Wednesday, February 24, 2010
It was on this date in 2002 that Canada won their first Olympic gold medal in 50 years with a 5-2 win over the host United States.
Canada started out their tournament on a down note, losing 5-2 to Sweden while wearing their alternate jerseys with the throwback logo. It would be the last time they would wear the jerseys, now classified as bad luck.
The scrutiny of Canada only increased after their next game, a narrow 3-2 defeat of Germany and the pressure intensified even further when their next game against the Czech Republic ended in a 3-3 draw, leaving Canada third in Group A with a dismal 1-1-1 record.
The Canadians drew the second place finisher in Group B Finland for their first knockout game in the quarterfinals and defeated the Finns 2-1 to advance to a dream matchup with Belarus, who had shocked the world with their stunning upset of Sweden.
Canada gained their place in the gold medal game by destroying Belarus 7-1, setting up a matchup with the host United States, who had defeated Russia 3-2 in their semi-final.
The Americans, coached by none other than the architect of the 1980 United States gold medal team Herb Brooks, were looking to win their third gold on home soil, as they had won gold as hosts in 1960 and 1980.
The United States broke out on top on a goal by Tony Amonte to electrify the home fans but then Paul Kariya scored just over six minutes later.
Jarome Iginla then added a second after less than four minutes had elapsed to take a 2-1 lead to whip the many Canadians in attendance into a frenzy of their own.
Brian Rafalski tied the score in the second after the Americans had killed off a two man disadvantage to give the Americans renewed hope, only to have Joe Sakic regain the lead for Canada before the period would end in what was shaping up to be a real classic.
Canada took the lead in the third period when Iginla got his second of the game with less than four minutes left to play and Sakic put the game out of reach with his second goal as well sending the Canadian contingent into pandemonium.
Following the game, the Canadians retrieved the Canadian dollar coin buried under center ice by ice maker Trent Evans. A dime was originally placed there in order to have a locator for the center ice dot and grew into a good luck charm, whose presence was nearly given away by the Canadian women's team following their earlier gold medal victory celebration three days before the men's final.
The "Lucky Loonie" was presented to Team Canada general manager Wayne Gretzky and given to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Canadian captain Mario Lemeiux had only played 23 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins prior to the Olympics due to injuries and a rest to fulfill his desire to participate in his only Olympic opportunity of his storied career. Once in the Olympics, Lemeiux would require pain-killing shots for his ailing hip. After the conclusion of the games, Lemeiux would only play in one more game for the Penguins before being shut down for the remainder of the season, but with his coveted gold medal in his pocket to soothe his discomfort and complete his resume as a player.
Today's featured jersey is a Nike 2002 Team Canada Mario Lemieux jersey as worn on the day that Canada defeated the United States 5-2 to capture their first Olympic gold medal in half a century.
Here are the highlights of the 2002 Olympic gold medal final between Canada and the United States.
Dasherboard: What a day of hockey yesterday. In the first game Belarus took Switzerland to a shootout decided by the narrowest of margins in favor of the Swiss, who now advance to face the United States today in the early game (NBC).
Canada predictably got healthy with a dominant 8-2 win over Germany, but that game was the last lopsided game of the day. Canada needed a game like that to put their less than stellar group stage behind them. It's a whole new tournament now that the elimination games have arrived and Canada will be looking to repeat their 2002 Olympics, when they also got off to a dismal start but got their act together in time for the playoff stage and marched to gold on this day in 2002.
Canada must now face off against Russia (CNBC) in a game many thought would arrive one or two rounds later than the quarterfinals before the tournament began. It's hard to imagine that one of these two countries will be shut out of the medals, but that's the situation they find themselves in. It's do or die time and the winner of this game will certainly appreciate having the day off tomorrow. Ratings for the marquee matchup between Sidney Crosby and rival Alexander Ovechkin should be the strongest of the day by far.
The scrappy Latvians once more gave one of the top clubs all they could handle yesterday. This is the kind of effort that Latvia is known for, particularly in the World Championships. Down 2-0 after the first period, the Latvians circled the wagons in the second and dramatically started to turn the tide of play in the third, coming up with a pair of goals four minutes apart in the latter half of the period to put a scare into the Czechs, who were forced to play the majority of the game without star Jaromir Jagr. The Czechs eventually advanced on a goal in overtime at the 5:10 mark. Had this been the group stage, overtime would have ended at the five minute mark and the game would have gone to a shootout.
The Czechs now must hope to have Jagr's services for their game today against Finland (CNBC).
Yesterday's final game had all the looks of a blowout as the Slovakians got off to a quick two goal lead by the halfway mark of the first period and countered Norway's first goal in less than a minute to take away any momentum that Norway hoped to carry into the intermission despite being out shot 21-2.
The second period was a different story however, as the shots on goal finished much more even at 13-10 for Slovakia, but the scoreboard was a different story as Norway evened the game with on goals by Tore Vikingstad, his fourth of the Olympics, and a dramatic buzzer-beater in the final second of the period to make it a 20 minute game and send Norway into the locker room on a high.
Slovakia went ahead on a goal by Miroslav Satan near the mid point of the period and held off Norway to advance to the final game today versus Sweden (CNBC).
The winners of today's games will all have a day off tomorrow, as the women's tournament concludes with the much anticipated Canada versus the United States gold medal game (MSNBC), and the tournament resumes on Friday with the semifinals.
One thing we must discuss before concluding today is the television coverage of Olympic hockey by the NBC crew. While they are doing fine job of covering the games, they are completely lacking in covering the event that is international hockey. That was never more apparent than during last night's Czech Republic vs. Latvia game from the UBC Thunderbird Arena when the CBC crew doing the broadcast actually showed some of the color an olympic hockey tournament, where thousands of fans wear their team colors, hundreds wave flags and dozens, if not hundreds, of crazies wear all manner of wild hats and wigs and face painting abounds.
During the previous group stage of games on NBC, CNBC, MSNBC and USA, I could count the number of crowed shots on one hand, while the director of last night's game from the Thunderbird arena slipped in shot after shot of supporters with their allegiances on full display, one of the most fun parts of any international tournament.
If this were ABC, we'd be sick to death by now of seeing the player's wives and girlfriends, but there's got to be a happy medium, and I encourage the directors of the broadcasts in the main arena to turn the cameras around now and then instead of showing yet another closeup of a player meandering into position awaiting a faceoff. You're showing the games alright, but you're missing the spectacle of thousands of supporters from all over the globe having the time of their lives, something truly unique about the international hockey experience.