As vividly as I can still hear the ebullient roar when Sidney Crosby scored 7:40 into overtime to give Canada the gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, I also clearly remember the silence that sent the game to a fourth period.
Rarely are shifts in crowd noise during a sports event as jarring and dramatic as the one Zach Parise caused with 24.4 seconds remaining in the third period, when he found a loose puck from a Patrick Kane shot that had deflected off Jamie Langenbrunner’s skate, and slid it past a prone Roberto Luongo.
The steady din that had picked up as Canada closed in on gold hushed instantaneously — no gasp, just a sudden switch flip. The arena’s air horn went off and the U.S., celebrated by the boards. Joyous squeals came from isolated pockets of Canada Hockey Place, which is what the then GM Place was dubbed for the Olympics, in the first and only time that afternoon you could tell how many American fans were in the house.
The entire building seemed to wilt.
Before long the stunned silence ebbed, giving way to a “Go Canada Go” rallying cry as the third period ran out. A steady, nervous noise then filled the joint until Crosby uttered a high-pitched “Iggy!”, took a pass from a falling Jarome Iginla and slipped the puck through Ryan Miller’s legs to give a new generation an iconic goal for hockey lore.
There’s no way the ensuing pandemonium would have been as jubilant – it felt like the entire arena leaped and screamed simultaneously – had the clock simply run out in the third period. The celebratory “Olé, olé, olé,” chant that followed surely is the loudest on record.
After all, Crosby had just done to the Americans what Paul Henderson had done to the Soviets in 1972 and Mario Lemieux had done to the Russians in 1987. Everyone understood the magnitude of the moment they’d just witnessed, one bound to endure in the collective hockey memory.
I bore witness in one of the three press seats allocated to Canadian Press — ninth row, if memory serves, above the blue line across from the American bench – alongside the great Bill Beacon and Chris Johnston, now of Sportsnet. My duties were to file what’s known as running copy, a game story that could be posted online at the end of each period, file a summary and write something post-game.
Writing in the midst of such a charged, frenzied environment was a unique experience, making it a challenge to not ride the emotional wave fans were on while appreciating the highest level of competition playing out in front of us.
The game was played at an unfathomable pace, both teams tearing through max-effort shifts that left them panting on the bench afterwards, and was the most ferociously contested event I’ve covered (Game 5 of the 2015 American League Division Series between the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers is the only thing that comes close).
Being seated so close to the action, an appreciated perk given the distant pressboxes more customary for media, allowed us to really see how hard the teams fought one another, and feel the seething intensity that went into every stride, every hit and every gathering after a whistle.
It’s strange which memories stick as time passes by.
There was a scrum right in front of us at the end of the first period, when Jack Johnson bumped Corey Perry along the boards after the horn had sounded. Ryan Getzlaf charged in and, with the crowd quieted a bit for some reason, we could clearly hear the many words not used in polite company that were thrown about.
I had clean looks at the Shea Weber shot 48 seconds into the third period that hit the post to Miller’s left and the Chris Pronger slapper off the iron to Miller’s right 47 seconds later. Canada led only 2–1 at the time, and I jotted down notes on my screen in case the game ended up in overtime and I had to send in another running-copy update.
I can remember thinking that Crosby’s breakaway with about 3:15 left in the third – when Kane chased him down and kept him from getting a clean shot – could loom large.
And then the piercing silence when Parise sucked all the air out of the arena.
That goal meant go time for me, as I suddenly had to produce an update to the running copy covering the first three periods and setting up overtime. Between whipping that together and tweaking our post-game coverage plan with Bill and Chris, there was barely a moment to catch my breath.
Then came Crosby trying to split two American defenders, the puck squirting to the boards, Crosby poking it loose to Iginla, the “Iggy!” yell you can also pick up on the TV broadcast, the goal replicated on driveways across the country and that you-had-to-be there-for-it roar.
Peak sports, right there.
I saw Henderson’s goal for the first time on a video shown during lunch break at hockey camp as a kid. I watched with my parents and leaped from the couch when Lemieux took that drop pass from Wayne Gretzky and picked the corner high, glove side. And I saw Crosby find the five-hole in person, looked up to get the time of the goal – 67:40 the scoreboard read – put my head down and got to work.