The game had it all, with one thing no other game of this magnitude in another sport has: The Americans and Canadians were playing for free, essentially, in the Olympic gold medal game. And except when the Canadians stopped forechecking aggressively, inexplicably, in the third period, this was the kind of competition that dripped with seventh-game-of-the-Stanley Cup, Super Bowl-type desperation. It was the kind of effort that makes you think that whoever wins the game, the biggest congratulations goes equally to every player who suited up. It's not about the money. It's about the honor.
"You win for your country,'' said Canadian Chris Pronger.
Both sides were playing for country, for themselves. How impressive the U.S. boys were, playing on Canadian ice in a game that was so much more important to Canada as a nation. We care. We don't CARE. The Devils have won the Stanley Cup three times, but 85 percent of the people in the state couldn't spell "Brodeur.'' From the time Sidney Crosby could skate, he longed to win the gold medal in the Olympics and the Stanley Cup in the National Hockey League. Now, at 22, he's done both.
One funny thing happened late in the game. I'm a Zach Parise follower, and the way he was skating with such determination and moves I thought he'd do something great at some point. So with about seven minutes left, I Tweeted: "Anyone else have a feeling Zach Parise's going to make a big play in the last seven minutes?'' And, of course, he scored the tying goal with 24 seconds left.
"Nostradamus!'' Rich Eisen Tweeted in response.
Not really. Remember: I picked a Chicago-New England Super Bowl.
In honor of the big game, I bring you ...
The Canada 3, United States 2 Award Section
Offensive Player of the Game
"You don't want to say we sat back,'' Crosby said in the interview room afterward, "but in the third period our guys were just trying to hang on.'' Bad move. The lack of forechecking gave the Americans some chances they hadn't had in the first two periods and led to the tying goal by Parise.
But Crosby, who'd been quiet much of the tournament, shot on a pass from Jarome Iginla seven minutes into overtime. He never had a chance to take aim, except to throw it at U.S. goalie Ryan Miller, and it went low, through his legs, for the best goal of his life. Crosby could play hockey as long as Gordie Howe -- heck, for as long as all Howes played it combined -- and never score another goal nearly as big.
Defensive Player of the Game
Miller had the best tournament an American goalie has had since Jim Craig -- and it'd take a Doc Emrickian hockey mind to tell you if Craig was better than Miller, who was spectacular over two weeks -- in nearly beating the mighty Canadians for the second time in a week. It wasn't only the saves. It was the standup way Miller addressed his fate after the game, both on NBC and the media throng. How did he feel after giving up the goal? "Like s---,'' he said. Like any man who'd just given every drop to try to win a tournament would feel when he failed.
Text Message of the Week
"Sidney Crosby will never have to pay for another Labatt's for as long as he lives.''
The same way Adam Vinatieri will never have to pay for a Dunkin' Donut, Aaron Boone will never have to pay for a Brooklyn Lager, and, I assume, Santonio Holmes will never have to pay for another Iron City.
Tweet of the Week
"Watching in airport bar. Even Charlie Weis, seated across from me, was screaming like he was named newly crowed prom queen.''
NFL Truth & Rumors