|ESPN.com: Winter 2002||[Print without images]|
|Martin Brodeur and Team Canada finally have that 50-year-old monkey off their backs.|
"I decided I would take some pressure off our guys and I did," Gretzky explained Sunday. "And then I didn't sleep for five days." Apparently his players were well rested, though. They got better as the Olympics progressed and were on top of their game Sunday. The game was wonderfully played and fiercely competed for the first 50 minutes -- player after player from both teams talked about how good an advertisement it was for the sport in general and the NHL in particular. But the Canadians took control late in the final period as the Americans tired. Jarome Iginla scored a back-breaking goal with four minutes left and tournament MVP Joe Sakic scored the clincher with 1:20 left when two U.S. defensemen fell. Seconds later, the outnumbered Canadians fans began singing "O, Canada." The sound was like the song itself, proud, beautiful and stirring. "O, Canada, we stand on guard for thee," they sang as the clock ran out and the Canadian players on the bench listened with lumps in their throats so large it felt as if they had swallowed pucks. "From (Sakic's goal) on, our bench was a great place to be," forward Brendan Shanahan said. "We could hear the 'O, Canada' being sung throughout the arena. It's a historic day for Canada and we're all proud to be part of it." Way to go, eh! Molson's and Roots gear for everyone!
"It's exciting. It's hard to contain your emotions," Steve Yzerman said. "Every guy is trying to be calm and relatively stoic. But you just can't. You become a kid again."Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once said Canada's main exports are hockey players and cold fronts and its main imports are baseball players and acid rain. That's never been so true as in the past decade when the country saw so many NHL teams move to the United States that you could smell the exhaust from the U-Haul vans parked along the border.
So, it was no wonder that when the country sent its best team against the United States' best for the Olympic gold, it brought the entire country inside to watch on TV and then spill into the streets in celebration. The victory won't raise the value of the Canadian dollar or put SCTV back on the air, but it was a wonderful rallying moment that reminded many of the 1972 Summit Series with the Soviets.As one fan told an Associated Press reporter in Toronto, "It's not really about hockey. It's about Canada and the United States. We're Americanized, but this is our game. This is the last vestige of what we are." Jim Caple is a senior writer at ESPN.com.