - with a special emphasis on their moms (who deserve it!!!) WOW... Great job to P&G! There is amazing food, an international presence (as they are a international brand), wine and even a blanket offered when we plop ourselves down in the giant bean-bag chair. The salon on-site offers free services and is pretty awesome too! We strike a conversation with the gentleman who is serving our wine. Turns out he is a P&G crisis communications guy. He says that in London he worked 18 hours a day. Here, he is a bit bored so they have told him to come to the "house" and make families smile. Ironic that in a Games that were prepared for crisis, the massive brand has their PR guys serving wine.
Some of us hang out there while others are headed to the COH for a special sponsor dinner. While we are in P&G house, Putin makes an appearance at COH, and he made quite an impression.
We wind up the night with a nice visit with some friends and back home just in time to skype my family. G'nite!

Day 8: Today was a family day for Hayley, approved by her coaches, so we meet her at the hotel and head out.
With some great guides, thanks to Hayley, we start at San Remo Restaurant, possibly one of the most beautiful restaurants I have ever been to. The floor was sand and we looked out to the Black Sea. Sandra went to the bathroom and was very alarmed to find a man at the sinks when she came out. Turns out it was a co-ed bathroom. It was the President of the Cayman Islands' Olympic Committee.
He came to the table and we took photos. Can't hurt to know "a guy" in the Cayman Islands, right? While he is taking a photo with Hayley he shakes her hand and squeezes tight.... Hayley squeezes back just as hard. He stops mid-photo to say, "wow, you are a strong girl." Yes she is, Mr. President.
They discover both of them competed in the 2000 Sydney Games. He in sailing, and she in baseball.
Throughout our day, we learn many Russian phrases from our guides. We also learn that the government is "seeding" the clouds to prevent rain during the Olympics. Crazy. They do this back in Alberta for hail—I even went in a seeding plane near Didsbury when I was a reporter. But, I never saw being done to keep rain away!
Our lunch is lovely. We’ve learned in Russia they bring each plate/dish as it is ready, so it can be 45 minutes by the time everyone's food is out. Also there is no butter served with bread. Funny little things like that are different.
Another interesting thing.... the pins and swag that we are giving out are extremely valued—you would think it is made of pure gold. These gifts go a long way and help us immensely to get great treatment.

We head back in a cab and I am probably the most scared I’ve been since arriving in Sochi/Adler - he is changing CDs, talking on the phone, texting ... still fun but my seatbelt is tight and I have checked it about 15 times.
On the cab ride, we decide to go for a polar bear dip in the Black Sea, so a quick stop at the hotel to grab our swimsuits and we are off. We are laughing hysterically as we strip down to our swimsuits on the rocky shore, which is very much to the general amusement of the Russians. We are proving that us Canucks are crazy! The water was about 8 degrees and our joints ache as we swim around for a grand total of about 2 minutes.
On our way home we decide to check out our emergency evacuation location hotel, just to be safe. We run into the reps for Molson Canada who love our seaside pictures. Lol. Our reward is bags of beer and a great visit with new friends.
When we return to our hotel we are still chilled and our hotel hosts offer us some brandy to help warm up. A short walk for dinner and off to Facetime my babies. Caeden sings me "Let it Go" and it makes my heart ache for my kids. Then to bed. Another fun day living it up in Russia.

Day 7: I cannot believe we have been here only a week! It honestly feels like we have been here for weeks, mostly because I have been so overwhelmed and pleasantly surprised with how well everything is going.
Looking back on the week, I relive the sense of anxiety and how quickly it was swept away and I relive the excitement of finding our way around the Park, most of which is still undiscovered because it is so massive (we are wearing a path between the bus stop, the Canada Olympic House and the Shayba Arena).
We got a late start today, probably due to the nerves... The Canada vs. USA games are so intense, I feel knots in my stomach for the day leading up to it. Imagine how the players must feel!!!
We split up for a while pre-game as 2 more friends have arrived to join our entourage, Trevor and Sandra. I take them to pick up their Spectator passes as it can be a bit overwhelming, and the rest of the group heads to COH.

