The conversations across Canada, the NHL, even across the world, were focused on an 18-year-old phenom who already was a household name.
It was 2006, the Olympics in Turin, Italy, quickly were approaching and Sidney Crosby was an NHL rookie. A certainty to one day represent Canada in the Olympics, provided NHL players continued to participate, was he ready as a teenager to play for the defending gold medalists in the world's finest best-on-best tournament?
Not yet, Wayne Gretzky determined. Not now, decided The Great One, then the executive director for the Canadian men's Olympic hockey team.
Crosby wasn't surprised.
Sidney Crosby, Canada: "I didn't even think I was going to be in the conversation. It was my first year in the NHL and I was just excited to be in the NHL. I wanted to have a good year and start well. I think when my name was mentioned and sort of tossed around, that was just a bonus. You get your hopes up a little because it's being talked about, but as soon as I found out I didn't make the team I just changed to being a fan and hoped they'd win."
Crosby's hopes quickly were dashed. Canada lost three times in the tournament, by 2-0 scores to Switzerland, Finland and finally Russia, which delivered the decisive blow to Canada's chance of defending its gold medal from 2002.
In retrospect, Crosby could have helped Canada in that tournament. At the very least his presence couldn't have hurt.
Four years later, Crosby's absence from the 2006 Turin Olympics became a footnote in Canada's Olympic history. He etched his mark in Canadian lore, into the annals of international hockey history, when he scored in overtime of the gold-medal game of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics against the United States on Feb. 28, 2010.
Here is the story of how Canada got to the top of the medal stand and what it has meant since, told by the characters who participated in this real-life drama contained within a 13-day tournament played at Rogers Arena, which aptly was renamed Canada Hockey Place for the duration of the tournament by Olympic organizers:
Steve Yzerman, named to replace Gretzky as executive director of the 2010 team, announced the Canadian Olympic roster on Dec. 30, 2009; the pressure immediately rose and didn't stop, but Canada felt it had the tools for success:
Crosby: "I think for any Olympic athlete you feel that pressure. People have competed their whole lives to have that moment. In some cases it is 30 seconds or a minute, but in hockey we at least had more than one shift. I think everyone felt the pressure going into it though, being in Canada and being a hockey player. We knew the expectations were high and we wanted to find a way to win."
Martin Brodeur, Canada: "Teams that I've been on that won, they've always had one thing in common: Tremendous leaders. When I played in '02 it was Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux on the ice. In Vancouver it was younger guys like Sid and [Jonathan] Toews leading the way. It is amazing; you could almost see it coming before it happens when you have the right chemistry of players. I think we definitely had that."
Ryan Getzlaf, Canada: "Getting there and going to the Olympics was such a huge thing in my career and where I wanted to be. Unfortunately, or fortunately I guess maybe, I didn't have a lot of time to think about all the stuff that was going on. I was going through an ankle injury."
Getzlaf missed a game against the Calgary Flames shortly before the Olympic tournament began but he was able to play and score four points against the Edmonton Oilers in the Ducks' final game before the Olympics. However, just like Jack O'Callahan in the movie "Miracle," Getzlaf still had to prove he was ready. Canada brought Jeff Carter to Vancouver for insurance purposes.
Getzlaf: "I had to get up at six in the morning on the first day and basically convince the coaches and GMs that I could play. I was up early that morning, jumping on my ankle and doing all these tests to show that I could play. I had a high-ankle sprain and I only played one game in Edmonton before I went. My mind was only on one thing and that was proving that my ankle was OK and I could play in that tournament."
The Canadians and Americans were in the same group but the United States entered the preliminary-round game against Canada on Feb. 21 with a one-point lead in the standings thanks to a pair of regulation wins against Switzerland and Norway. Canada lost a point in a surprising shootout win against the Swiss.
Patrick Kane, United States: "I remember lining up against [Chicago Blackhawks teammate] Duncan Keith and we kind of just looked at each other and started laughing, and then I remember me and [Chicago teammate] Johnny [Toews] being so competitive at the end of the first period of the first game. We were chirping at each other about something. It's different, but I think once you get on opposite sides of each other it's almost like you're not even teammates."
