x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

He scores and a nation rejoices

Crosby gets an OT winner to keep his date with destiny, Canada get their 14th gold, the Games end and the party starts. Medal tally

The dejected US team players look on as the Canadian supporters rejoice on the overtime winning goal.
The dejected US team players look on as the Canadian supporters rejoice on the overtime winning goal.

Sidney Crosby screamed. Jarome Iginla could not help but hear him, even above the ear-splitting noise in Vancouver's Canada Hockey Place in the seventh drama-packed minute of overtime in the men's ice hockey final, the epic climax of the Winter Olympics.

Crosby had just fed Iginla the puck, and he wanted it back. In a hurry. Canada were tied 2-2 with the United States, and Sid the Kid had a date with destiny. He had skated into open space, with only Ryan Miller, the American netminder, between him and delivering his country its record-beating 14th gold medal of the Games. "He was yelling pretty urgently," Iginla would say later. He resp-onded by pushing the puck Crosby's way, and, with an old-fashioned wrist shot, the Pittsburgh Penguins' young captain slotted it between Miller's legs, setting off a wild celebration on Sunday from Newfoundland to the Yukon. Its epicentre was on the ice, where Crosby threw down his stick, threw off his gloves and became the centre of a joyous crush along the boards.

Miller, whose heroics throughout the Games would be recognised with the accolade of Most Valuable Player, stayed on both knees for a second with the puck in the back of the net, then collapsed forward, mask down, on to the ice. The time was exactly seven minutes and 40 seconds into an overtime period that no one had expected when Canada skated into the final minute of regulation time with a 2-1 lead.

Then, with 24.4 seconds left on the clock and the crowd ready to start counting down, Zach Parise scored for the US to tie the game .... and set up the moment which would propel Crosby, a reticent young man from the small Nova Scotia community of Cole Harbour, into the pantheon of his country's hockey greats, alongside Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Maurice "The Rocket" Richard, Gordie Howe and Mario Lemieux.

After the match, Crosby raised his right hand and waved it almost sheepishly to respond to the deafening chants of his name. Then he looked down at the gold medal dangling from his neck. "It's a pretty unbelievable thing," he said. "Every kid dreams of that opportunity. Being in Canada, that's the opportunity of a lifetime.You dream of that a thousand times growing up. For it to come true is amazing."

"He's got a little destiny to him - his entire career, throughout minor hockey, junior hockey, NHL," said Steve Yzerman, the executive director of Hockey Canada and himself an NHL Hall of Famer. "It's just another monumental moment in his career. And he's what, 22 still? He's a special, special guy." Crosby's teammates were equally lavish in their praise. "He's unbelievable. There's nothing that kid can't do or hasn't done already," said Jonathan Toews, who scored Sunday's first goal. "We were saying after the third period that someone was going to be the hero, someone was going to find a way to do it for us, and it's no coincidence he was the guy."

"It's just fitting, I think, that Sid would get it," said their goaltender, Robert Luongo, near to tears. "I couldn't think of anyone better." The coaches could hardly wait to praise their opponents. "I'd like to congratulate Canada," said Ron Wilson, the US coach. "I thought they played a great game, and I thought we played an equally great game. It's just a shame that both teams shouldn't receive the gold medal." Canada's coach Mike Babcock agreed. "There is hardly anything between these teams," he said. "Their team played hard. I thought they really moved the puck, they competed good and their goalie was really fantastic."

Canada's goals spanned many parts of the country with Toews, from Winnipeg, and Corey Perry, from Peterborough, Ontario, giving them their 2-0 lead before Crosby, from the East Coast, finished it off Ryan Kesler, playing in his home rink, pulled one back for the US in the second period, and then came Parise's dramatic last-minute equaliser, setting the stage for Crosby's historic goal and Canada's coast-to-coast party.

* With agencies.