Volunteering for the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship: Part 2






Those are some words that describe the incredible week I just spend volunteering for the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship here in Edmonton. Catch up on how I ended up being a volunteer by reading Part 1.

So what did I get up to last week?

(Scroll through for photos too!)

Friday December 23, 2012: Canada vs Sweden Exhibition Game
My Oilers-season-ticket-hockey-loving friend and I decided it would be a pretty fantastic idea to spend $20 to watch the boys play an exhibition game. I'm so glad we ended up going because it was a really good time. Our tickets were in the 200 section. Usually we sit way up in the 300s so that alone was worth the trip out to Rexall. We kept comparing the view - I could actually see the numbers on their backs! Canada lost, but it was a fun game: the crowd was electric and loud and it was a sea of red. We figured the loss would keep the boys from getting over confident, and since we enjoyed ourselves and the view, the evening was a win for us.

Ceremonial puck drop before the game.

I got my volunteer accreditation before the game, and good thing too because I wasn't on their list so they had to call the volunteer head guy out. He looked at me, looked at my driver's license, said "Yeah, I remember her name." and they took my picture. It took about 15 minutes, so it was a good thing I did this before volunteering. I hoped this little snafu wasn't an omen for the week to come!

Monday December 26, 2012: Double Game Day

Today was my first real volunteer day. I was pretty excited, but had 'first day jitters' - I'm always a bit anxious until I figure out what's going on. I used my accreditation to get into Rexall via the Passgate (under the watchful eye of security) and headed to the volunteer lounge. They were using the ice school as the lounge. It's a long rectangular room on the second level of the arena. There was an area for coats, a tv which showed all the games, cramped tables and chairs, a food area, and a main desk. At the main desk we had to sign in for all our shifts. 

To my surprise, the food area served more than just snacks! Every day I worked there was soup and sandwiches for lunch, pizza and wings for dinner, plenty of fruit/vegetable/dessert trays and hot/cold drinks. Perfect!! I ended up showing up just in time to eat lunch before my first shift, then had lunch/dinner in between games, and also grabbed a quick second dinner before going home after my last shift was done. It worked out perfectly because we only had an hour between shifts, so not enough time to go anywhere to eat. Thanks Safeway for feeding me all week!!

Every double game shift went something like this: eat lunch, get 50/50 stuff organized, work the game, eat dinner, get 50/50 stuff organized, work the game, grab a snack, go home before the game finished to beat traffic.

So what does selling 50/50s involve? First we lined up, then were called to the office. We signed in for a gorgeous yellow smock/apron, and signed in for our float, two rolls of printer paper, the handset and the printer, which clipped onto your belt. The office was a long narrow room in the bowels of Rexall. There was always a police officer standing outside too. After receiving all our gear, we walked out onto the second floor concourse, counted our float, tested our machines, listened to the 50/50 speech (this only happened the first few days, then we were pros and could recite it off by heart!) and then, like bumblebees in our yellow smocks and black uniforms, headed down the stairs onto the main concourse. From here we were placed in particular spots depending on the number of our smock.

We were in place before the doors opened. There was a lot of "hurry up and wait" this week, so before the doors opened we chatted to each other or the program sellers. When the doors opened it was go time:
"50/50s here."
"Get your 50/50s!"
"# Thousand and climbing! 50/50s here!"
"Last chance for 50/50!"
"# minutes left to get your 50/50s!"
And so we yelled. I had forgotten there was yelling in 50/50s. It's amazing my voice lasted all week. Someone told me I had a good yelling voice and I told her it was because I used to be a prison guard at an elementary school. I yelled a lot this week. It was fun.

"Thanks you. Good luck!"
"Enjoy the game!"

