Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics - Final day review
They got the one that they really wanted. In the final event of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Canada’s men defeated the United States by a scoreline of 3-2, to win the Ice Hockey gold medal.
The result wasn’t the one the Americans wanted, and the path to victory perhaps not the one the Canadians were hoping for, but the two nations contrived to put on an enthralling game for every impartial observer watching.
In front of an overwhelmingly partisan crowd at Canada Hockey Place, with tickets having changed hands outside the venue for thousands of dollars, it took an overtime goal from Sidney Crosby to deliver the Canadian nation the medal that they craved.
It started off well for Canada, as they out-shot the Americans 10-8 in the first period, and took a one goal lead into the first intermission, courtesy of Jonathan Toews’ first goal of the tournament.
Seven minutes into the second period, Corey Perry doubled Canada’s lead, slotting away a rebound off US goalie Ryan Miller. Five minutes later, Ryan Kesler got the US back into it, tipping a shot from Patrick Kane past his Vancouver Canucks team-mate Roberto Luongo in the Canada goal.
Though Luongo then made a number saves to keep his team ahead, it was Canada who really went for the kill, but they squandered a number of excellent chances to restore their lead. The best fell to Sidney Crosby on a breakaway, but he knocked the puck too far ahead of him, allowing the US to clear the danger.
As the time ebbed away in the third period, the US started to press, and with 24.4 seconds left in the game, completely silenced Canada Hockey Place. After pulling goaltender Ryan Miller for an extra attacker with 90 seconds to go, they poured intense pressure on the Canadian defence, who desperately dumped the puck out of their end.
As the crowd thought they were about to celebrate gold, American left-winger Zach Parise took a rebound and smashed it to Luongo’s right, leaving him with no chance, to send the game into overtime.
Most expected the Americans to seize upon the momentum shift, but it was Canada who came out with more zeal as the extra period got underway.
Seven and a half minutes into overtime, Crosby exchanged passes with Jarome Iginla on the left, before sliding it between Miller’s legs, sparking wild celebrations around Canada Hockey Place, the city of Vancouver, the province of British Columbia, and every corner of Canada.
There was not a single Canadian player who missed out on raucous cheers from the crowd during the medal ceremony, but the biggest was saved for last.
As Crosby received his gold medal from IOC President Jacques Rogge, the cheers of “Crosby! Crosby!” were deafening, and Rogge paused and orchestrated the crowd into cheering the man of the hour even louder.
Crosby may have been disappointing in the semi-final against Slovakia, and indeed much of the final, but he has now certainly sealed his already solid reputation as the new Canadian superstar.
In the only other event of the day, 24-year-old Petter Northug assured himself of a hero’s welcome on his return to Norway, as he won gold in the Men’s Cross-Country 50km Mass Start. Essentially the Winter Games version of the marathon, the course - a touch over 31 miles - provides the most physically demanding event at the Games.
Despite the huge distance, just a single second separated the podium. Northug stayed in contention throughout the race, and unleashed his devastating sprint finish on the final straight, Germany’s Axel Teichmann unable to live with the pace. Northug took the victory from Teichmann by 0.3 seconds, with Sweden’s Johan Olsson in third.
The three skiers were lucky enough to receive their medals during the Closing Ceremony at BC Place, the only athletes to receive that honour.
The Closing Ceremony itself was another spectacular affair. Whereas the Opening Ceremony two weeks ago was a more serious affair, not least in the wake of the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili, last night gave the hosts a chance to let their hair down, and celebrate just being Canadian.
The evening started off with them poking fun at themselves as a mime artist dressed like an workman raised the fourth pillar of the Olympic torch, which embarrassingly failed to ascend at the Opening Ceremony, followed by a choreographed performance with snowboards involving 1,000 local Vancouver children.
Once the speeches and official business were done and dusted, the party got underway, with segments from Canadian stars of screen including Michael J Fox and William Shatner, on the theme “I Am Canadian”.
The show then closed with a spectacular rock show from a host of Canadian stars old and new, including Neil Young, Avril Lavigne, Michael Buble and Alanis Morisette.
A fitting, and very Canadian, end to what has been a magnificent 21st Winter Olympic Games.