The gold medal this time around was won in a quieter rink, halfway around the world, and lacked the kind of suspense that pushed a nation, two nations really, to the brink of madness four years ago.
But much like then, Sidney Crosby, soft on the scoreboard but effective in most every other aspect of his game, waited for the biggest match to have his biggest moment of the Olympic hockey tournament.
Heroics and magic are always expected of the man who scored the Golden Goal in Vancouver to beat the U.S.A. On this night, in in the Bolshoy Ice Dome, Crosby again delivered.
He stripped the puck from Jonathan Ericsson at Canada’s blue line and exploded up centre ice. He moved a little to the left, and Henrik Lundqvist froze. Then Crosby swept to his right, the puck on the back of his stick, and tucked it neatly between the goal post and Lundqvist’s skate. It was 15:43 of the second period. Jonathan Toews had already scored for Canada, but it was Crosby’s goal that broke the Swedes.
Crosby, who had been criticized throughout the tournament for not scoring, saved his best for the gold medal game, having been purposefully patient.
“It would have been easy to feel the pressure of not scoring as much and try to force things, and we probably would have ended up in big trouble,” he said.
A little later, after Chris Kunitz had scored to put Canada ahead 3-0, and the time on the clock had settled at 0.0, Crosby gave teammate Patrice Bergeron a bear hug; the kind men give men when they are deliriously happy.
And as the medals were handed out to the 25 players, Crosby took his place a the end of the line to wait his turn.
Luongo, Keith, Hamhuis, Weber, Doughty, Duchene, Sharp, Marleau, Kunitz, Getzlaf, Toews, Bouwmeester, Tavares, on a crutch, Benn, Perry, St. Louis, Pietrangelo, Price, Bergeron, Smith, Vlasic, Nash, Subban, Carter, and finally, Crosby.
The captain bowed his head, toothy grin spread wide, brown eyes dancing, pure glee on his face. His second Olympic gold medal, earned in a game far less tense but no less hard fought, shone to match his face.
Then all 25, along with the coaching staff, moved to centre ice for a team photo. Crosby draped his arm around Towes, who also scored his first goal of the tournament in this game.
Captain Canada embraced his teammates hard around their shoulders, and Captain Serious picked up a Canadian flag and skated around in the ice, until the flag fell off, and then he got another from a fan, so he could continue waving the maple leaf.
After they filed off the ice, Crosby was a main attraction in the mixed zone. So much so that the only way to hear him talk was so stand five deep around a loudspeaker broadcasting an interview he was giving 10 feet away, where he was surrounded by a crush of bodies and cameras.
As Crosby drew the crowd, Martin St. Louis, a late addition to the team who has played in his last Olympics, moved past and stopped at a nearby television to watch Crosby’s goal in slow motion replay. He shook his head as if in disbelief, and walked on.
And then as suddenly as he had appeared at that blue line in the second period, Crosby was done. There was nothing more to be said. More questions tumbled out, and cries of, “Sid! Sid!” but he moved toward the dressing room, his job, on the ice and off, finished for the night.
Near the door stood Canadian Olympic Committee boss Marcel Aubut, and Crosby paused to say hello. Aubut reached out and grabbed the hockey star’s hand, pulling him in for a full body handshake, only a barricade getting in the way of a bear hug, the kind of congratulations that men give men, when a man does good.
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