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Sporty’s Olympic Report #9/10

March 3, 2010

A whirlwind final 2 days  saw so many things happen in Canadian Olympic history.  Edging up on our best ever medal total, we also set our eyes on the best gold medal haul in Winter Olympics history.  With just two days left two of our favourite winter sports as well as gold medal favourites were in the spotlight. Men’s curling and Men’s Hockey.

Kevin Martin saw his sparkling Olympic tournament out in fine style, unbeaten on his road to gold.  A valiant effort by the Norwegians (and their fancy pants) was stymied by a very workmanlike, efficient match from the Canadians.  Buoyed by another impromptu rendition of O’ Canada from the crowd, Martin’s rink was spurred to a solid win. Gold medal #13 and a bit of redemption for Mr. Martin, who fell to the Norwegians back in the final of the 2002 Olympics. Congratulations Kevin Martin, Marc Kennedy, John Morris, Ben Hebert and Adam Enright!


Then all eyes turned to the gold medal match between the USA and Canada on the final Sunday of the Games. No more hype could surround a game. A gold medal game in the Olympics between two intense rivals, one on home soil. Mirroring the 2002 Olympics held in Salt Lake City, the rivals were determined to knock off the hosts at home.

Their roads to gold took very different routes. The young American team was looking to win gold after going without a loss throughout the tournament. Riding the absolutely stellar goaltending of Ryan Miller, Team USA was looking for their 1st Olympic hockey gold medal since the Lake Placid Miracle on Ice. The team few picked to win gold, let alone a medal, was poised for the chance to ruin the party for their northern neighbours.

The hosts had been viewed as favourites coming into the Olympic tournament, but had fallen 5-3 in a round-robin game to the Americans earlier in the tournament. Nerves were frayed, fingers were pointed and the many naysayers became apparent.  Changing their goalie from perennial all-star Martin Brodeur to the home-town favourite Roberto Luongo, Team Canada improved through the playoff round to again reach finals.  Still questions abounded: ‘Was Luongo good enough?’ ‘Was our D strong enough, based on squeaking past the Slovakians in the semi-final?’  In a country where life seems defined by one sport alone, a country stood nervously by, awaiting the outcome of one final game.

I myself, decked out in my Team Canada jersey, hat and scarf, sipped nervously at my bottle and nibbled my fingers at the bar, 40 minutes prior to puck drop. All around me were similarly-garbed friends and strangers alike, all waiting for the drama to begin. Although the quarter-final match up against the Russians provided some electricity in the beginning, this was the game everyone had been waiting for.  It seemed the perfect matchup – young and speedy USA against a big, skilled Canadian squad.

Canada struck first with a rebound goal from Jonathan Toews, the young captain of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, who just may have had his coming out party.  The pro-Canadian crowd erupted and some weight was lifted from the entire Canadian bench. A tight, hard-fought period and Canada led 1-0 going into the 1st intermission.

Entering the second period, a second goal by Corey Perry, bounced off a leg in front and was whipped into the net past Miller. No chance for the goalie and the crowd roared its approval. Ryan Kesler subdued the crowd somewhat when he beat his Vancouver Canucks’ teammate to put the USA on the board. 2-1 after two periods of play.

The atmosphere was electric as Team Canada rang two shots off the post early in the third period. Defending under pressure, Canada was just 24.4s from a regulation win and the gold medal when, with star goalie Ryan Miller on the bench, Zach Parise, son of J.P. Parise, member of the 72 Series Team Canada, tied the game. Fans across the country experienced heart palpitations as visions of gold suddenly vanished.  The arena was stunned.  Sudden death overtime loomed against a team that seemed to be playing with nothing to lose.

The overtime period saw Team Canada come out with energy that seemed to have been lacking in the final few minutes of regulation time. In an all-out effort to win the game, Canada pressed with every shift. Canadian fans however, had their hearts in their hands every time an American rush reached our blue line. Throughout the tournament, the Canadian coaching staff had contended with the apparent need for the players on the ice to over-pass the puck. In what seemed like a quest to provide the prettiest goal, the concept of just putting the puck on net and crashing away for a rebound seemed to have disappeared.

Likewise, much-heralded Sidney Crosby had, throughout the tournament, been invisible.  Not for lack of effort, perhaps from the immense pressure of being Canada’s ‘Next One’ or the intense scrutiny he was paid by every team he played against, but Sid ‘the Kid’ was not leading as much by example as we were used to seeing. 7:40 into overtime, Sid erased those thoughts with one shift and one shot.

Driving the net, he pushed the puck towards Miller, who swept it into the corner.  Following up the play, Crosby gathered up the puck off the referee and passed it back to Jarome Iginla coming up the boards from the corner, and headed for the net. Receiving a soft pass from the falling Iginla, Crosby had a direct line to the goal and slipped a quick shot through a surprised Miller’s legs. Mobbed by his teammates, Crosby remarked that he hadn’t even seen the puck go in, but had reacted when the siren and the fans did.

Not the best player at the tournament, not an all-star, that honour went to teammate Jonathan Toews, but a hockey hero nonetheless.  Sidney Crosby scored the golden goal that sent the entire country into a frenzy. Words can barely express how much joy and excitement was expressed for hours after that goal was scored, from coast to coast in Canada. Roads were closed, impromptu parades staged and a whole country rejoiced in the moment that brought them hockey supremacy once again.

I cheered myself hoarse, nibbled fingers to the nub, pounded the tables and waved flags. I couldn’t have been prouder to be a Canadian then the moment when our team won that gold medal. Our 14th gold medal of our Winter Olympic Games couldn’t have been provided by a more exciting event in our sporting history.

Cheers Canada! Hockey is ours. If only for the next four years, because the world will always be waiting to take us down.

Kudos to Team USA for providing all the competition we could ever desire. Ryan Miller deserved better.


Here’s hoping there are many more games like this in the future!

Even if this smurf’s heart could barely take this one 🙂

Reporter!Smurf signing off…

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