Since it was all automated, there were screens around the concourse that showed the real time total of how much the pay out would be. This is what made it extra fun. People are pretty quick to shell out cash for a huge growing payout! In the beginning I felt bad stoking peoples gambling habit and taking their money, but that didn't last long. Half the money was going to Hockey Canada/Alberta so minor hockey was benefitting, and it's not like I was forcing people to spend their Christmas bonuses. Better spent on 50/50s than super expensive beer (One Rexall food employee told me that each beer cost 7cents for the cup and 35cents for the actual beer - so they made $7.50 profit on each one sold! Crazy.).

The rush lasted until just after the game started and then it was pretty quiet until intermission. We stood around, watched the game on the concession stand tvs, chatted to other volunteers, and some sellers used this opportunity to go into the crowd to sell during breaks in the play.

The fans were really great the whole week - everyone was really friendly and the atmosphere was electric. I always told them their tickets were winners, and of course you get a few offers for dinner or drinks if they win. One guy even traded me a cowbell for the winner. Minus a few lecherous drunks during the second intermission, folks were mostly super friendly and in really good moods. I usually stood in similar spots all week so I got to recognize a few fans over the week. I ended up being #13 seller a few times and felt super popular - people would walk all around the arena looking for me particularly, something about being a lucky number? Good times. 

Our machines only let us sell so many tickets. The first couple days it was 500, but they bumped it up to 750 tickets pretty quick. Once we were out (or close to out before a rush) we headed back to the office to get the machines reloaded and dump all our cash, to be counted by the volunteers on the counting shifts. We also picked up more printer rolls and a new float during these cash outs. The most I ever cashed out was 5 times in a game, but usually it was more like 3.

50/50s are sold until the end of the second intermission. At this time, our handsets would count down, and then close off. We would all return to the office for a final cash out. Even though the machines are all automated, single tickets are still printed out to be put into the tumbler for the draw. Usually at this point I would head back to the lounge for either lunch/dinner and to watch the end of the game before this all repeated itself, or a snack and to watch a bit of the game, and then head home if it was evening. Sometimes it was hard to tell what time it was, because I spend the whole day in a concrete bunker without windows. Most of the time I never knew what time or day or date it was. We were on hockey time - 5 minutes until intermission, an hour before the game started, ten minutes left in the third. It was like being in a weird but totally wicked alternative reality. Volunteering for events is like this - it's usually hard to return to the real world afterwards.

So basically I stood on a concrete floor for 8 hours. Imagine how sore my feet and back and shoulders are. This pain never really let up all week and I'm sure feeling it now. Plus, my left wrist is sore from carrying the handset all week. Fun comes with a price I guess.

Wednesday December 28, 2012: Another Double Shift
Though I had Tuesday off, it certainly wasn't enough time to recover for those sore muscles! Today was basically a repeat of the first.

Nothing but cleaning and an usher's meeting going on before/in between games. The arena looks empty and sad. Bring on the hockey excitement!

By now the 50/50 volunteers were getting to recognize and know each other. And we figured out where the best spots were, so there was strategic lining up before we got called for our shifts. My favourite numbers were 7 or 8 to get the main North doors or 12 or 13 to get the other North doors. I was 24 once and did the LRT doors, which was fun because it was busy, but I preferred the North doors because it was still busy but the program sellers were extra chatty.

This is the best part of volunteering for these event - chatting to people. I love that wearing a volunteer uniform means I get to chat to anyone else wearing a uniform. I love that it means I get to chat to other people who work in the building and fans of the game. I love that by the end of the event the volunteers on your team become your best friends and you look forward to seeing them, even though you have no idea what their name is or what they do in real life. I always enjoy and look forward to this strange(r) form of comradery. Volunteering for these events really is special.

The age of volunteers was younger on average than what I usually see for curling events. At the curling events I can usually count on one hand the number of volunteers like myself who are under 40, and the majority are seniors. Here, most of the volunteers were middle aged, and a good chunk of people were my age or younger. I suppose it helped that the event was taking place during the holiday.