We get in a long line at the Adler train station and an organizer reviews our documents. He notices my Hockey Canada pins on my lanyard and I offer him one. All of a sudden he waves us to the front of the line and inside the very cramped, hot and smelly processing room. The air is ripe in here and it must be 30 degrees. It is, after all a balmy 20 degrees outside. Although I am Canadian and fairness is kind of my default, I am happy to take the special treatment since we have a game to get to! Ten minutes later we are on our way.
We head towards the tracks. There are three levels and about 12 tracks. We ask a volunteer to ensure we are getting on the correct train. She directs us and we get on. About 10 minutes later as I gaze out the window, I realize the scenery does not look familiar. We are on the wrong train and are headed for an hour long journey in the wrong direction up to the Mountain cluster. Might as well sit back and enjoy the scenery, right?
We also see guards and police everywhere, even hidden in trees, and realize we are passing the airport (reassuring, not going to lie.)
We eventually make our way to the Shayba arena for the game. We arrive exactly at first period intermission. I look up the scoreboard with eager anticipation. 0-0... Phewf....
Honestly, the rest of the game is a blur as we intensely watch on the edge of our seats. Wick's line is on fire... All three points come from that line. Agosta scores two... and on her birthday, what a great gift to herself.
The Russians in attendance are all cheering for Canada, so the crowd erupts when we score and we find ourselves chanting "Can-ah-dah" with a Russian accent to stay in rhythm with our Russian fans.
A little aside...earlier this week we met two guys who are representatives of the Canadian zamboni company. They tell us that on each of the two machines at each arena, there are electronic displays. They tell us one is programmed to say "Go Canada" and one is programmed to say "Go Russia."
We meet Hayley and a few of the other girls at the COH and eat dinner in the private Ice House room. I FaceTime my husband Robb and end up in tears. Missing my family so much.
The night ends in us putting beers inside of our Canada mittens like a beer cozy, cheering Team Canada, and walking back to the bus.

Day 6: A busy and fun-filled day!
At breakfast we meet and make a wager with a couple of Americans on the outcome of the women's tournament. We also find out they are from the same city as my in-laws. You go across the world and still find how little this world actually is! 
After breakfast, the ladies go shopping to an open-air market. So much Olympic swag... From trivets to blow-up kid life vests bearing the Olympic brand! I was laughing at us—I may never make fun of tourists buying Canadian swag in Banff ever again! My score was an awesome little Russian doll that sings and speaks for my daughter Macy. I have no idea what it says but it is cute and authentic. We also bought these awesome hand-painted stacking dolls. While most in the souvenir shops have about 4 dolls inside, these have about 10 and the smallest doll is minuscule. We were even interviewed by a Russian TV station about our finds.
We found an amazing Russian linen and lace shop on our way home. Such beautiful things and the woman who worked there spoke about 10 words of English. She also had an amazing eye for knowing what size was going to fit. The shop was no bigger than my walk-in closet at home, so sizing was very limited. We spent almost an hour there and Marilyn Wickenheiser bought a great outfit. It is amazing how you can communicate without using words. The funniest was when she kept pointing at Marilyn and repeating "tick tick tick tick"... it took us a while (and a drawn illustration) to figure out that she loved Marilyn's freckles because there are aren't many (naturally) light haired and light skinned Russians with freckles.
We met the guys for lunch and then headed off to the rink to pick up tickets to the Japan vs. Russia game. What an incredible atmosphere at the game. The smiles of the Japanese girls were contagious. When they scored, you would have thought they won a gold medal. This is the first Olympics for the Japanese women’s team, thanks to an amazing person and Canadian gold-medalist Carla MacLeod, whom they hired to bring their women's hockey program along. The players are revered in Japan and at their practices could have up to 40 media cameras. Russian fans are obviously the majority and the atmosphere in the rink is electric. We are sitting in front of Alexia Yashin, a former NHLer and a recent support to the Russian women's team. He skates with them regularly. Also, Tanya Morgan's former U of C teammate Iya is playing for Russia. Great to cheer for both teams and not find the game so stressful as when we watch our own games.
Hayley stopped by and watched a couple periods with us. It was the first time, she tells me, that she and Noah (who hates hockey) have ever watched a game together. She is so happy to see him and keeps giving him momma cuddles, which he mostly brushes off - he is a teenager after all.
Back to COH just in time to see the medal ceremony for our four medalists from the last couple of days. So awe-inspiring and we all cry a little when Bilodeau gives his brother a special acknowledgement.
Speaking of COH, someone asked us today how big the house is—its about as big as 1.5 elementary school gymnasiums.
Then the looooong walk back to the transportation. Another late and beautiful night in Sochi and Russia continues to nestle into a special spot in my heart.

