It was a storybook ending to Vancouver’s games. Hockey gold on Canadian soil. Crosby netting the game-winner in OT against rival U.S. Canada ending the Games with 14 gold—the most ever awarded to a single country in a Winter Olympics.
And it was great hockey, too: riveting, fast-paced, with few whistles or penalties to slow the game.
Jonathan Toews—the pride of Winnipeg—opened scoring for Canada at 7:10 in the first, grabbing a rebound off Mike Richards’s shot and shovelling it up high, past Ryan Miller. Corey Perry made it 2-0 at 7:13 in the second—a tap-in from Ryan Getzlaf, which gave Canada some breathing room. Briefly.
The U.S. responded five minutes later, when centre Ryan Kesler skated into the Canadian zone, fed Patrick Kane, then tipped Kane’s shot past Roberto Luongo—his teammate on the Canucks. Refusing to give up, they dominated play in the third. They were rewarded with just 24.4 seconds remaining in regulation when Zach Parise grabbed the loose puck and fired low on Luongo.
At that point, “everybody’s heart dropped,” says Ottawa native, Brian Miklaucic, carrying a sign which read Hockey Is Canada’s Game. “I don’t think anyone was breathing,” added Jerome Julier, who’d flown to Vancouver from Fontainebleau, France, where he is studying for his MBA at Insead.
Next came overtime: four-on-four.
Around the seven-minute marker, Iginla had his back to Sidney Crosby. “I didn’t think he’d know I was there, so I let him know,” Crosby told reporters afterwards. “He just made a great little pass down low and I just threw it at the net. I wasn’t really aiming for anything. I didn’t see it go in the net. I just heard everyone scream.”
His mouthguard, gloves and stick went flying into the air, and the crowd at Canada Hockey Place leapt to its feet.
The sea of red in the stands included prime-minister Stephen Harper and his son, Wayne Gretzky and his wife Janet—who wore a red sweater under her blazer—Vince Vaughn, Mark Messier and about 16,800 fans—a remarkable number of whom were wearing No. 87, red Team Canada jerseys. Moments after the Maple Leaf was raised to the roof, a sudden burst of gold fireworks shot five stories in the air.
“A great player made a great play and found a way to finish us off,” said U.S. coach Ron Wilson. “Sometimes the best in the tournament doesn’t win the gold medal. I thought these guys were as good as any team I’ve ever coached.”
“We proved that it’s not just Canada’s game. We took them to overtime,” Kesler said afterwards. “We beat them once already [in the preliminary round] and it’s anybody’s game once you’re in overtime. You’ve got to give them respect. They played a good game and I thought we played pretty well too.”
Back in the concourse, fans, many, with red faces and sweaty brows, and some looking emotionally draine, high-fived strangers and broke out in spontaneous chants of Ca-na-da, Ca-na-da. “I’m so happy,” one father said, wrapping his young son in his arms.
The party spilled out into the streets where throngs of people were throngs were chanting: Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole and young men were running down the streets of Vancouver carrying the Maple Leaf.
“We got the most gold ever at an Olympics—we own the podium,” said Caledon, Ontario’s Brennan Mulcahy, who said his heart was doing 190 in OT. “It’s a great day to be Canadian,” said Mulcahy, who’d paid $8,000 for a pair of tickets to the final.
“It doesn’t even feel real,” Crosby said. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime to play in the Olympics here and try and get a gold medal,” he added. “It could have been anybody else. It could’ve been any other guy in that room.” Maybe.