No, now they were rivals and only one of them could leave the rink happy. It was Kane.
The United States collected a 5-3 win, with Ryan Miller making 42 saves. The Americans jumped to a 2-1 lead after the first period and sustained it at 3-2 entering the final 20 minutes. Jamie Langenbrunner scored 7:09 into the third to give the Americans a 4-2 lead. Crosby would slice the lead in half with 3:09 left in regulation but Ryan Kesler set off a celebration with an empty-net goal.
Ron Wilson, United States coach: "I guess the game against Canada gave us a feeling that we really had a chance because so many people were saying they were the best team there and you need to play the best team to measure yourself up. Obviously Ryan Miller was spectacular in the game but we got off to a really good start and I think we surprised the Canadians with our speed and offensive ability and then rode that to a win. I think that really solidified our confidence. We were still flying under the radar. By beating Canada we won our group and we knew we were getting a bye and Canada would have a much harder road to hoe in order to meet us in the final if we were to get there."
Ryan Kesler, United States: "We kept getting better as the tournament went on and that game was a big building block for our team. I thought we gained a lot of confidence from that game and it brought us together. It was almost like a solidifying point just because it was Canada, it was in their hometown and we're their rivals and they were the host country. When you get a chance to beat the host country in their barn that really brings a team together."
Getzlaf: "Obviously when we lost to the Americans it was hard. It was a setback. We weren't expecting them to have the team that they did. I think part of the problem was everyone was focused on Russia and the fact that we had to beat Russia. I think when the rosters were announced and the Americans had a young team, I think everybody kind of put them to the side. Then you had Ryan Miller play the way he did and it kind of set us back, but I've been in a lot of those types of tournaments and I've found that it is never a bad thing to lose in the round robin if you lose a game and use that to get your mind right and figure out what needs to be done to win."
The win against Canada gave the United States a bye into the quarterfinals. The shootout win against the Swiss and the loss to the Americans left millions of Canadians in a state of anxiety. This tournament was not progressing as expected.
Crosby: "We knew that everyone was watching closely but it was one game and the U.S. is a good hockey team. They played well and we didn't expect it to be easy. Every country wants the same thing we do and everyone has high expectations. I don't think we ever felt panicked or anything like that. I think everyone was focused on getting better each game, and if anything I think that game helped us realize what we needed to improve on. I felt like, as the tournament went on, we just got better and that's what you need to do at an event like that."
Getzlaf: "We didn't get a lot of that sense of panic. When you're at the Olympics they do a pretty good job of keeping you isolated so you're not listening to all the crap that is going on outside."
The loss to the U.S. meant Canada had to play an extra game but it wasn't a problem. In fact it was almost a blessing. The Canadians made a switch in net, replacing perhaps the greatest goaltender who ever lived, Brodeur, with Roberto Luongo from the hometown Vancouver Canucks; he made 21 saves in an 8-2 win against Germany.
Brodeur: "It was tough. When I play I expect a better performance from myself. I didn't play well that one game against the Americans. I knew coming into it, especially with it being in Vancouver with Luongo there, that I didn't have much chance to have any mishaps and I did. That cost me my job."
Canada faced its traditional rival Russia in the quarterfinals, but the Canadians crushed them 7-3 while the Americans defeated the Swiss 2-0. In the semifinals it was the United States' turn for a laugher as they rolled past Finland 6-1 to advance to the final, while the Canadians had to sweat out the final moments of a 3-2 victory against upstart Slovakia.
The gold-medal game was set, Canada vs. the United States, a rematch from the preliminary round (and the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics final). The Americans were confident.
Kesler: "Just waking up in the [Olympic] village, knowing that we could take home gold, we beat those guys once and we have a chance to do something special [was big]. We already have a medal so just let it all hang out, nothing left to save it for. I remember it still to this day being the best game I have played in, the talent, the speed, the energy in the building. It was pretty incredible."
Ryan Callahan, United States: "Everybody in the room felt like we could win. There wasn't a lack of confidence or lack of expectation. We beat them previously and we felt we could do it again."
