10 Years Ago Today, Canada Wins Olympic Hockey Gold

Sunday, February 28, 2010. Canada wins 3-2 in overtime over Team USA to earn men’s Olympic hockey gold on the shot heard ’round the hockey world—Sidney Crosby’s golden goal.

It’s a great time to be Canadian. The country is thick with national pride as the heart tugging notes and lyrics of Nikki Yanofsky’s I Believe flows through the country and Canada sits atop the gold medal leaderboard for the first time in history.

Just 3 days earlier, Canada’s national women’s team solidifies its place in Olympic hockey history with a 2-0 victory over the same opponent, Team USA. But now it’s time for the men to step up to the challenge against the hungry Americans.

Being in Vancouver at that time, you could feel the excitement and tension throughout the city as the final showdown of the Olympics approached. Most Canadians can relate to the idea of this being the land of hockey. You hear some say that it’s in our national DNA. A gold medal game against the USA would be hard fought and not easily won. It would be a good game.

Of course, Canada Hockey Place (aka General Motors Place then, Rogers Arena now) was packed, and so were the streets, the pubs, and people’s private homes. No matter where you were, it was a chance to see hockey history unfold right in front of your eyes. The past 2 weeks had already been a magical time for Vancouver and all of Canada, but this game was going to be Canada’s greatest test. Our sport, our team, our time.

The golden goal, as it instantly came to be known (thanks to Chris Cuthbert’s memorable call), is and was the most dramatic and important hockey goal scored in this still young century.

Much of the tension on that day came from the fact that it was yet another classic Canada versus USA Olympic gold showdown—a rematch of 2002, where Canada brought home the gold from the Americans own home ice in Salt Lake City, Utah. But this time the game would take place on Canada’s home ice, and it offered an opportunity for redemption from the disastrous 2006 Olympic result. So much was on the line on that fateful day that it was as difficult to look at the game as it was to look away from it.

To make matters worse, Canada had suffered its only defeat of the tournament to the same American team just one week earlier. Team USA entered the gold medal game with an undefeated 5-0 record. Canada’s blemished mark was 5-1 thanks to that disappointing 5-3 loss.

All of these circumstances made it seem as though conditions were ripe for the Americans to finally capture another Olympic gold. The last time they’d achieved the feat, it became known as the “miracle on ice”. This time around, something far less miraculous, though still fairly daunting, was going to be needed. And everyone watching on that day was aware that absolutely anything was possible.

By the time the puck was dropped, the tension was so thick in the air around Vancouver that it was palpable. If you looked outside at the streets, there was hardly anyone about. It seemed as though the entire country was somewhere watching this game.

And Canada’s start was promising. The game’s first goal came at 12:50 of the first period courtesy of Jonathan Toews. It’s second, from Corey Perry at 7:13 of the second. But before that period was out, Ryan Kessler made an excellent, subtle deflection at 12:44 to cut Canada’s lead in half. It would (seemingly) all come down to a third period in which Canada would do its best to hold the fort for a tight one-goal win.

But fate had other plans—and an even tighter outcome in mind. With just 24 seconds left in the final frame and US goalie Ryan Miller pulled for an extra attacker, Zach Parise tied the game at 2 goals apiece after a desperation play in front of the Canadian net. The game was going to overtime, and I was a nervous wreck!

The intermission between the third period and overtime seemed to last forever, but when it finally started up again it would only last for 7 minutes and 40 seconds—most of which was controlled by Canada.

Just seconds after a Scott Niedermayer turnover forced Roberto Luongo to make a huge save on Joe Pavelski, Sidney Crosby started the rush that would ultimately end the game. Though his initial attempt to split the defence failed, Crosby recovered the puck in the corner and executed a quick give-and-go with Jarome Iginla along the boards.

The play was nearly broken up by the referee’s feet getting in the way of the puck, but Crosby was able to quickly regain control and poke it through to Iginla. Yelling “Iggy!” as he broke for the net in anticipation of the return pass, everything fell into pace as Iginla perfectly placed the puck so that Crosby could both receive the pass and take the bad angle shot all in a single motion—as smooth as silk.

Typically a shot from that poor of an angle isn’t going to beat NHL calibre goaltending, but the play unfolded so quickly that Ryan Miller was unable to close the five hole in time, and the golden goal was scored. At that moment, massive celebrations erupted all over Canada.

My Own Personal Experience of the Golden Goal

Although this article is not about me, I’m going to give you my own personal experience of the golden goal as I believe it to be a story worth telling.

As soon as the game was over (less a few minutes spent running through the house screaming at the top of my lungs), I said to my now wife: “We’re going down town!” At the time we were both living in New Westminster, so it wasn’t a very long trip. However, the (pedestrian) traffic into downtown Vancouver was absolutely insane, with thousands of people everywhere—every last one of them in some form of patriotic garb or waving Canada’s flag.

There were people wrapped in the flag, people with their faces painted red and white, and hundreds of celebrating fans in their official Olympic red Canada mittens.

For my own part, I was wearing a Team Canada Olympic hockey jersey that my wife had just given me for Valentine’s Day two weeks earlier. Being from Nova Scotia myself, and a huge Sidney Crosby fan (I’d only just arrived in BC the month before), the jersey, naturally, featured Crosby’s name and number.

Little did I know when we left the house that I was about to be treated like a massive celebrity, but that’s exactly what happened. On the streets of Vancouver in my Sidney Crosby jersey I received cheers, high fives, and even a number of hugs… all from total strangers. People were yelling “CROOOSBYYY” from a block away when they saw the jersey. It was absolutely incredible.

Never before had I seen such hordes of happy people. Nor since. It was total chaos, complete insanity, and utter pandemonium, but in the greatest way possible. We spent several hours celebrating in the streets with the massive crowd as it moved about the city. Everyone was in the best mood ever.

We may not have known who each other was, but we all had one major thing in common—we were all Canadian, and our country had just, once again, asserted itself as the greatest hockey nation on Earth.

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