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How the golden puck made it home Add to ...

The most prized puck in Canadian history traversed the Atlantic Ocean in the pocket of a referee's shirt and spent more than two days in a sweat-soaked athletic bag before being discovered by a forgetful Finnish linesman.

Stefan Fonselius, one of two linesmen who worked the Olympic final between Canada and the United States, said he retrieved the golden puck from the net of U.S. goaltender Ryan Miller seconds after Canada's epic triumph, and remained on the ice with his fellow officials for the chaotic victory celebration and the elaborate medal ceremony.

But by the time festivities were over, some 20 minutes after Sidney Crosby's golden goal, Mr. Fonselius had forgotten that he was holding the game-winning puck and nobody from the International Ice Hockey Federation came looking for it.

"Nobody remembered it, not even me," he said when reached at his Turku home yesterday. "You know how Canada gets when they win."

Upon his return to the officials' dressing room, Mr. Fonselius showered, changed, and left Canada Hockey Place for his hotel, knowing he had an early-morning flight home. On March 1, he flew from Vancouver to Montreal, then on to Frankfurt and Helsinki. His final leg was a two-hour drive to Turku, and he arrived home in the evening on March 2.

"It was in my bag," he said. "It was in my pocket, and it was still there when I came home."

On Tuesday, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games announced that the golden puck would be based at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

It went on display yesterday as the signature attraction in the hall's Olympic exhibit. Dozens of fans watched as retired NHL player Ron Ellis placed the rubber disc on its perch, alongside paraphernalia donated from Canada's historic victory. In the future, it is expected to travel the country, appearing in halls of fame and museums and being seen by millions of Canadians.

"I'm happy that the puck is there [at the hall of fame]and that everything is good," Mr. Fonselius said. "It was a big honour to work that game. I'm very proud."

Mr. Fonselius, 33, has been an International Ice Hockey Federation official for nearly 10 years, and was working his first Olympic gold-medal game. He said he played hockey until he was 16 years old before turning his attention to officiating. He is married with a 10-month-old daughter.

But the Finn said he did not immediately realize the historical value of the puck, and simply plucked it from the net as any linesman at any level of hockey would do after a goal.

"I know it now, but I didn't remember it after the game," he said.

He was not alone.

Because Mr. Crosby scored in overtime, ending the game instantly, organizers forgot to track the winning puck. That was the red-faced admission of the International Ice Hockey Federation on Tuesday.

Communications director Szymon Szemberg acknowledged gross errors in the post-game puck-retrieval process, admitting that the federation was guilty of "oversight and absent-mindedness" in a story posted on its website.

"In all the commotion and excitement that followed this defining goal, we simply lost our routine and - to a certain extent - our composure," Mr. Szemberg said.

Typically, during and after major international championships, International Ice Hockey Federation organizers and Hockey Hall of Fame delegates collect pucks from on- and off-ice officials. They also make requests of competing teams, and are often given memorabilia, such as Mr. Crosby's game-worn pants.

But Mr. Fonselius said the officials received no visit after the game, which allowed him to take the puck home. He mailed it to the federation's head office in Switzerland, and when asked whether he could verify its authenticity he said: "I didn't have any other pucks. That was the only one - 100 per cent."

Told he was being hailed as a hero in some quarters of Canada, Mr. Fonselius said "that's good to hear." He added that he plans on visiting the puck in its official resting place.

"I actually hope to have a chance to come to Canada and see it again," he said. "That puck has been in my home, so I want to see it one more time."

With a report from The Canadian Press

Follow on Twitter: @mattsekeres

 

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