Toews: "It was probably the most nervous before a game that I've ever been. I didn't sleep the night before the whole night. I felt like even being under all that pressure the whole tournament it never really got to me but then you get to that point and you realize you can't lose this game. There is no option."
Getzlaf: "I'm not a nervous person. I don't get nervous, I just get excited. In the moment I didn't think a lot about it. That tournament is set up so that you get into a routine where you play then you get a day off and you play again. That morning it really did feel like another game day. You get into your preparation mode like you always do. Until you step on the ice for warm-up you don't feel the excitement. But when we went out there it just hits you. You realize the situation and it just became more real."
Kane: "I think that's probably the biggest rivalry as far as being an American hockey player. You always look forward to that game against Canada and I know we don't play them in the [2014 Sochi] Olympics, but hopefully [we'll] get a shot at them in the medal round. It's an unbelievable rivalry. It's something, as an American player, you grow up kind of hating Canadians I guess. Especially like any time you get those two teams together it's going to be an epic battle and it's going to be a great game."
Toews: "You just want to go out there and be a fiend. You want to run guys over and do everything that way but that's not always going to be the right way to play. You have to channel that emotion the right way and just try to stay calm in a way. It was an amazing game that you just had to keep it in your mind the entire time that you were going to find a way to win no matter what."
Canada struck first on a goal by Toews 12:50 into the first period. Bobby Ryan went to the penalty box 3:12 later for a tripping minor but the Americans killed it off and the teams entered the first intermission with Canada ahead 1-0.
Toews: "I just remember having a feeling. I didn't score all tournament and I was like, 'Well, I guess this is it.' I had a pretty good feeling I was going to get a bounce. Sure enough Mike Richards spun off a guy and threw one on net. It went off Miller's pad and there I was with a wide-open net. I just had to put it home. That was the bounce I was looking for. I had to keep telling myself through the tournament that I was going to get a good bounce at the right time and I got one."
Wilson: "I think we were still fairly confident. Our goal was just to continue to push the pace and to force them into making mistakes. We had a really fast group of forwards and if our defense could get in the way and move pucks quickly we thought we'd be able to wear the Canadian defense down. I had said to the team before the game that I honestly thought this is going to be a tight game, it could be overtime, it could go right down to the wire like the '96 final in Montreal when we won the World Cup. I said, 'We might be trailing with a couple of minutes to go and someone would tie and we'd eventually win the game, so just be patient.' That's what my message was after the first period. It was a close game, a very fast game, intense, and our skill would win out in the end. That's what I truly believed."
Callahan: "There is still positive energy in [the dressing room]. I know you're down one after one and it's not what you want but everybody was positive, ready to go, and we were excited to be in that game."
After each team failed to convert on a power-play opportunity, Corey Perry gave Canada a 2-0 lead with a goal 7:13 into the second period. Now the Americans were on edge.
Wilson: "At that point you're down 2-0 and it doesn't look good, but you're basically a shot away from it being 3-0 and probably lights out. We just had to crash the net. It was different because when we had played Canada the first time Marty [Brodeur] was in goal and we had gotten to him quickly. This was a little different with Roberto Luongo playing in his home building. We had to continue to be patient, put pucks at the net."
Getzlaf: "During the game it was a weird thing. When we got up 2-0 I felt like we were playing really well and we were doing all the things we wanted to do. I thought there was no way we could be beat. We were playing too well in our system and everyone was doing the right things."
Toews: "We went up 2-0 and we felt like we were in a pretty good spot, but they got a goal and we were protecting a one-goal lead for I don't know how long. It felt like a long length of time."
Kesler, another player competing in his home NHL rink, scored for the Americans with 7:16 remaining in the second period to make it a one-goal game.
Wilson: "At that point we thought we would eventually tie the game, we just didn't know it would take until the last minute of play. But we were patient enough and kept pushing it. I noticed at that point in time, when we got within a goal, our best players, like Patrick Kane and guys like that, really stepped it up. You saw how good of players these guys are."
Getzlaf: "It is that same old story, once you get that lead you tend to start doing different things than what got you to where you are. We ran into a hot goalie too. I mean, Miller was outstanding that whole tournament, but in the final we had chances to go up 3- or 4-0 and he held them in. When you let a team like that stick around they're bound to get a bounce here or there. They worked to get them."