By the Wednesday, fans had figured out that the take home pay was unlimited and we were getting some really good sales. The record for take home was $87000 up until the final game, so people were excited to buy and talking about the winners all week. It was super fun.

Thursday December 29, 2012: One Evening Game
I hadn't been feeling well all week, and tonight's game was the one I really should've called in sick for. Lucky for me though, my spot for the first and only time this week included a pillar to lean on! This was the one time I was by the LRT doors, so it was really busy.

Interestingly enough, I ran into a Canadian Curling Association employee on one of my trips back to my spot after reloading my machine. She's in charge of running the Brier to be held in Edmonton in 2013. I had met her at the Continental Cup last January when I got the super awesome opportunity to volunteer for the CCA's web team during the event. I was encouraged by a woman who curls in my Wednesday ladies league (who used to be a director for local curling events) to email this woman I ran into, but I just hadn't had a chance to yet. We talked about it briefly, and she told me to email her if I wanted to be a director or do something a little more than the local event volunteers for the Brier. Um, yes please! Suffice to say that email will be sent soon. I'm super excited! I really want to work a Brier and I really want to help organize curling events so this could be a great opportunity!

My January 1st fortune - better send that email!

My dad was also at the game, watching from one of the first floor boxes with business people, so lucky for me I got to stand in a box and watch the game for five minutes at the end of my shift. Fortunately a good night's rest left me feeling better for the last two days.

Friday December 30, 2012: Double Game and a Lucky Spot
By now I had no idea what the day or date was. I had settled into the volunteer routine. This is another favourite reason why I love doing these events - I'm a sucker for routine. Do the same thing. See the same people. Be super fashionable for once because we all wear the same thing. Fun times all around.

And today was a super lucky day! For the afternoon game, I was just leaving the office after reloading my machine during the first period, when one of the 50/50 bosses said he had a special job for me. He handed me an extra accreditation card and we headed up to the top of the 200 section...

... and I got to sell 50/50s on the pressbox!!! I've always wanted to go on the catwalk and see the view!! The pressbox is a suspended catwalk that hangs near the 300 level seats, so we always look at it during Oilers games. It was so cool! There are stools all the way around, with little signs to mark who should sit there, like security, or CBC, or IIHF, or Czech media, stuff like that. There's also camera men up there, and free popcorn. We walked the whole way around, selling not too many 50/50s, but mostly admiring the view. No heads or railings in front of you, basically you look down and there's the game! I also got a great view of the flags and Oilers banners. We also stopped a few times to just watch, and the 50/50 boss took a few pictures of me, which didn't turn out at all. Fortunately, I sold a 50/50 ticket to someone who was blogging for the IIHF, so they took my picture and he wrote up a blog post. Click here and scroll to 50-50 Moitie-Moitie December 31/Edmonton to read the blog post by the author who really wasn't a 50/50 fan - but my name and picture made it on to the web - and thanks to Martin Merk for taking a better picture of me - proof I made it to the press box!!

Photo by Martin Merk - thanks, this is the best shot of me all week and proof I made it up to the pressbox! Awesome!

Oilers retired numbers and flags for the World Juniors

I also got to go up and sell in the pressbox for the evening game. Seriously, I know it sounds stupid but one of my life goals was to somehow get up to that pressbox to see the view and I finally did it! Awesome!!

What a view!

People were already talking about how ridiculous the 50/50 pot was going to get for the New Years Eve game - the last game to take place in Edmonton before the medal round went to Calgary - and the Canada vs USA game. One fan told me it was going to get ridiculous tomorrow and I liked that word - he was right. It was ridiculous!