Day 5: Back at Olympic Park. Something that I don’t think I’ve mentioned is the “hype” people... there are hundreds of them, dressed in bright colors swarming the park with megaphones, foam fingers and yell “Welcome” - in Russian - so I suppose they could be barking military orders, I don't know. Lol.
First we went to the Samsung pavilions and I see a huge photo of Hayley staring down at us from the walls. It is neat to see the sponsor work I did leading up to games come to shape in real life! (Although the gigantic-Hayley is a bit unnerving.)
The Audi pavilion is pretty cool. They take people down a mini mountain presumable to show off their new braking system. We are far too lazy to stand in the lines. We also checked out the Microsoft pavilion, where they were very aggressive in trying to sell their product. They might have been able to sell their tablet to Noah if it hadn’t kept crashing. Lol.
We arrive at Canada Olympic House just in time to watch Hamelin being presented his medal on the big screen. The crowd burst into the National anthem. Such solidarity.
Off to the Canada vs. Finland game. The food at the COH wasn't my cup of tea, or slab of raw salmon, as it were. I decided to 'brave' the cold sandwiches they sell at the arena. Nasty! I am longing for a taste of popcorn, nachos, beer... rink food!
At the game the Wicks (Hayley’s mom and dad) were interviewed on the big screen. They are so cute and awesome. They and Tanya Morgan are really my family-away-from-family here. I find myself putting my head on Marilyn's shoulder when I am tired, just like I would with my momma.
Canada vs. Finland is a nail-biter for two and half periods until Canada breaks it open. I have to remove my shoulders from my ears post-game. I get so tense... I can't imagine how I’m going to deal with games against our arch-rivals - USA.

Day 4: Today we decide to head back to Sochi to SHOP! We decide to try public transportation to help save our legs (we are walking an average of 15,000 steps a day). But, it’s a dismal fail and added a chunk of time to our trip (but we are not adverse to another adventure).
When we enter the train station, they flag my small bag because something inside resembles clay (an obviously bad substance when you consider it is an ingredient in things that blow up). Turns out it is my Clif Bar. Haha.
Off to Sochi and my credit card is just getting warmed up. I bought some souvenirs and a couple of items of clothing. The shoe stores here are incredible and plentiful! Speaks to the desire of the Russian women to look fabulous all the time. Prices are similar to home with the exchange rate. We find that there are often big store spaces that though they look like one store, they are actually several small vendors sharing space. Our restraint is amazing, though we did buy tea canisters from a cool little tea shop. The shop owner was perplexed by our desire to only buy the canister. We liked the Russian writing on the tins.
While shopping we discover we have to visit the facilities and access to one is a commodity. We pay for access to a public bathroom where the woman running it is so engrossed in playing Flappy Bird that she barely looks up to take our 10 roubles (30 cents) Clearly gadget addiction is universal. Lol. She even has a cash register in the bathroom. Funny.
We walk towards the sea to see a tall ship, and the cruise ships where many of our other Hockey Canada families are staying. We take the local bus back to Adler. Although there are Olympic buses all over the place (full of tourists) we try the local transportation which is a little more direct to our hotel. It was actually nice to go through the local neighborhoods. Some beautiful areas and some not-so. No different than home really, but loved the glimpse into real Russian life. It was cool to see kids in the street and some of the local architecture.
We were all so very tired by the time we got back to our neighborhood that we went directly to a pizzeria recommended by Hockey Canada. Good food, but the allowance of smoking inside was a bit tough to handle, especially since I was fighting a migraine. In fact, I was desperate for an "ice pack" to ease the pain, so I walked across the street to the supermarket, which is a very local place and found a bag of frozen veggies. It was cool to explore the grocery store, which is always a favorite thing to do when travelling. It gives such a neat perspective on local customs, foods, etc. When I went to pay, I wondered why they didn't try to speak Russian and only used hand motions. How did they know I spoke English? Walking back to the restaurant I realized that my jacket has an enormous CANADA emblazoned across it. Clearly it was time for bed.
Well-fed, we headed back to the hotel and hit the pillow pretty hard. Nighty night.

