It’s been a decade since Sidney Crosby made the transition from fresh-faced phenom to national treasure, shuffling a puck past Ryan Miller back in late February 2010 to clinch an overtime win in the Vancouver Olympic Games’ gold-medal tilt.
The image is likely burned in the mind of every Canadian hockey fan, whether they watched it all play out in real time or got acquainted with it later as it became an indelible part of Canada’s on-ice history, the nuance of the moment summarized simply by its eventual three-word title, ‘The Golden Goal.’
But while the red-and-white faithful can picture it all in perfect detail — hearing the frantic “Iggy!” call, seeing Crosby slip into open space, the quick-trigger shot, and then the iconic hands-high celebration in the corner — for the golden goal-scorer himself, it’s all somewhat a blur.
“As far as what I was thinking — I just got into that area when Jarome (Iginla) threw the puck, and I just wanted to make sure I got a shot away,” Crosby told Jeff Marek, Anthony Stewart and Justin Bourne on Sportsnet 590 The Fan’s Hockey Central Thursday. “I mean, I don’t know if I saw his hand slide down the stick or if it was more just trying to make sure that I got a shot away. I think if I had taken it to my backhand to the net it might’ve got poked, so I just tried to make sure I got a quick shot away.”
Though the Pittsburgh Penguins captain says he hasn’t spent much time seeking out the iconic clip of his international career highlight, he’s well aware of the level of nostalgia tied to the moment, having had more than a few fans let him know where they were when he clinched Canada’s 2010 gold.
And even though it’s his performance at the centre of this particular piece of nostalgia, he can appreciate the feeling.
“When you hear that, it’s really cool. We all shared a passion for the game, and obviously I’m lucky enough to play in the NHL but I’m a fan of the game, and I remember where I was for certain moments for games I watched, for milestones and things like that,” Crosby said. “It’s a really cool feeling to know that you’re a part of that.”
Cole Harbour’s favourite son got one more crack at Olympic hockey in 2014, winning another gold, but hasn’t been back since, as NHLers were barred from competing in the 2018 Games. Whether the league allows players to go to the 2022 Games in Beijing remains to be seen. Alternative best-on-best hockey tournaments with international themes have been proposed by the league should they stay back once again, similar to the revival of the World Cup of Hockey held in Toronto in 2016.
For Crosby though, the Olympic experience was about more than just lining up against re-arranged NHL talent, with local jerseys swapped for national sides.
“I think (it’s) just the whole event itself, competing for your country, not just as a hockey player but just for Team Canada. I think that’s an amazing experience,” Crosby told the Hockey Central crew. “…I think it’s great for everybody. I think it’s great for the players, I think it’s great for the fans, and we want to see it there.”
Much has changed for the 30-year-old in the decade since that 2010 gold. The years immediately following that international triumph were the toughest of his career, with concussions nearly derailing his big-league ascent. Then came the triumphant return in 2013-14, a pair of back-to-back Cup wins in 2016 and 2017, and a few more trophies to round out his case.
On the ice, the captain’s game has evolved too, with the once pure offensive force becoming one of the game’s marquee 200-foot players. And, in the eyes of many, the sport’s most talented grinder — a characterization of his game he doesn’t disagree with.
“I think work ethic and trying to create different ways — whether it’s creating turnovers (or otherwise). You know, I would say that just having a hard-working mentality is definitely high up on the list for me,” Crosby said. “I like to play fast — sometimes I like to slow it down, but for the most part, I like to play pretty fast and aggressive, so I would say that’s similar to kind of a grinding mentality, where you’re trying to force things. But, I like to have the combination of both, that’s for sure.”
A strong season from No. 87 has his Penguins back in the hunt for the Cup this season, with Pittsburgh sitting second in the highly competitive Metropolitan Division heading into the home stretch of the season. GM Jim Rutherford threw a couple more weapons into the mix ahead of the league’s 2020 trade deadline, bringing in talented winger Jason Zucker, veteran Patrick Marleau, and a familiar face in Conor Sheary (along with his Sabres teammate Evan Rodrigues).
The captain’s been around long enough to know the meaning of those moves, and what’s expected to come next.
“When you get additions like that, it’s huge — depth is so important. Experience, and guys who are going to bring a ton of energy. You look at our division and how tight it is, everyone seems like they loaded up and believes they have a chance, so it’s huge to add guys like that,” he said.
“And I think it sends a message to the group that there’s an expectation there, and ‘We believe in you’ — they did everything that they can here to put us in a good spot, and we’ve got to go out there and perform.”
Listen to Sidney Crosby’s full interview with Sportsnet 590’s Hockey Central via the audio player embedded within this post.