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If your Christmas wish is to see Olympic hockey teams live and in action, there may be something special under the tree for you this year.

An exhibition game between the Slovak and Russian women’s Olympic hockey teams will be held at the Langley Events Centre on Monday, February 8, at 7pm. Tickets are on sale now for $20 for adults or $12 for children under 15 at or 604.455.8888.

“This is an amazing opportunity for sports fans, families, and all those who want to catch the spirit of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games to see some live pre-Olympic action,” said Township of Langley Councillor Jordan Bateman, Chair of the Langley Torch Relay Committee. “This game will be affordable and accessible: no need to deal with ticket lotteries or traffic, or to pay hundreds of dollars to get in.” The exhibition game between the two traditional hockey rivals will cap a day of celebrations that will welcome the Olympic Torch Relay to the Township of Langley. On Monday, February 8, the Olympic Flame will make its way through Walnut Grove, Fort Langley, Aldergrove, and Willoughby, where it will be officially welcomed during a public ceremony at the Langley Events Centre, 7888 – 200 Street.

A free, outdoor Community Celebration will be held from 10:30am to 1pm, and feature entertainment, the arrival of the Torch, introduction of the Township’s community torch bearer, and the lighting of the official cauldron. From 1 to 5pm, a kids-oriented Torch Festival with free activities, music, and art will be held inside the Events Centre. “This will be a really special day for our community and being able to host a hockey game between two Olympic teams is the perfect way to conclude it,” said Jared Harman, the Langley Events Centre’s Manager of Marketing and Sales. “We are anticipating a full house that will get to take part in an exciting and unique experience.” Those who attend the festival and game have another treat in store: a pre-game presentation of The Magical Theatrical Vending Machine, the Slovak entry in the Cultural Olympiad. The Olympiad, which runs in conjunction with the Olympic Games, is a showcase of Canadian and international arts and popular culture, and the Slovaks are using improv comedy, screw-ball sketches, and audience interaction to win over crowds.

Presented by Teatro Tatro, The Magical Theatrical Vending Machine features some of Europe’s best actors working out of a one-of-a-kind truck that transforms into a stage. Members of the audience roll dice, push buttons, spin a wheel, or call out suggestions for winter Olympic sports and countries. When the truck opens up, the performers go to town using props, puppets, and special effects.

“This is really fun,” Bateman said. “These guys are completely nuts; they’d do anything to get a laugh. The truck itself is whimsical and brightly coloured, and was painted by one of the most famous artists in Slovakia. A lot of work went into this. It will be very special to see. It’s going to be a chance to laugh, have fun, and see some great improv comedy. Kids are going to love it.”

The Magical Theatrical Vending Machine is representing Slovakia in the Olympiad thanks to producer, promoter, and event manager Marika Kovalcikova. Having worked with Teatro Tatro in her homeland of Slovakia before coming to Vancouver, she knew the team of accomplished, professional actors had the creativity and imagination to become their country’s official entry in the Olympiad.

“It’s funny, humourous, very unique, very different,” said Kovalcikova, who noted that the stage was built from scratch. The Township of Langley will be the first to see it, as The Magical Theatrical Vending Machine will make its debut at the Community Celebration, Torch Festival, and hockey game before moving on to other Olympic performances.

Kovalcikova is also responsible for bringing the Olympic hockey teams to the Langley Events Centre, and organized the game through connections she made when she helped organize the 2006 World Junior Hockey Championships. The Slovak Olympic Committee and women’s hockey team, along with the Russian team, were eager to get involved in the exhibition event, and as it turned out, the evening of February 8 worked for everyone.

“It’s exciting, especially being able to do it on the same day as the Torch Relay,” Kovalcikova said.

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