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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Red Bull Crashed Ice Storms Canada

    Fire on ice. Blades of glory. Crazy Canucks hurtling down an ice track trying to end their lives. Whatever you may call it, Quebec city’s Red Bull Crashed Ice 2008 was an amazing show that drew an estimated 85,000 people in a city of just half a million.

    The event, a mix of hockey, luging, speed skating, and bobsledding, was first drawn up ten years ago. It’s now at the head of Red Bull’s emerging sports marketing strategy, which also includes the New York Red Bull soccer team, as a unique concept that New York Times said has truly developed into “its own sport.”

    Marketing aside, witnessing what was four suited up hockey players padded up and ready to glide down the half a kilometer long track filled with jumps, a mole hills, sharp turns and a finish right by the edges of the St. Lawrence river, made for an unforgettable experience.

    I entered the fray an hour before the show kicked off, hoping to find a spot just below the start to see where the four skaters take the first dives down the course. The area was packed, and had been for hours despite the 1 degree weather. The fans kept warm by dancing, drinks (of all kinds), and huddling close. For this city, the cold is nothing, and that night most of all helped me understand that the Quebecoise are a people that just have ice in their veins.

    I made my way through the crowd, edging closer to the big screen blaring a French-narrated montage of the years past, where the competition had been held in Finland the year before, and Czech Republic, Russia, Minnesota, Austria and Sweden. This year was Quebec’s third year hosting the competition, once again drawing skaters and fans from all over Canada, the USA and Europe.

    The opening heat couldn’t come fast enough, as the cold was beginning to remind me of how crazy this moment was. Pushing off the starting blocks, the skaters burst down the course; only a blur of floating heads over the boards let me know the race had started.

    To compete, skaters ran individual qualifying runs on Friday, Jan. 25. The following night was the big show, when the pool of competitors was finally narrowed down to a group of 64. This group competed in heats of four until a final race, where the first one to make his way down the track would be crowned the champ.

    The race continued for an hour and a half, filled with runs where skaters would lose their footing, get body checked or simply glide down the final hill to the finish. The winners of each heat would climb their way back up hill for another run, until the final show-down for the crown. A Finish skater, Arttu Pihlainen, would be the last one standing at the end of the night, was awarded $5000 for his troubles and bragging rights until the next race.

    His win culminated a weekend of a 100 local workers laying down the ice on the streets of downtown Quebec, known by the locals Vieux Quebec or Old Quebec. According to the Canadian Newswire website, workers put together a cooling system to maintain the ice’s surface and threw up what were ice hockey boards to keep the skaters inside the track, and the fans from spilling on to the surface.

    With any luck, the show will someday make its way to New York; I can only imagine four skaters making their way past the M’M store in Times Square on to Broadway and then eventually into Chinatown. For now I’ll enjoy the show that brought together some courage, speed and a little crazy.

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