Day 3: Game Day!! Cannot wait to see the first hockey game and the inside of the Bolshoy Arena.
The Olympic facilities are really interesting and unusual, as Hayley’s parents point out (they’ve seen a few Olympic venues!). All the facilities are clustered together in one location—imagine the Saddledome, Rexall Place, and Rogers Centre, all grouped together. At the centre of the cluster is a food court kind of place and all of the various country "houses.” It is so cool to see all of the representations of the countries. USA is quite understated and we’ve noticed the Americans are staying very much below the radar. We learn they’ve been advised to stay understated because there is still friction between the Russia and the USA.
We are totally dressed up to represent our girls at the arena tonight—and the crowds appreciate our outfits! We are constantly stopped for photos. The volunteers love us! The fact we are armed with Hockey Canada pins makes us even more popular. Hahaha! 
We practice our Russian greeting as we walk through a sea of color created by swarming volunteers. They smile at our pathetic attempts at a Russian accent, but a loving, not mocking smile.
We hit up COH again before the game. While we are there, McMorris wins Canada our first medal – a bronze in slope style. Then tension is thick as we await his score, and although there is some disappointment that the color of medal may not be what was anticipated, it is immediately followed by joy! An hour later, McMorris' dad enters the COH hooting, hollering and carrying the flowers his son was given. Pride washes over the room. As a parent, I can't imagine the elation.

The game!
There is not a bad seat in the Bolshoy Arena. Highlight of the game was obviously Hayley's short-handed snipe. Highlight of the off-ice was Tanya Morgan's dancing skills with a mascot. The Canadian contingent in the stands was the minority, though we dominated on the ice! The crowds were exciting and such a good start for our Canadian women! During breaks in play, we notice that the rules of hockey are being displayed on the big screens. Kind of funny, but Hayley’s mom tells us that they do at every Olympics. Final score:  Canada 5, Swiss 0.
Met Hayley post-game at COH. She scooted over on the scooter I brought her from Canada to navigate these huge parks. It was so good to finally see her, give our hugs, and for her to see how much fun we are all having! 
On a side point, we are getting frustrated at all the negative media about Sochi. Are there glitches and problems... Sure. Any event of this scale would have those. Is it a terrifying place full of crazy construction and chaos. NO! Please don't believe bad press. This experience is amazing.

Day 2: Woke up feeling a lot more refreshed and surprisingly not jet-lagged. Turns out, forcing ourselves to stay up yesterday was the right thing to do!


Today we must pick up our spectator passes. There is no shortage of paperwork required to get to these Olympics. They CERTAINLY know who is in the country! Hayley’s parents, Marlyin and Tom, along with her son Noah, Tanya and myself, all head to the first checkpoint where the guards are an odd mix of authoritative and welcoming. We must practically disrobe and put everything through the scanner, walk through a metal detector and get a full frisk once through. For some reason, we are escorted past the crowds to the front of the very long line. Didn't ask why just said "spasiba" (phonetic thank you) over and over. We were issued our passes then off we went the ticket office which is in Sochi proper and another full security check before boarding the train.

Did you know?? It is actually a bit of a misnomer that these are the Sochi games.
In fact, the Park and most of the activity is in the Adler, about 45 minutes from Sochi.
A few things I noticed here:So much here is so new everything seems to have that new car smell. Haha! We have begun to notice that anything that is run down is covered in enormous banners or brand new fencing.
  • The people here are beautiful! Not only are they fashionably dressed and always look like they are going on a fancy night out (even the children!) but they are also so helpful and kind and they love Canadians. There are swarms of volunteers everywhere sporting the very colorful volunteer garb.
  • The feeling of nervousness is subsiding. We feel safe. Very safe.

Olympic Park!
Olympic Park is MASSIVE... Seriously massive! From the front gate it is about 2 kms to Canada Olympic House. There are enormous pavilions for sponsors along the route and we pass over several bridge, each one a color of the Olympic Rings. We finally arrive at our home away from home.

Inside COH there are couches, TVs everywhere, families and a palpable feeling of excitement. When will our first medal come? Who will rule these games? We grab some snacks and head to Fischt Stadium for the Opening Ceremonies.
The opening ceremonies were Grande and being there 
and a part of the excitement was incredible—but I missed the commentary that you get from TV coverage and the backstories. Watching Hayley carry the flag was obviously the highlight. Proud doesn't even begin to describe it. Her smile made my heart melt for my friend knowing how truly happy she was in that moment.


Day 1: We arrived at the airport after an almost two-day journey across the world. We were full of anticipation—and I was also full of nerves! We picked up our bags and left the secure area of the airport—right at the same time as a huge Team Russia contingent so we experienced a bit of red carpet paparazzi – lol!! Beyond the cameras was our representative from the Canadian Olympic Committee who met us with a smile and Sochi handbooks to guide us through the first few days.
Olia met us at our hotel, who is our tour company's guide and has the most lovely British/Russian accent. Our room is a small Euro-style room with two twin beds. Beds are a bit stiff but it is otherwise quite comfortable, very clean and yes - flowing with clean and hot water! We were exhausted but knew the best thing would be to stay awake until night to combat the jet lag. We took a walk and discovered our hotel is only a block from the Black Sea. The shores of the sea are all rock with no sand, but it was a crazy experience to see palm trees, water and mountains all in the same line of sight! We found a gorgeous little restaurant and ate spaghetti - my sense of adventure for Russian food was offset by utter exhaustion. We crashed into bed by 5:45pm Sochi time and slept until 9:00 am the next day.

