No beef with Gretzky

Having a hockey legend light Olympic flame is apropos for Canada

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One day later and the debate over Wayne Gretzky continues.

Should he or shouldn't he have been the choice to light the cauldron -- or in this case numerous cauldrons -- to open the Olympic Winter Games?

Some remain outraged that Gretzky, who lives outside of Canada, was a professional athlete, and in his only Olympic experience as a player failed to bring home a medal, was the choice.

I am not among those. My choice, from the beginning, was Gretzky alongside Bobby Orr in tandem, the two greatest players from a hockey nation. Orr, considering he was getting no traction anywhere but here, was a surprise choice as one of the luminaries carrying the flag late in the Opening Ceremony. But they got it right with Orr and probably with Gretzky.

Gretzky was told in October about his selection to light the flame and had to keep it a secret, even from his own father. You can argue with a lot of what has gone on so far at the Winter Olympics. All kinds of issues already. Gretzky shouldn't be one of them.

This and that

Favourite moments from the opening ceremony: 1. The emotion of the team from Georgia entering BC Place; 2. The noise heard when Team Canada walked in; 3. The down home Cape Breton fiddle number; 4. k.d. lang singing; 5. The winter wonderland look of BC Place from the inside ... Here's why the Leafs picked up Jamie Lundmark on waivers. 1) He has an expiring contract; 2) If Brian Burke wants to trade people at the deadline, he needs some bodies to fill in the lineup ... My buddies from Quebec are outraged -- they are always outraged about something -- that none of the five final torch-bearers for Canada were French-Canadian. No Gaetan Boucher, they say. To be honest, I couldn't find a thing wrong with Gretzky, Catriona Le May Doan, Steve Nash, Nancy Greene and Rick Hansen. Four Western Canadians and a guy who lives in California. Let the Quebecers whine ... Inside, this looks like a Winter Olympics. Outside, not so much. Weird thing about Vancouver: The opening ceremony was indoors, the medal ceremonies in Vancouver are indoors, some of that winter feeling isn't here.

Hear and there

I can see why the NHL doesn't like the Winter Olympics as a marketing tool. Before the Games, all anyone talks about is the Olympics. After the Games, the same. It marginalizes their product at a time when they are essentially lending their greatest assets for someone else's usage ... The truth on the luge course here: It was designed by a computer program. In other words, it makes for a helluva video game, just not something necessarily safe for the athletes until changes were made yesterday ... The determination here, after a protest went bad downtown: Was it a riot, a skirmish or a disturbance? Sometimes it's hard to know one from the other ... Under the department of why: The rookies versuss the sophomores at NBA all-star weekend ... See that Bryan Murray has signed on for another year in the worst executive position in hockey -- general manager in Ottawa, where you have to learn to turn your phone off just in case your boss may be calling ... Owner David Braley is kidding himself if he thinks getting involved in the community will bring people to Argos games. The Argos have been more involved in the community than any of Toronto's pro teams and where has that gotten them in the past? ... One more Argos note: The betting here is that Jim Barker will last one year as Argo coach (doesn't everybody) and move up to become general manager. Then he'll hire Scott Milanovich from Montreal as head coach.

Scene and heard

This wouldn't be an Olympics if not for bus problems. It's part of the deal. The bus taking IOC members to the opening ceremony Friday, a 10-minute drive, took almost an hour. Another bus taking one group of aboriginal dancers ended up late, so the dancers didn't hit the stage on time. And the bus I was on got lost, the driver almost quit in frustration when no one could tell him where he was going, he then crashed into two medians. And that was just on Day 1 ... And it wouldn't be a Winter Olympics if not for weather issues. Moguls in the rain. Downhill cancelled. Artificial snow at the opening ceremony, just not outdoors ... My friend from Seattle tells me his locals are less than pleased that the Games are on CTV rather than CBC. The reason: At his border city, people prefer to watch CBC to NBC. But they don't get CTV on their cable. Hence they're forced to watch NBC's packaged Olympics rather than the live version on Canadian television ... A cultural advantage of Vancouver: From my hotel window, I have three choices of 25 cent peep shows. Variety, after all, is the spice of life.

And another thing

Like to think I know a little something about Winter Olympics, after covering eight of them, but I must admit: I'd heard of only nine of the 82 flag bearers. That is a percentage something along the line of Vernon Wells hitting with men in scoring position. And what that tells me, and should tell you, is that the Olympics don't bring people together, they separate nations. What's a story in Germany, isn't a story in France or Canada for that matter ... Chris Mason is the standby goaltender, which is nice for him. But in truth, if Team Canada needs a fourth goalie, they're in trouble ... A quick fashion statement: Don't care how much The Bay paid the Canadian Olympic Committee for the ability to dress the Canadian team at the Winter Games. I'd go back to Roots in a second. Less money for the COC, more style for the athletes ... Born this date: Steve McNair. And happy birthday to the quarterbacks, Jim Kelly (50), Drew Bledsoe (38), David Garrard (32) and Jared (the Pillsbury Throw Boy) Lorenzen (29) ... Protests turned violent outside The Bay store yesterday. My first reaction: They must really hate those red mittens ... And hey, whatever became of Wally Schreiber?

STEVE.SIMMONS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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