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It may be the most anticipated hockey game in history. It's almost certainly the most watched, and it's happening right now: Team Canada versus Team USA for the gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Now, Canada is up two to one right now with a few minutes to go, and NPR's Martin Kaste is in downtown Vancouver. He's surrounded by thousands of screaming people in red and white hockey jerseys. Martin, first tell us where you are.
MARTIN KASTE: I'm on Robson's Square, which is sort of the centerpiece plaza here in the heart of downtown Vancouver. I've backed away a little bit from the thousands of screaming people because I couldn't hear you on the phone if I (unintelligible), and right now, of course, they're staring raptly as these giant screens. They've stood up here. So if something happens (unintelligible), I'm in the background. But thousands, easily thousands of Canadians, hockey sticks with a flag attached, jerseys, Canadian maple leaf stocking caps, the whole nine yards.
RAZ: And Martin, presumably, they're reacting pretty well to the game at the moment because Canada's up.
KASTE: Yeah, they pretty much you can close your eyes and watch this game just listening to their reaction. They cheer every shot on goal. They boo every time the U.S. takes the shot on goal. There's the old, uh, and then the disappointment, oh. I mean, you can hear every move.
It's pretty intense. They'll even cheer their celebrities. William Shatner gets a cheer when he's seen in the crowd on the big screen, and of course, Vince Vaughn in a USA jersey gets a big boo. So it's very involved, this crowd.
RAZ: Martin, why is this almost like a Cold War rivalry. I mean, why are Canadians particularly passionate about beating us?
KASTE: Well, this is maybe the most this is the best way to sort of define who's really the king of hockey, who's got bragging rights. You know, the NHL is full of Canadian and American players, and European players, too, but they're all mixed up on all these teams. But as one fan here told me a few minutes ago, when the Olympics happen, when you can really sort of separate them out, and you get the grudge match, and you get to see whose game this is of course Canadians think it's their game, and, you know, it is but this is when they get to shine in their sport.
RAZ: Right, and Martin, most of know that the U.S. actually beat Canada in a preliminary round last week, a huge upset. How did Canada claw back to get to the finals?
KASTE: Well, they had to play an extra game. The U.S. got a bye, of course. So Canada had to face Russia, traditionally a big power in hockey, too, and they were pretty convincing against Russia. They beat them seven-three.
So they had to work harder. They had to claw back, as you say, but, you know, they're definitely that that's an asset now on the ice. During the first period of this game, they were pretty dominant. Then the U.S. really came rolling back in the second period, but they've been taking relatively close number of shots on goal. It's a really good matchup. It's a pretty intense, but the Canadians I think just want it a little more.
RAZ: Martin, do you see anybody in the crowd where you're standing wearing red, white and blue?
KASTE: There was this one lone kid. He kind of wandered in as the game started, and every time he even moved, he got booed and told to go home. It's pretty good-natured, but I'm not sure I would want to be him if Canada somehow lost this game. It's pretty much a sea of red and white, and the blue, well, blue skies are opening up here, but that's about all you'll see.
RAZ: That is NPR's Martin Kaste. He's in Vancouver watching the game, the hockey game between the U.S. and Canada. There's just about two minutes remaining. Martin, we're out of time. Thanks so much.
KASTE: Thank you.
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