Feb.7, 2014:   Today's the Day!!

Good luck Hayley! We are so excited to watch you represent Canada in the most amazing way. We love you and are so proud of you!!!! GO CANADA GO! Let the games begin! (mgmt)

(Nathan Denette/CP)

Read Hayley's thoughts on carring the flag.

Another article about her thoughts about the flag-bearer's curse.

I Get to Carry the Flag!

To be selected to carry the flag and represent all of Canada is such a huge honour. I imagine it is going to be an amazing experience to be on the world stage with everyone watching. I feel so fortunate to represent my country, my team and even my family in this way. And even though we are going to be in front of the whole world, instead of feeling extra pressure, I feel the wave of a nation pushing and supporting us from behind--and hopefully we can use that momentum as we go into our first tournament game the next day. 

Security... am i worried?

I am getting a lot of questions lately from media and also concerned friends and family about the "risk" or safety concerns in Sochi. I can't honestly say that I'm not worried--of course we are concerned. But every Olympics I've gone to there's been some sort of drama or adversity that we've had to overcome as a team or as a country. The worst thing you can do is get uptight about it. There will probably be longer lines or waits because of security, but you know it is for the better so we'll just relax and take it in stride. I do have 11 friends and family coming so I am thankful for the heightened vigilance and awareness. But I am confident in the Russian government--after all, they don't want to get embarrassed. I know it's not Vancouver, but I do trust that the athletes and their families will be well protected. 

New Coach for Team Canada!

Team Canada annouced this week that we have a new coach for the Women's Canadian Hockey Team:  Kevin Dineen. Things are always changing on the way to the Olympics - but it keeps us on our toes! Welcome aboard Coach Dineen. We look forward to this adventure together! For more information, check out the FULL STORY.

The countdown is on to the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The preparations are in high gear and all the members of team Canada are put through the tests as they prepare both physically, mentally and emotionally for what could be the most important tournament of their careers.
Hayley with Mel Davidson at the Closing Ceremonies in Vancouver, 2010. 

Hayley with Mel Davidson at the Closing Ceremonies in Vancouver, 2010.

For Hayley, this will be the fifth Olympics that she is a part of Team Canada. To date, she has four Olympic medals to her credit, three gold and one silver! As we get closer to the Olympics, we want to follow Hayley’s journey as she strives, along with her teammates, to add another medal to her collection. We also plan on keeping in touch with her as she is in Sochi, her reactions, perspectives and feelings and sharing all of this right here, with you! So make sure to check back often with updates and pictures following our Hayley while she is Sochi Bound!

In September, team Canada travelled to Sochi to get a lay of the land, so to speak. Not only did they get to check out the ice on which they’ll be competing, but they got a chance to sightsee and spend some time getting to know each other as a team. Here is a snapshot of Hayley's memories from their trip:

Here I am in front of the ice.  Next time the team is here, the arena will be packed with fans (and I will be wearing some warmer clothes)!

Here is the Olympic Village under construction. It's amazing to think how many athletes, coaches, support personnel, etc., will be living here. I remember our arrival at the Vancouver Olympic Village—it is really meant to be a home and a haven away from the madness that ensues outside of the village. Not only are there sleeping quarters, but also various cafeteria and beverage stations inside the village. There was also a souvenir store (yes, even athletes want snow globes and memorabilia!), a confectionary for any essentials, a discotheque and a games room complete with Internet, pool tables, ping-pong, and live entertainment every night. I’m excited to see what the Sochi village has to offer!

Here is one of the training rooms and a picture of our sleeping quarters for this trip (hopefully we get a little more space in February). In the Olympic Village, pretty much every country has its own building, or section of a building marked by flags. Each building has training facilities (in Vancouver we even had a yoga/tai chi room), laundry facilities, food areas, and of course, bedrooms. Everything is designed to help you feel a part of the whole team—the Canadian Team. 

To see the rest of the pictures from Sochi in September, visit the Photo Gallery page.