Saturday December 31, 2012: Double Game, Ridiculous Money, 
and More Luck
I finally made it out to the Molson Canadian Hockey House - the huge "bar" where fans could come to watch the games for free. It's located in the Expo Centre, half a block away from the arena. The place was dead when I was there, but I sat for a bit to watch the Oilers game on one of the many big screens. There was also a stage and lots of places to get beer so I reckon it was hopping during the games. Right next door was the Fan Zone. The various trophies were displayed (I missed the Stanley Cup, it was only there for the start of the week - darn, I really want to see it in real life sometime!). There were many areas for families and kids to play hockey games, or look at cool cars, or browse through the small Hockey Hall of Fame area. An artist was onsite painting scenes from each game, there was a car to sign for good luck, and a mock locker room where you could get your photo taken. I did, and it was supposed to be emailed to me, but it never arrived in my inbox. I only spent about 20 minuted walking around the Expo Centre and didn't really get what the hype was about, but it was pretty empty so I imagine it's more fun when the games are on.

Molson Canadian Hockey House - empty for now but full for the games

Trophies, but I missed the Stanley Cup by three days

Kid friendly hockey games

Artist in residence

Trophies and cars to please the boys

Hockey Hall of Fame area

More Hockey Hall of Fame

Signed for good luck!

Mock dressing room photos

Time to head to Rexall...

Today was my lucky day - for the third time this week I was seller number 13! I found out that today this meant I got to go sell to the executive suites!! 

After the first rush of the afternoon game, another seller and I went up the executive elevator (seriously, an employee sits on a stool and pushes the button!) to the sixth floor suites, which are on the opposite side of the 300 level seats. It was pretty fancy up there. Similar to the pressbox, I had always wondered what the view was like. As it was an afternoon game, Finland vs Czech, so they were pretty empty and there wasn't anyone famous up there, but it was neat to see anyways. The suites are about the same size as the first level concourse ones, but fancier with higher end finishings, more seats and fancier food! The view however, was disappointing. It's at the same level as the pressbox, but is actually hindered by the catwalk as it cuts off some of the view.  I think I'd rather hangout in one of the first level concourse suites. Less classy, but better view! 

A lot of the selling we did at this game included hyping up the New Years Eve Canada/US pot. It was good fun. 

As the afternoon game started later than usual, we had a really short turn around - only half an hour to eat and the food didn't arrive until 15 minutes left to go! We even kept our smocks on as there wasn't time to go through the whole signing out process again. I went to the bathroom and came back to find people looking for me. One of the 50/50s boss came and found me - I asked if I was fired but he said no, he had a special job for me. 

We went into the office, a few other sellers were already there. Turns out there were going to let us sell tickets outside the main doors before the doors even opened!! Not outside, like I first thought, but in between the main doors and the outside doors there's a little hallway where people wait out of the cold until the main doors open. So myself and another young guy went out there 20 minutes before the doors opened and sold 50/50s. It was a bit weird. People weren't used to us selling out there (we had previously been told not to go out the doors at all with all our cash!) but we both sold about 200 tickets so it was worth it. We snuck back inside with only a couple minutes before the doors opened. I guess they decided to do this to sweeten the pot a bit before the doors opened, or to help control the initial rush.

Because it was ridiculous.

People were just throwing money at us. For most of the in between period bits I didn't even look up from my handset, money would just keep appearing in front of my face!! I loaded up 3 times before the first intermission and never even made it to my spot after reloading! It was crazy. People were buying lots and often! The pot was well over $60,000 before the puck even dropped! 

The system was overloaded though, and it took extra long to reload our handsets. We could've paid out over $200000 that evening but we couldn't sell and reload fast enough. Half the time most of us were waiting at the office to get reloaded. It was insane! At one point I felt like I was being mobbed - personal space people, personal space!!! People were going nuts! When the second intermission started, I only had 400 tickets left on my machine. About 5 minutes later, with only 50 left, I looked up to announce I only had 50 tickets left and to my surprise I had a line up of about 30 people waiting to give me their money!! How the mob became a line up I really do not know. Unfortunately I sold out much too quickly and that was it. They pay out for the evening ended up being $146000!!!