Miller turned aside Eric Staal's breakaway late in the second period. The Canadians had two deflected shots ring off the post early in the third. Crosby had a breakaway chance with 3:15 remaining in the game thwarted by Kane's magnificent backcheck.
Wilson: "I still remember Patrick Kane catching Sidney Crosby on the breakaway. It was late in the third and he skated like he was shot out of a cannon. I don't think, at that point, very many people really believed Patrick Kane could do something like that, but he did. That's one of the moments that made me a big Patrick Kane fan."
Crosby: "There's so many times where we could have added to that lead and just couldn't. Miller held them in it."
Mike Babcock, Canada coach: "We won three faceoffs in a row and we were up a goal and got it out every time and still managed to give up a backdoor 6-on-5 goal to Zach Parise.
Kane sent the puck to the net. It hit off of the skate of American forward Jamie Langenbrunner and went right to Parise, who put it in the net for the game-tying goal with 24.4 seconds left, setting off a wild celebration by the Americans.
Parise: "I just remember for the last little while they were sitting back so we were able to get in the zone; but they kept chipping it out, chipping it out. I think we called a timeout and we finally got the puck back in. It went behind the net. I remember Kaner doing, it was kind of like a spin-around, throwing it on the net. It hit off Jamie's skate. Somehow Jamie and I found ourselves behind all their players and it hit off Jamie's skate and I think that kind of threw their players off a little bit. Then I got the best goal a forward can get, just a wide-open net. And the puck ended up on my stick and the feeling was incredible. It was by far the most favorite goal that I've ever scored."
Toews (who was on the ice): "I was just like, 'You've got to be kidding me.' That was probably the toughest feeling I've ever felt. It felt like it had slipped away. They were thinking it was theirs now. We had to go back in the locker room. We were just seconds away from winning a gold medal. It is still tough to believe how it went down. It was one of those things where every little thing went wrong in a matter of seconds."
Kane: "It was unbelievable. Everyone was so excited that it almost felt like we won right then and there."
Wilson felt the same thing. And it worried him.
Wilson: We obviously had all the momentum and in hindsight the way we scored, we kind of blew a lot of energy because our guys were so excited. It was like tying the game was almost winning the gold medal for us with the jumping up and down."
Crosby: "That intermission was almost a blessing in disguise."
Steve Yzerman, Canada executive director: "I think we were fortunate that it happened so close to the end of the third period that they could go into the room and gather their wits and go back out."
One of the first things Wilson did once he got back in the dressing room was send a member of the American staff to find out the overtime procedures. This was the Americans' first foray into overtime in the tournament and Wilson needed clarification on the rules.
Wilson: "We actually thought it would be 5-on-5 for 20 minutes and then go to a shootout; we didn't realize it was going to be 4-on-4 for 20 minutes. It didn't make sense for us if we're going to have a 20-minute overtime that it would be 4-on-4 and not 5-on-5. And they made us change ends too.
"We hadn't been in overtime. Up until that point I don't think we even played 30 seconds of 4-on-4. We had to go over how we're going to play it so we were caught off guard a little bit. I knew that now it was going to 4-on-4 that Canada probably had a little bit of an advantage there, but we'd still push the pace as best we could. We had the momentum and I wanted to push the pace.
"I was more confident had we gone to a shootout because of the guys playing in the NHL that year we had three top shootout guys in Patrick Kane, Joe Pavelski and Zach Parise. And the best goalie in the shootout in the NHL was Ryan Miller."
The players had to gather their wits and refocus. Surprisingly, Canada didn't have any problem.
Patrice Bergeron, Canada: "The momentum shifted to their advantage, but you could tell the experience in the room and the leaders that we had in between the third and overtime, the guys were just poised and relaxed. And really all that was said is, 'We just need one goal for history.'"
Bobby Ryan, United States: "It was one of those things, your emotions the entire game, you just try to keep in check and not let the lows get too low. When we scored, 40 seconds later, whatever it was, we were in the locker room trying to not get too high. I think you just try to find the balance between everything. I think it took some years off everybody's life, that's for sure."
