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Residents crowd local bars, eateries to watch U.S.-Canada Olympic hockey match

Dan Speicher | For the Valley News Dispatch
Brian Mihuc of North Hills watches the USA-Canada Olympic semifinal hockey game at Carnivores in Oakmont on Friday, Feb. 21, 2014.

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By R.A. Monti
Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, 1:11 a.m.

As the clock hit zero on Team USA's 1-0 loss to Team Canada in Friday's Olympic hockey semi-final, Spencer Hennen stood out in the packed crowd at Carnivores Restaurant and Sports Bar like a big, red, sore thumb.

The yells of Hennen, 23, a Vancouver, Canada, native, were the only sound that could be heard in the Oakmont bar when it was clear that the Canadians would be playing for a gold medal.

“I've been hearing (trash talk) all week,” said the Oakmont resident, who was at the bar sporting a red Team Canada jersey. “I went to Penn State and work on the grounds crew at Oakmont Country Club now.

“I was in Vancouver for the last Olympics when we won gold. We're going to do it again.”

It wasn't only Canadian ex pats who were out-and-about to watch the rival countries duel on the ice.

“I actually just put my two-weeks notice in today,” said Jerry Bell, referring to why he was in a bar watching a hockey game during work hours. “So, I'm out celebrating the game and my career change.”

Bell, 45, of Shaler was joined by about a dozen soon-to-be-ex-colleagues.

To show his American pride, Bell was sporting a 1984 USA hockey jersey — which didn't fit as well as it did back then, he said.

“Back then, it was a hockey jersey, now it's a cycling shirt,” he joked.

Despite the blue sky and sunshine, Rob Cugini couldn't help but take off from his family-owned construction business.

“We love this place, so we took off to watch the game,” said Cugini, 29, of Oakmont, pointing to his friends seated beside him at the bar, all sporting Team USA shirts. “I'm a hockey fan, but I'm more of a USA fan than anything else.”

Cugini said he'd probably root for the Canadians now because they have Penguins players Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz.

“They're our guys, and you have to stick with them,” he said. “I don't understand how we can have them under contract and let them play for Canada, but I'll root for them.”

In Primanti Bros. restaurant, in Harmar — where every seat and parking place was filled — Stephanie Shields sat in a booth with six of her friends waiting for her husband, Damian, to arrive on his lunch break.

“I work from home, so I decided to come watch the game for lunch,” said Shields, 50, of Plum, whose son, Stephen, plays hockey. “I'm a hockey mom, so what else would I do?”

Shields said she didn't feel weird rooting against Crosby.

“I'm USA all the way,” she said.

South Buffalo resident Ken Long said he couldn't miss the game.

“I'm a former Marine,” said Long, 51, as he waited for a seat at the bar. “I went to work early and I left early so I could watch the game.”

“I work right up the hill,” he said. “This is a no-brainer.”

R.A. Monti is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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