TICONDEROGA - "Just one more story..."
Fred Raymon has lots of stories, including some from his most recent adventure - the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
"My lasting memory is all the people were rooting for Canada (to win medals), but everyone was so friendly and welcoming," the Ticonderoga man said of his Olympic experience. "Canada was a great host."
Raymon attended nine hockey games at the Olympics, including both United States vs. Canada contests. The U.S. won in preliminary round play and the Canadians won the gold medal game, 3-2, in overtime.
"I was sitting six or seven rows behind the goal," Raymon said of the historic gold medal game. "I saw (Sydney) Crosby's goal win it and the celebration.
"It was great hockey, really exciting and well-played" he continued. "I was rooting for the Americans, but the best team won; there's no question about that."
Raymon had tickets to figure skating, snow boarding and freestyle skiing, but he traded those to get all the hockey tickets he could muster.
"I'm a hockey guy," he said. "I always have been."
Some compared the performance of the underdog American hockey team to the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" U.S. team that beat the Soviet Union and won gold in Lake Placid. Not Raymon.
"It was totally different in 1980," Raymon said. "The American team was a bunch a kids. This (2010) team was NHL (National Hockey League) players. In 1980 the Soviets were unbeatable. It was the Cold War; emotions ran really high."
Raymon would know. He was at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid - and a lot more.
A retired Ticonderoga Central School teacher, Raymon has been to 11 Olympic Games, everyone since 1976 except the 1980 Moscow Games that were boycotted by the U.S. after the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.
He saw Michael Phelps win seven gold medals and Usain Bolt set three world records in 2008 in China. He was there for Carl Lewis's four gold medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. He sat with decathlete Dan O'Brien's parents while he competed in the 1992 Barcelona Games.
Raymon has seen more than three decades of Olympic history firsthand, but most of his stories are about people, not competitions.
"I've met so many wonderful and interesting people," he said. "I love sports, but it's the chance meetings with people that make the Olympics special."
While in China for the 2008 Beijing Games he met Yang Tai Yang, that country's most famous artist. Striking up a conversation, something Raymon has no trouble doing, he was invited to Yang's home and returned to Ti with a scroll.
While on a tour of New Zealand just before the 2000 Sydney Games, Raymon met Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mt. Everest. It remains a highlight of his life.
"You don't get to know people by staying quiet," the out-going Raymon said. "I like to visit. It's not hard to meet interesting people."
Raymon attends the Olympics as part of a tour organized by Track & Field News. He's made some impressive friends.
George Ramos, three-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist with the Los Angeles Times, was his roommate in Sydney. He counts Rafer Johnson, a former Olympian and aide to the late Sen. Bobby Kennedy, and Milt Davis of the 1958 NFL Champion Baltimore Colts as friends. He gets Christmas cards from John Landy, the famed Australian runner, who later became a high-ranking government official. He also knows Sebastian Coe, the British track and field world-record holder who later served in England's Parliament.
On his way home from Vancouver he was seated on the plane next to the mother of Patrick Kane, the star of the U.S. hockey team.
Raymon has autographs from hundreds of athletes and thousands of photos.
Besides meeting people, Raymon loves to sightsee. While in Greece he visited the Parthenon and ran in the Stadia, site of the original Olympics. In China he went to the Great Wall and Xian, one of China's oldest cities.
"I do a lot of reading before I go to an Olympics," Raymon said. "I want to see more than the Games; I want to learn about the country and culture."
Raymon's interest in the Olympics comes from bitter disappointment.
A stalwart athlete in high school in Ogdensburg, he went to Holy Cross College on a football and baseball scholarship. He lost that scholarship when he injured a knee and couldn't play football any more.
Raymon transferred to SUNY-Potsdam. He had never played soccer, but decided to try out for the Bear team. He made it and became an All-America goalie.
In 1963 he was invited to try out for the U.S. soccer team that would play in Pan American Games, a regional competition that often led athletes to the Olympics. He made the U.S. team that was to play in Brazil.
"In those days the athletes had to pay their own way," Raymon recalled. "I was still in school and couldn't afford it. I missed a great opportunity, but I decided one day I'd realize a dream and attend an Olympics."