Eric Staal, Canada: "I just remember it happening very quickly. Obviously the game was almost over and they tied it up and we had to regroup between periods. But our focus remained the same and we felt like if we continued with the way we were going to play we were going to end up on top."
Kesler: "Yeah, we thought we were going to win."
Callahan: "You could feel it in the room, the excitement."
Toews: "There wasn't any time for the U.S. to use that goal and build on it with their next shifts. It gave us time to go in the room and regroup to be able to go back out there and play the right way in overtime."
Crosby: "In the first couple minutes guys weren't happy, but then guys just sort of turned the page. I remember Mike Babcock coming in and telling us, 'Look, everyone has got a chance to make this even more special now with the situation we're in.'"
Babcock: "I thought our regroup between periods was very good. And our plan, we knew it was going to be over fast."
Luongo: "It happened pretty quickly. You don't really expect it there, but when he [Pavelski] intercepted the puck I saw right away he was going for the shot so I was able to challenge quite a bit. I knew he didn't have time to look at the net and was going to just fire away so I just tried to get as big as I could and luckily it hit my elbow and stayed in front of me."
Wilson: "Luongo made a great save. Shortly after that Phil Kessel hit the crossbar and it went into the netting. We had the best chances up to that point. When Phil hits the crossbar you're within an inch of winning the gold medal and then a couple of minutes later you lost."
Callahan: "You think about it. When it gets to overtime it's a bounce this way and a bounce that way. You know that just from being in overtime in the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs. Obviously there's a little bit more at stake in the gold-medal game, but that's hockey. Unfortunately it doesn't always go your way."
Despite the fact that Crosby and Jarome Iginla hadn't been making much happen in the game, Babcock kept going to them in the overtime. They eventually came through 7:40 into the extra session.
Wilson: "You'd be a fool not to put Sidney Crosby on the ice. How they decided to go with their pairings is irrelevant because any coach would be putting Sidney Crosby out there every other time or every third time and that's what they were doing. I think we went through four [forward] pairings and Canada might have been using three pairings. You're thinking like it's the NHL, that you've got five minutes so you're going to double down on your better players. And the cream is always going to rise to the top when the game is on the line. There is a lot more room out there so Sid is going to be even more dynamic in overtime."
Crosby knifed up the middle, into the Americans' zone, the puck on his stick. Miller was able to push it away, into the left corner. Crosby dug it out and brought it up the left-wing half-wall.
American defenseman Brian Rafalski committed to going to the wall to cut it off, but the puck got caught in the skates of referee Bill McCreary and Crosby was able to chip it back into the corner for Iginla.
Crosby: "I remember I got the puck and I tried to go on a rush and I think Rafalski or [Ryan] Suter stood me up and the puck went in the corner. It was kind of a broken play. Jarome ended up getting the puck and I just remember having a little bit of open ice and yelling for it. He put it right on my stick and I just tried to get it away quick."
As he was falling down, Iginla threaded a pass into the circle for Crosby, who caught it on his forehand and quickly shot it past Miller for the winning goal.
Crosby: "I really didn't see the puck go in. I circled behind the net and then it was just a great feeling. It wasn't the hardest shot but definitely the quicker you get it off the more chance you have of surprising the goalie. I was able to do that."
Miller: "I played that whole tournament pretty aggressive. In my mind I was going to be aggressive with shooters, be in their face. I thought I was going to catch them off guard and he caught me off guard by kicking it right to his stick and shooting. He's a great player. He made a smart decision. I, in hindsight, didn't make the right decision. But I was playing aggressive the whole tournament and I told myself I wasn't going to sit back and let things happen. I was going to make an aggressive move and I got caught and that's the way it goes."
Perry: "A lot of emotion goes through your body at that particular point in time. I remember jumping over the boards, that's about it. I think right after the goal and the celebration I went over and grabbed a big Canadian flag on the 10-foot pole or whatever it is and was skating around the ice with that. This was pretty special to grab it out of the stands, out of the guy's hands who gave it to me and that's one thing I will never forget."
