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In fact, after American Zach Parise tied the contest with 24 seconds left in regulation, it almost seemed like the hockey gods were setting the stage for their greatest actor – Crosby – to perform.
With the attention of the hockey world, the weight of his country, the pressure of expectations and a flair for the dramatic, the Penguins captain rose to the occasion – as he always seems to do – and snapped a shot between the legs of tournament MVP Ryan Miller to the delight of Canadians from Vancouver to Quebec to Nova Scotia.
“For me it was a pretty proud moment, being in Canada, playing hockey, growing up as a kid and dreaming of playing for your country,” Crosby said. “Being able to do that and having it work out that way, it’s still pretty amazing to think about.”
But this was more than just a childhood dream come true. This was the fulfillment of prophecy. This was Crosby’s fate. This was Crosby’s destiny. He was born for these moments.
After all, the national spotlight has followed Crosby since he was a child prodigy. He gave his first newspaper interview at 7 years old. He appeared on "Hockey Day in Canada" at 14, and at 16 he was dubbed by Wayne Gretzky as “The Next One.”
The amount of hype and pressure that surrounded Crosby is unfathomable. But even more amazing is A) the maturity with which he has handled the extra attention; and B) his ability to live up to the divine expectations.
At just 22 years old Crosby has already achieved more than most players do in their entire careers. Consider Crosby’s current resume:
> Stanley Cup champion
> Youngest captain (21 years old) to lead his team to a Stanley Cup victory
> Hart Trophy (league MVP) – second youngest player to win
> Art Ross Trophy (league scoring champion) – youngest player ever to win
> Lester B. Pearson Award (outstanding player voted by his peers)
> Youngest player in NHL history to reach 100 and 200 points in his career
> Won Gold Medal for Canada in 2005 World Junior Championship
> Countless other records and achievements that would take too long to name…
So when Crosby was named as a member of Canada’s 2010 Olympic team, the stars were aligning correctly for the young phenom. Crosby had the weight of an entire country on his shoulders, and he delivered in clutch situations when his nation needed him.
Canada struggled against Team Switzerland in the second game of the tournament. The contest remained tied, 2-2, after 60 minutes of regulation time and after 10 minutes of an overtime session. The contest finally ended in a shootout with Crosby converting the winning shot (of course).
After losing to the United States, 5-3, in the preliminary round, Canada was forced to run off four straight victories to win the gold. Anything less would have amounted to failure.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks, a lot of ups and downs,” Crosby said. “It felt like we had to win four Game 7s in a row to win. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster.”
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But the moment Canadians will always remember from the 2010 Olympic Games occurred at the 7:40 mark of overtime in the Gold Medal Game.
Crosby carried the puck into American’s zone and tried to beat U.S. defensemen Ryan Suter and Brian Rafalski. Miller poked the puck to the far corner where Jerome Iginla retrieved it, and slid a pass to Crosby – who had sneaked behind both American defenders – in the lower circle. Crosby didn’t hesitate to send a quick snap shot that surprised Miller.
“He made a smart play. He barely picked his head up,” Miller said. “He just knew where he wanted to go with it. He caught the pass on the forehand turning his body so I thought I had time to step out and maybe take some space away. I had been aggressive the whole tournament so I wasn’t going to lose by sitting back in my net. I was sitting there reading the play and I stepped out and got beat. If he stickhandles once I have him and if he shoots he scores. That is the way it goes.”
“When Sidney Crosby
took a step off the wall and had Rafalski behind him, it was over,” Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said.”I saw it happen and I knew it was over and going in. I thought maybe he would go to his backhand when you look back on it. That was my feeling when he stepped off the wall and beat his man – this game is over.”
Crosby’s goal not only helped Canada win the game and reclaim gold for the first time since the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, but it also avoided what would have been a devastating and disastrous loss after blowing a late third-period lead.
“It was everything you could dream of. It was amazing,” Crosby said. “It went from something really scary with giving up the lead and possibly losing it and being that close. It turned out pretty nice.”
“When we tied it up there you go from the highest emotion to the lowest when you lose,” said Team USA defenseman Brooks Orpik
, who is Crosby’s teammate with the Penguins. “To be honest, and I’m not just saying this to say it, if they were going to beat us I was glad he was the guy who scored.”
With that goal, the Canadian world exploded in bliss. The sea of red at Hockey Canada Place celebrated with the waving of the Canadian flag. Moments later the Olympians were crowned with their respective medals, and the Canadian national anthem rang as the flag rose.
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Crosby, Canada’s new favorite son, stood in awe of the spectacle.
“I don’t know if you could ever match that with Canada and hockey,” Crosby said. “I think they said 85 percent of the population watched the game. I don’t think I’ll ever see that again or experience anything like that. It was fun. It was a lot of pressure but I don’t think I’ll ever experience that again.
“When we were just waiting for the medal and looking around, you try to soak that up. Seeing everybody in red and white and hearing people sing the anthem, you’ll never experience anything like that. You really just try to enjoy the moment and remember as much as you can of it, soak it in. That was incredible seeing all of that.”
Crosby has proven throughout his hockey career to be a big game player. But now that he’s accomplished seemingly everything you could imagine in one career, what does the 22-year old do for an encore?
“Win another one,” Crosby said. “You want to be a winner. I think there are other things that define people other than championships. I hope it’s more than that, but as a player that’s what you play for, that’s what you work towards. You put everything you can into working hard so you can have those opportunities.”
Crosby has capitalized on those opportunities. He is a winner. The only question that remains is how much more will he add to his legacy.