Watching Olympic hockey in Africa

Mark Thiessen, Kigali, Rwanda

When my wife and I and our four children moved from Williams Lake, B.C., to Kigali, Rwanda this past August for a two-year job placement, one of my regrets was that we would be away from B.C. during the only Olympics that would ever be held that close to home.

Our recent viewing of the Games from Africa reminded me of my early days as a hockey fan in Williams Lake with the transistor radio under the covers at night. If I teased the tuning dial just enough and held my mouth the right way, I could barely make out what was happening far away in Vancouver. 

During a time when almost every game is available on television or the Internet, such was not the case for us during the two weeks of the Olympics. CTV, TSN, and NBC are not available in Kigali (there’s a shocker). Moreover, our internet speed, though called “high-speed” is not exactly the high speed we now have in Canada. Even if it were, CTV and TSN did not allow anyone outside of Canada to view any of their live streaming of events.

During the first week of the Olympics, we were able to stream events with Eastern European commentary using different Internet sites. Canada’s hockey games generally started at 2:30 a.m., so I wanted more for the hours of sleep I was sacrificing.

Desperate times called for desperate measures. There was another option at our disposal. I Skyped my brother and asked him to place his laptop with webcam directly in front of his television set. It became our biggest success. The audio cut in and out due to the difficulty of not being able to filter out crowd noise (the ads were always crystal clear) and the video streaming was certainly far from perfect, but the chance to see the Canadian feed and be able to give my brother a virtual high five each time Canada scored made it an Olympic experience to remember.

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Like most of you, the capper was the men’s hockey final. With 20 other Canadians, we watched the game in all its glory right down to Crosby’s winning marker. But was it actually Crosby’s winning marker? Due to the poor quality of both video and audio, I would sometimes announce to the gathered throng who was on the ice through the recognition of the player’s numbers. I did this especially in overtime, noting which pair of forwards had just climbed over the boards.

Sadly, unlike Chris Cuthbert of TSN, I made the wrong call on what will go down as a defining Canadian sports moment. I called Crosby to Iginla, with Iggy scoring the goal (tells you a little of how poor our feed was at this point). Nonetheless, we screamed and ran around the living room, hugging and high fiving. It wasn’t until about five minutes later that we realized it was Crosby’s goal.

Years from now, when Canadians reminisce about where they were for the historic goal, we’ll recall that we were in Kigali, Rwanda. And we’ll remember that for five brief minutes, Jarome Iginla was this generation’s Paul Henderson.