50 plus hours.
One amazing time.
I don't know if I can properly re-cap my volunteer experience at the World Junior Hockey Championships except to say it was awesome.
I split my time fairly equally between the Fan Information booths and selling 50/50 tickets. My original duties were for Fan Information, but the call went out late in the tournament that they were short 50/50 salespeople, and since I'd done the job before at the Saddledome, I jumped at the opportunity.
Especially when the pots for the 50/50 were expected to top $100,000. That's take home. $100,000 tax free to the winner (this is Canada... we don't pay takes on lottery winning up here... yet another reason y'all should move here).
My first couple of shifts were actually before the event officially started. The teams were starting to arrive in Alberta in the third week of December, and were centralized to either Edmonton or Calgary by the 23rd. My first two shifts were at one of the host hotels - and Team Slovakia was at my hotel (I can say that now that there aren't numerous puck
I worked Christmas day... mostly because I knew I wasn't going home to BC for the holidays because of the tournament, and I wanted something to do that day - but also to allow those volunteers with families the ability to stay home and enjoy the day with their loved ones. The bonus - the hotel allowed me to indulge (for free!) their normally $100 a plate Christmas brunch. It was mighty tasty!
My next few shifts were at the Saddledome. During the round robin play, I volunteered at the Fan Information booth on the concourse... we answered questions... I wowed men with my knowledge of the tournament (winners, where it has/will be held - that sort of stuff)... handed out pins... watched kids puke.
Yes... throughout the tournament I watched no less than four kids barf right by me. It's no wonder I caught the plague the day after the tournament was done and spent the better part of the day bowing to the porcelain god.
As soon as the medal round started, I pretty much focussed my attention on 50/50 ticket sales. I worked the Sweden/Finland semi-final game, and unfortunately the system couldn't keep up with the number of people wanting to buy tickets, and we had to shut the system down when we hit about a $120,000 pot (that's $240,000 in sales). Apparently the 50/50 coordinators weren't so happy with me carrying around $10,000 in cash myself (we didn't run into the same ticket limits as they did in Edmonton - check out Lisa's blog for her volunteer experience - so I just kept selling and selling) and I got the stink eye when I turned my money in. I never felt unsafe, so it didn't bother me in the least but I can see their issues. I made sure for the next games that I turned in my money regularly.
I may have used my accreditation to see the Canada/Russia game for "free" (as volunteers we weren't given tickets - or parking - and we really weren't supposed to be in the Saddledome unless we were working... oops!). I stood in the standing room only section with a couple of other volunteers, and honestly enjoyed watching that game (even though Canada lost in a heartbreaker) more than any other game I've watched live in my entire life. The three of us went through the lows (being down 6-1) and the highs (coming back to only lose 6-5) together. I think they gave me the best compliments ever (as a girl hockey fan sometimes they are few and far between) - I knew when to swear, when to cheer and when to jump around and hug people. We became friends for the last couple of days... they were a good couple of (older) guys.
They finally got the 50/50 system working better for the bronze and gold medal games. The pot for the bronze game (that Canada won!) was about $134,000 and smaller, but still ridiculously high for the gold medal game. As you stop selling 50/50 tickets at the end of the second intermission, I was able to watch the end of both games - and they were both excellent. The gold medal game went into overtime, with Sweden claiming the title. For them it was kind of like a home game with all the support (Canada lost to Russia in 2011 so there were few people cheering for them) and they thanked the fans over and over at the end of the game. I was proud for them.
I also watched a few games as a fan. The tournament website had this buy/sell ticket feature whereby people could buy tickets from those that had tournament passes (the tournament was technically sold out in advance). I picked up pairs of tickets to three games for less than $40 total. Yup... that's an average of $13 a game. And I also managed to pick up a set of tickets while I was volunteering at the booth from a guy that just couldn't make it. For free!
The tournament did not disappoint in the least - it was top-notch hockey, and every single player wore their hearts on their jersey sleeves every single night (even if I did think I was watching the Russian diving team and not their hockey team for awhile there). For many of the international players, this may be the highlight of their career - while many of the Canadians, Russians, and Americans will surely be at least drafted into the NHL, very few of players from Denmark, Latvia and Switzerland will ever see the big show in North America.
We had a volunteer appreciation party last night. I don't think I've ever been thanked so much for the work that I did as I have by the people organizing this tournament. Not only did I get a handwritten thank-you note from my coordinator, we were treated to an evening of food (although I did manage to lose my front tooth veneer eating some chicken... nothing like an emergency weekend trip to the dentist), an open bar, and numerous door prizes (even though I didn't win one). We were able to pick up some left-over souvenir merchandise at rock-bottom prices (and I mean totally rock-bottom - all the apparel for the tournament was by Nike), and by the end of the evening they were just giving stuff away free. We were also given a thank-you gift on the way out the door - a set of tournament coasters, an official microfibre cleaning cloth, program, and Edge Advantage band (one of those bands that is supposed to help you with your balance), a pair of tickets to either the Calgary Hitmen or Calgary Roughnecks (I chose the Roughnecks), and a bag of chips (yes... a bag of chips).
This really was the experience of a lifetime. If you ever have the chance to volunteer for something you love and are passionate about, I highly recommend it.
The memories are forever.