Dan Boyle, Canada: "It's kind of a blur to be honest with you. I'm not even quite sure. I was on the bench. It was far from where the defensemen were sitting at the time. It was kind of at the other end and he just scored and the place just went crazy."
Toews: "I don't think I saw the puck go in. I didn't see him shoot it. I don't know if I was drinking water or something, but first thing I noticed was everyone jumping off the bench and rushing toward the far corner and so I assumed it was over. I assumed we scored. I didn't really know who and how it went in until after the game, so that's my recollection of it. It's not too clear. It's kind of foggy."
Bergeron: "I pretty much remember the whole thing. I couldn't really see Jarome in the corner with the puck but I could see Sid open and close to the faceoff dot. But I can remember more the celebration after and winning and actually having the medal around my neck and that feeling, so it was something very special."
Duncan Keith, Canada: "I remember being the first guy over the bench and just super excited. I wanted to win that gold medal so bad. I hadn't won anything in my whole life basically up until that tournament. I just wanted to be able to say I won something. I remember racing in behind [Drew] Doughty I think into that big pile and just hearing how loud it was in that building was pretty crazy."
Crosby: "I just remember just little snapshots. I don't even remember necessarily scoring. Just right before it, kind of the anticipation. Knowing that there was some space and [being] kind of all alone in front. That's kind of what I remember, that kind of desperation to hopefully get the puck there and put it in. Everything after that is kind of a blur."
The American players tried to console each other. Miller was hunched over as he left the ice. Yes they were about to have a silver medal, but that was the furthest thing from their minds.
David Backes, United States: "It was a roller coaster ride from feeling elated when we scored that goal, when Zach scored with [24.4] seconds left in regulation, to having all that momentum to trying to calm down in between the third period in overtime in locker room. And when that goal scored … we were so close [to] doing something really special."
Dustin Brown, United States: "It's a bit of a shock. It just happened too quickly. There's not really words that describe how you feel at that moment, or even now four years later."
Kane: "I was on the bench and I remember at that time I was thinking, 'How does a goal like that go in to win the gold medal?' But it's funny; a few months later I scored a goal like that to win the Stanley Cup, kind of the same area, same kind of shot through the legs. But it was disappointing. It was definitely frustrating."
Kesler: "When you think you're going to win and then that happens, it's crushing. You really don't know what to think."
Parise: "It was one of those things that it ended so quickly you can't believe it's over. And next thing you know we're getting a silver medal. It was pretty disappointing."
The game was seen by roughly 35 million people worldwide. NHL stars of today were among those watching.
Brendan Gallagher, Montreal Canadiens: "I was playing for the Vancouver Giants [of the Western Hockey League] and because they were using the Pacific Coliseum [for speed skating and figure skating], we went on a two-week road trip to Saskatchewan and Alberta during the Olympics. We were just coming back. We were busing back from Swift Current and we got back to where our bus could pick up the radio in the second period. We got back to our rink with about 10 minutes to go in the third period so we all sat around one TV and watched. When the third period ended a bunch of guys left to rush home and watch overtime but I stayed with a couple of other guys and watched in our dressing room. When [Crosby] scored I just remember being in that big room jumping up and down and cheering like we had scored the goal."
Marc Staal, New York Rangers: "I was sitting in a bar in New York City watching it with three Americans and a whole bunch of American fans in the bar. It was pretty interesting because I had a couple of teammates on Team USA and my brother [Eric Staal] on Team Canada and I was obviously cheering for Team Canada. Everyone was pretty tuned into the game and we were kind of sitting in the back, enjoying the game. The bar went nuts when the U.S. scored and I remember jumping out of my seat when Sidney scored that goal. It was me and another guy, that's about it. It was pretty interesting."
John Tavares, New York Islanders: "I was on Doug Weight's couch. I was living in Dougie's guest house that year, it was my rookie year. We were watching it with his son Danny and Matt Moulson. We were living in the guest house together so we were there. Sid scored and we jumped up, were high-fiving.
"[Weight's] son Danny has dual citizenship so when the Americans scored he'd be American and when the Canadians scored he'd be Canadian. I remember Dougie giving it to him, telling him he had to pick a side. It was a lot of fun, but being Canadian it was a proud moment. It was something pretty special to watch. A gold in hockey on home soil, on home ice like that, and the way the country took it and celebrated it, it was a special moment."
