-- The hype for the gold medal game between Team Canada and Team USA is beyond compare. Sunday's game is probably the most talked about hockey game since the U.S. and Canada met for gold in 2002.
It's the most hyped game to take place on Canadian soil since at least 1996 when the U.S. beat Canada in Game 3 of the World Cup of Hockey at Bell Centre in Montreal. Even that, though, doesn't really compare to this.
Canadians would rather talk about Game 3 of the 1987 Canada Cup finals against the Soviet Union in Hamilton, Ont., where Wayne Gretzky
fed Mario Lemieux
for the winning goal in overtime.
History will be made Sunday, but on Saturday afternoon, less than 24 hours before the first faceoff, the players and coaches fed into the hype. Here's a sampling of what some of them were saying:
Mike Babcock talking about the pressure
"Oh I think pressure is a real positive. I wouldn't be doing what I do if I didn't love it. I mean, it's about adrenaline and you're an adrenaline junkie if you're in sports. All you have to do is watch the skiers and watch the speed skaters. The highs are very high. If you have been in the Olympic village all week like I have, you have seen people totally elated and you've seen people totally crushed. But the reason they are in it is because there are two sides of the equation. That's what makes your job exciting and I think that's what this is all about. The people in Vancouver, when I walk around this city, are so jacked up to be Canadian right now and to be here at this event and enjoy it. I think it's all fantastic. To me, I think the good part outweighs the pressure."
on whether his kids, both born in the United States, will be rooting for him:
"I think they are rooting for Canada. At least, my wife has made them. When the U.S. was winning early, they were on that bandwagon too. They can't lose, I guess."
talking about where he was when Canada won gold in 2002:
"Oh yeah. It was an exciting time. I was home in Nova Scotia watching. I'm always a proud Canadian. But that day, I was extra proud. That's a time I'll never forget and we've got a great opportunity now, one we all want to take advantage of at home."
Jarome Iginla on what it's like to play for Mike Babcock
"He's very prepared and he has a good feel for the group. You can tell he has a good pulse on the group. He's very intense, but you can tell he has a good pulse of the group, too. He is very intense and he has a certain way, and that comes across. At times we were a little tense in this tournament and he saw that and addressed that."
Rick Nash's thoughts on the biggest game of his life
"Hopefully I get some sleep (Saturday night). I tried to wake up early this morning so I will be tired tonight. This is exciting. This is what we have been dreaming about for four years, ever since we got beat out in the quarterfinals (in Torino). It's what Canada wanted, what we wanted. To get a chance to play for a gold medal in your home country is all you can ask for, and now that we're here we have to make sure we're ready. I know if we don't win I will be hearing it from everybody back in Columbus, so I'd rather get booed than hear about it for the next while."
Jonathan Toews talking about if his stellar play in this tournament (7 points, plus-9 rating) has opened eyes across the hockey world
"You guys are the ones to decide on that. I have just been doing what I do in Chicago. Obviously this is a bigger stage so little things like that maybe don't go quite as unnoticed, but there are a lot of guys on this team that are playing well and stepping up their game. It's a huge stage and together as a team we're going to make the best of it. That's all I'm trying to do."
Team Canada assistant coach Jacques Lemaire
on whether it'll be awkward for him to reunite with Team USA forwards Jamie Langenbrunner
and Zach Parise
for the Devils' game Tuesday in San Jose?
"I don't think so. I don't think that the players at this time will think about me or who they are playing against. They want to win. These guys, they want to win, and same thing on our side. I want to win, and in two days I'll be coaching them. If they win, I'll still be coaching them."
Ron Wilson on whether the Canadians are the favorites
"They are still the best team and they are playing in their own damn backyard. We'll have maybe 300 people rooting for us in the building and, if they are smart, they will have them spread all over. We'll have to be straining to see where our families are sitting. We probably won't hear them. Everyone will be on Canada's side. They are clearly the favorite, but it doesn't matter. It's just one game."
Brian Burke on how big Sunday's game is
"Hockey is not a sport in Canada; it's a cult, it's a religion. It's why I love living and working in the NHL in a Canadian city. I love the pressure that's on the players and the coach and the GM. And I didn't feel that pressure in Hartford. It wasn't the same. We had to create that pressure. And so the Canadians view this as their game and they view this game as planting a flag on a peak. So it's huge. If you guys believe they're the underdogs you should put on some knee high boots because the manure is piling up in here."
Ryan Kesler on if he really hates the Canadians, as he said the other day
"See, there you go again. I said it was a rivalry and that we hate each other. I never said I hate Canadians or Team Canada. That's you guys getting it wrong again. But yeah, we don't like each other. It's a rivalry and it's going to be a heated battle. It's not a seven-game series. Five-and-oh doesn’t get you a gold medal. Six-and-oh does."
Chris Drury's thoughts on Ryan Miller
"It's maturity. In any situation it just seems he can handle a lot of different shots from a lot of different angles, screens. Just his overall game seems a little more mature. Even back (when I played with him in Buffalo) I just remember staying out of his way. (Henrik) Lundqvist is the same way. I've played with goalies who it just wouldn't matter, but with Miller, especially, you'd just see him in the morning, say 'Good morning' and then move on."
David Backes on re-booking his flight out of Vancouver as a result of playing Sunday
"The flight was scheduled for tomorrow morning. So, we're not going to be on that one. As a group of 23 guys that were expected to maybe come here and have an OK showing and go home early, we're happy to rebook all of our flights and have them go out a little later. If you look at the opportunity we have in front us to win a gold medal, if it all goes haywire and we have a little snafu, then we have a silver medal around our necks. We'd obviously love to have a gold. But in the back of your mind really, what pressure can you really be under? It's go out there and lay it on the line. Give it everything you've got. And at the end of the day, we're going to be in a great situation with USA Hockey."
And then there's always this one from David "The Quote Machine" Backes, who was asked if they were to make a movie about the 2010 USA team like they did about the 1980 team, who would play him:
"Great question. I don't know any big goofy looking guys that could play me. I don't know. I think they had a lot of junior guys play the '80 team, but they were a little younger. I'd like to play myself, if that is OK?"
Ryan Miller on whether he has talked to his coach in Buffalo, Lindy Ruff, who is a Team Canada assistant, since getting to Vancouver
"I got him a Sausage McMuffin from McDonald's (at the airport). I told him that was last favor I was going to do for him."