With the gold and bronze-medal game finalists already decided, my two games on Saturday morning were between teams battling for places 9-12. If I had a choice of games to work, I probably wouldn’t have picked them; I would have loved to be sitting in one of the penalty boxes yesterday in the Carrier Dome for the two medal games instead. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed my six-hour volunteer shift at the Village Pavilion (again) on Saturday morning/afternoon.
A little uncertain about my shift assignment, I called volunteer coordinator Larissa Schultz on Thursday to say that I was definitely going to show up for my assignment, but asked if she could confirm what my role might be. I also asked if I could stop by the Volunteer Check-In site at the Onondaga Arena beforehand so I could get a Game Operations polo that I didn’t get when I worked last week. While she couldn’t promise me exactly what I’d be doing at the Pavilion on Saturday, Larissa did assure me she’d have a shirt waiting for me on Saturday morning.
Sure enough, Larissa and my shirt were right there as promised, and she even asked if I wanted a complimentary ticket to Sunday’s medal games in the Dome. I hadn’t planned on going, but then again, I wasn’t expecting an offer of a free ticket, either. I said sure, and she gave me my ticket. Way ahead of schedule, I then made the quick drive down 11A to the Village Pavilion. I checked in with Brad again, and offered to do whatever he needed. He asked me to fill a water jug and carry some ice, and I chuckled to myself, realizing that I had done some of that same exact work at the World Championships in Denver last summer. Dan Witmer – water boy at the 2014 and 2015 FIL Outdoor AND Indoor Championships (always building that resume!)…
Turns out the first game was between Germany and Serbia, for 11th and 12th place (Switzerland had already earned the 13th-place finish). Now, my son Brian has been emailing and calling me from Australia to make sure I met up with Germany’s #67, Jamie Plunkett, as he had a pair of gloves he was supposed to give me for Brian. I knew I would have an hour of downtime after the game, so I chuckled again at the odds of me working Germany’s last game of the tournament. I knew Jamie only by jersey number, so when I saw him just before he entered the floor for warm-ups, I introduced myself and we agreed to meet after the game.
About 30 minutes before the face-off, Brad asked if I’d work a penalty box. I said sure, and then realized he meant the box next to Germany’s bench! Again, what are the odds of these kinds of things going my way? I wondered to myself… maybe Jamie will come visit me during the game!
Germany took the early lead and, despite some minor rallies from Serbia, never relinquished the lead. Sure enough, #67 took a slashing penalty in the first half and visited with me for two minutes. The game was pretty tame, and both teams were obviously exhausted; Jamie told me it was their seventh game in nine days. Germany prevailed in the end, winning by two goals.
After the game I hung around outside Germany’s locker room, and as I waited for Jamie to come out, site supervisor Brad (I wish I caught his last name) told me he had to run some errands and asked me to make sure that, as the pre-game clock counted down for the Turkey-Finland game, that the two teams were off the floor at the ten-minute mark, and that Turkey was to be ready for pre-game introductions at the seven-minute mark. Eager for some game-management duties, I said sure.
But Jamie didn’t come out of the locker room. The clock seemed to speed up – 15 minutes to go, then 13 minutes… suddenly I was starting to stress. Was I going to have to choose between the one last chance I was ever going to have to get Brian’s gloves and messing up the timing of the 12:30 game? How do I get myself into these situations?
Next thing I knew, the pre-game countdown hit the ten-minute mark, so I turned my back on the locker room and called for the remaining players to get off the floor. They cooperated nicely, thank goodness, and I knew I had a quick three-minute window to get Brian’s gloves – or never hear the end of it. I went over to the locker room and asked if someone could call Jamie out for a second. He came out and we walked over to a car in the parking lot. He opened the trunk and handed me the package – a pair of black, red, green and gold German Adler LC gloves, with #14 embroidered on the cuffs and Brian’s name written in black marker on the bag. Finally, the eagle had landed!
I wasn’t even in the rink when they played the national anthems for Finland and Turkey, but I made it to the penalty box next to the Turkey bench just as the teams were lining up for the opening faceoff. Four quarters to go, and my shift would be over…
Well, I don’t know what history the Finland/Turkey teams have, but the game got ugly right from the start. This game was for the 9th and 10th-place finishes, but you would have thought there was much more at stake to see them battle. Play got chippy, and then the goalie for Turkey got hit hard over in the corner, and before I knew what was happening, both penalty boxes were filled and the goalie was being helped off the floor and into the locker room.