Like I said though, the machines and the network just couldn't handle it. It took extra long to cash out all the machines, and then the printer just couldn't catch up. They couldn't announce the winner because the machine was still printing out tickets to be drawn from the tumbler after the game had ended!! I got an email the next morning to say the winning number was announced on the hockeycanada.ca website and was quickly claimed. Ridiculous!! What a crazy evening of selling!

One of the times I was upstairs in line waiting to be reloaded, one of the bosses announced a need for some volunteers. Once I heard what it was I quickly jumped at the chance!

So, with five minutes left in the loud, crazy Canada/US game (Canada was leading 3-2), another volunteer and I headed out to our designated aisle. We watched a bit of the game from the entry way - the ushers were being really lenient about letting random people watch the game from there. With one minute left to play, we headed down to the bottom and sat on the first step.

That's right, I watch the last minute of this crazy game, plus Canada celebrating their huge win, plus the prizes being awarded to the players of the game, plus the singing of the Canadian anthem...from the first row!!!!!! It was unreal! We were shaking, it was so exciting!! What an amazing opportunity!

So close - front row!

Canada wins!!

Way to go boys!

Flag rising during the anthem

Good game!

And what a rush. The crowd was going crazy! The whole building errupted! Insane!!

The reason why were were there is because after the USA team left the ice, the Canadian boys swapped out their game sticks for special autographed ones. They were supposed to raise them in the air at centre ice for everyone to cheer for, then come to us and give up their sticks so we could give them to some kids. But the boys were so excited, they mostly pitched their sticks over the boards into the crowd. The ones that did come to our section ended up giving them to some kids anyways, so we decided we did our job regardless.

Time to go for the gold!

Then my volunteer partner and I walked back to the top of the aisle so we weren't mobbed, and watched the fireworks! Yes, they set off fireworks in the arena!! It was New Years Eve afterall! It was pretty neat, all timed to music. We rushed back to the volunteer lounge to sign out with our 50/50 boss. That's when he told us the printer was still printing off tickets, and that they drew names out of a hat and one of the other sellers won a jersey.

Indoor fireworks for New Years Eve!

This is the sad part - the part where I had to say good bye to the strangers I had met, befriended, and then worked with all week. Seriously, I never even knew most of their names, but we were a team and we rocked.

I walked back to my secret [free] parking spot with a pumped up crowd that night. And driving home, still shaking from all the excitement, on New Years Eve nonetheless,  I had a bit of an epiphany of sorts. I spend a lot of time complaining about being (old and) single and lonely. I spend a lot of time trying to reconcile the fact I dont/wont have babies (let me set the record straight, I don't actually want babies) and children and a husband to love and be loved by.

But I realized that if I had a boyfriend, or was married, or had babies to care for like most others my age - I wouldn't have had the opportunity to experience such an awesome week as a World Junior Hockey 50/50 volunteer. I wouldn't get the chance to hang out with other awesome volunteers. I wouldn't get to see the things I saw, go to the places I went, meet the people I did. So maybe I'm not meant to fall in love, get married, have a family (something I've actually figured to be true for awhile now).

Maybe instead, I'm meant to help out, whether that be as part of my great job as a librarian at a university helping students, or as a one-or-twice annually event volunteer helping the awesomest strangers you'll ever meet. And I'm ok with that. Actually, I'm more than ok with that. The Scotties are like six weeks away and I'm so excited (and have been for the past year!) to volunteer - to go through this amazing experience again! And I'm going to keep doing it, I'm going to keep volunteering for big sports events, I'm going to slowly move up the ranks, I'm going to help make the events runs smoothly for all to enjoy. And I'm going to have a blast doing it. Because no one is stopping me, and gosh darn it I deserve to have that much fun once in awhile!! Because I'm pretty awesome in my own way.

This crazy ride isn't quite over though - the volunteer appreciation party is on Thursday. We're going to all go crazy watching the gold medal game. I think there might be some more luck involved...I'll keep you posted!