In time the silver medal has come to mean something significant to the American players and coaches, but it still brings about a bitter memory of a tough loss on the world's stage.
Wilson: "The Finns beat the Slovaks for the bronze medal and they went nuts like they won the gold medal. We lose the gold-medal game and you're the losing team so you got to watch the other guys across the way jumping up and down and celebrating. You're left with the what-ifs. But I think, in time, you realize you had a great run. It wasn't luck that we were there; we played really well."
Callahan: "At first you feel like you lost the gold medal, there's no question there. But that silver medal is something to be proud of. Not everybody has an Olympic medal. It's something I'm very proud I have. Obviously I wish it was gold, but at the same time to represent your country and win a silver, it's pretty special."
Brown: "That's probably something I'll look back on maybe later on in life when I'm done with playing, say, 'You know what? A silver medal is pretty awesome.' But at the moment, even to right now when I'm still competitively playing, it's one of those things I still think about today. It's a tough moment."
Parise: "To this day we get reminded of it all the time and you get asked about what it felt like to come that close. So it never really goes away. Two days later you have to go back and start up your NHL season but you never really completely block it out of your mind. You never forget how it felt to lose that game."
Brian Burke, United States general manager: "Winning a silver medal, I know it's a great accomplishment, but it took me about six months to appreciate that. The bitterness you feel when you're sitting on the bench watching your players get a silver medal and on the other side of the ice those guys are getting the gold medal. We're NHL guys where it's the best-of-seven. We beat Canada in the first round of the Olympics. They beat us to the gold medal. Let's play again. Let's play tomorrow. That's what I'm thinking of sitting on the bench. Let's play these guys again tomorrow. And I bet you they would have, too. I bet you Team Canada, if we put it to them, would have said, 'Sure, we'll play you.' But that's not how it works in the Olympics. When it ends for you … it's like a train hitting the wall. It's over. It's, like, 'OK, we're going back to our real jobs tomorrow.'"
The Canadians never tire of talking about it, of reliving the moment, of reveling in their victory.
Babcock: "The memory for me is in the process and then in singing the national anthem together, because that's the moment. People talk about the golden goal. That's not what resonates for me at all. It's the doing it together. It's arm-in-arm singing the national anthem and sharing it with the people in Vancouver and the people in [British Columbia] and the people in western Canada and the people in Canada, and that celebration.
"When given the opportunity to be an Olympian I think it's a special thing. You're bigger than a hockey team. You're part of a Canadian team. To be able to go through the process, to be around such good people, and then, in the end, to deliver and enjoy the process with your friends and your family and Canadians, it's a special thing."
Keith: Just a lot of relief. There was a lot of pressure in that tournament. And looking back I think it was a great experience. And I remember getting the medal and just thinking how heavy it was at first. I couldn't believe how heavy they were."
Toews: "I didn't sleep a whole lot that night. I had a few beers with friends and family and the boys and I was off to Long Island the next morning on a plane with [Brent] Seabrook and Keith and Kane and [Marian] Hossa and [Tomas] Kopecky. We were flying from some small town in Washington all the way to Long Island because we had to play Tuesday night in New York. It was back to reality pretty quick."
Crosby: "I think the cool part about it is dreaming to play for Canada. Growing up as a kid you always kind of put yourself in that position and want to score that big goal. To be able to do it is special."
Crosby did it four years after he was left off the Canadian roster, four years after the Canadians couldn't live up to their billing as defending gold medalists in Turin.
Four years removed from the victory in Vancouver Crosby will be the captain for Canada in Sochi. He insists his life hasn't changed much since scoring the golden goal but his place in history has. Now he and the Canadians have a chance to do it again with the Americans, Swedes, Russians, Finns, Slovaks, Czechs, Swiss, Austrians, Slovenians, Norwegians and Latvians hoping to get in their way.
Crosby: "Like any other athlete you have a good Olympics and then you change your focus and you move on. It's nice to hear about it but now I'm thinking about this one."