TORONTO - Flashbulbs popped and children cheered as retired NHL star Ron Ellis cradled it in his hands, which were sheathed in white gloves to prevent fingerprints from being left on what is likely the most adored six-ounce piece of rubber that has ever been welcomed into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
After passing through a series of hands on more than one continent, the puck Sidney Crosby fired to win gold for the Canadian men's hockey team at the Vancouver Olympics reached its new home in Toronto. Ellis, the director of public relations at the Hall of Fame, placed it on display Wednesday.
"Now this little puck," he told a crowd of dozens, "it's causing quite a fuss."
It was retrieved by a Finnish linesman after Crosby scored in overtime against the U.S., securing a 3-2 Canada win. The linesman kept it, but ultimately gave it back to the Swiss-based International Ice Hockey Federation.
Officials announced earlier this week that it would be handed over to the Hall.
"We understand that this is being donated to the Hockey Hall of Fame," Ellis said. "Our legal department will be putting together the proper paperwork that's involved in that."
The puck was placed in an enclosure down the stairs from where the Stanley Cup makes its home. It will share a display case with a pair of socks worn by Canadian forward Dany Heatley, gloves worn by defenceman Drew Doughty and an assortment of similar souvenirs.
Dozens of fans crowded with television cameras at the unveiling, including Arvin Prasad and his young family. Prasad's two sons, aged 10 and 7, were among the first to get a close-up view.
"For them, it's not just about hockey, it's about a real strong sense of nationalism inspired by that goal," Prasad said. "That, in itself, is great for the future generations."
Chad Bridger, who was visiting the Hall with his uncle and son, watched the gold medal game inside a coach's office before a Junior A game in Pembroke, Ont., northwest of Ottawa.
"I never thought we'd ever get to see it," Bridger said, standing a few feet from the display case. "I really thought it was gone for good."
The IIHF reviewed game footage of the chaos that followed Crosby's Feb. 28 goal. Crosby's stick and one of his gloves also went missing in the melee. They were later found after being misplaced during equipment packing.
Games statistics suggest the linesman who picked up the puck was Stefan Fonselius, who works for the Finnish hockey league.
"Maybe down the road the time will be right to tell what is actually a very funny - but also an innocent - story," IIHF communications director Szymon Szemberg said in a release posted on the organization's website.
Ellis scored a few important goals in his career. It was his goal that gave the Toronto Maple Leafs an early lead in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final against the Montreal Canadiens in 1967, a goal that ultimately led to the franchise's last championship.
"I don't even know where that puck is," Ellis said with a smile. "Somebody threw it away, maybe."