Two of the guys in my penalty box went a little crazy, knocking against the glass in protest and anger, and before long they were ejected from the game. Turkey’s unfortunate in-home player, who had been put in the box to serve a teammate’s five-minute penalty, seemed to be in the box for about 20 minutes due to all the stoppages in play. In the second quarter, two more players from the Turkey squad were ejected, and the game started to become decidedly one-sided. I’m guessing the game would have been closer if everyone stayed in the game, but Turkey’s back-up goalie struggled and I think some of their better player were among the ones kicked out, so as the second half played out, Finland was scoring time and time again.
However, things flared up again with about eight minutes left in the game when Finland scored its 24th goal – on a hidden ball play, no less – and the captain of the Turkey team let some of his opponents hear what he thought about their sportsmanship – or lack thereof. He didn’t hit anyone; he just attacked a Finland player verbally, but the refs threw him in the box for the remainder of the game, so we had a chance to talk quite a bit.
The name on the back of his jersey – Deriso – didn’t sound as “Turkish” as many of teammates, and in fact it kind of sounded familiar to me, so I asked him if he had any CNY/Upstate connections. He said no, he was from New Jersey. So I asked him if he played any college lacrosse, and he said he played at Drew University. Well, long-time Drew Rangers head coach Tom Leanos is a good friend of mine, so we got talking a bit more, and I asked him if he had ever met SUNY Geneseo head coach Jim Lyons, who had played for Tom at Drew and set a few scoring records as an undergraduate; I figured maybe they had met at alumni games or something. Sure enough, Dave said he had met him a few times. I asked him if he had earned All-American honors (he had); I think maybe I was on the USILA A-A committee at that time – I knew his name sounded familiar!
… so there I am talking about college lacrosse with the 35-year old captain of the team from Turkey…
The game ended without further incident and both teams shook hands as if nothing ugly had happened – and my shift was over! I said good-bye to Brad, to Shirley Hill, Renee Smoke, and Kent Lyons, the same crew at the scorer’s table as last weekend, and drove over to the Arena to take a quick look at the Vendors’ Village. There was plenty to look at, but the only item I bought was a nice $10 WILC poster.
I called Oswego varsity coach Doc Nelson to see if he was going to the medal games at the Dome on Sunday, and when he said yes, I asked if I could tag along for the day. He said sure, and he and his wife Cathy stopped by to pick me up at about 11:15 Sunday morning. His seats were front row behind the goal, but my seat was up in the third deck. We started out in his seats, but before the games started we decided to give my “sky-view” seats a look. We decided to stay up top.
The USA-Israel Bronze Medal game was pretty anti-climactic, but the Gold Medal game between Canada and the Iroquois Nationals was a great match-up. The score was 3-3 after the first quarter and 6-5 Canada at the half. The Nationals had a couple of bad mistakes and Canada capitalized quickly, and the rest of the second half had the home team pressing to close a two or three goal gap. Only after Canada scored an empty net goal in the final minute did it become a four-goal game.
I was VERY impressed by the discipline and unselfishness of the players from both teams. At no point did I see any signs of ugliness, malice, or anger; all I saw was hard, fast, determined play. I think the game came down to shooting accuracy and goaltending. Canada hit a higher percentage of its shots and their goalie, Matt Vinc, made a higher percentage of saves.
In my mind, Vinc (who was a defenseman on Canada’s gold-medal outdoor team last summer in Denver!) should have been named MVP; instead they announced that Canada’s forward Shawn Evans was the 2015 MVP. Named to the “All-World Team” were defenseman Sid Smith, transition player Jeff Shattler, and forward Lyle Thompson of the Iroquois team, and goalie Vinc, defenseman Chris Corbeil, and forward Mark Matthews from Canada.
They announced that attendance at the Dome was 10,424, but I was surprised at how few fans were present for the Bronze Medal game. Team USA had plenty of CNY/Upstate representation, with Casey Powell (Carthage HS/SU), Joel White (Cortland HS/SU), Blaze Riorden (Fairport HS/UAlbany), Greg Downing (Auburn HS/Fairfield), Joe Resetarits (Hamburg/UAlbany), and Joe Walters (Irondequoit HS/Maryland) not only on the US roster, but playing large roles on the team.
Medals were presented after the game by FIL representatives Tom Hayes, Steve Stenerson, and Stan Cockerton, and Oren Lyons thanked everyone – teams from 12 other countries, fans, and everyone who could hear him. “Come again,” he said. “Come again.”
Larissa told me that when it was all said and done, some 350 volunteers had stepped up to fill the 1300 slots needed to pull off the 2015 Games. That averages out to about four shifts per volunteer, which was exactly how many shifts I filled – so I guess you can just call me your average volunteer.
See you in 2019 in Langley, British Columbia. Road trip!
Drive carefully, everyone.
- Dan Witmer