VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Scenes from the upper deck of Canada Hockey Place for the U.S.-Canada gold medal hockey game (with most recent updates on top) …
• Canada 3, U.S. 2, parting words: This was a game I did not expect to see firsthand. Fans were paying thousands to get in, and even the media tickets were scare — I didn’t get mine until about 80 minutes before faceoff, and went on a sprint from SI press office to the arena. I somehow found myself in a spot in the upper deck, from which I could turn over my right shoulder and see the entire emotional range of Wayne Gretzky and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during an overtime thriller. I could see Donald Sutherland sitting in front of them, not exactly pleased to have all these cameras trying to take shots over his head of the Great One. And I walked by Gordie Howe (at right) in the hallway afterwards, as jubilant fans posed with him for pictures. We were all lucky to have a view from above of Sidney Crosby’s Golden Goal — the defining moment of Vancouver’s Games. I’m off to the Closing Ceremony, where no magnitude of malfunction could spoil Canada’s party.
• Canada 3, U.S. 2, game over: The smoke from the postgame fireworks has finally cleared here, and fans are spilling out of the exits and into the streets, clanging cowbells and screaming like madmen. Canada’s Olympic medal haul would not have been complete without this victory, which helped the country set a record for golds in one Games. Taking gold in hockey mattered most, though, and they did it in the most exciting of ways — a sudden-death goal by national hero Sidney Crosby. An article in a Toronto paper this morning that said Sid, who’d been somewhat average throughout these Olympics, no longer needed to be “the guy” for Team Canada. But that’s exactly what he was on Sunday.
• Canada 3, U.S. 2, game over: All of Canada Hockey Place is chanting “Crosby, Crosby!” Sidney picked a fine time to score his first point in three games, putting a forehand past Ryan Miller to win it in sudden death for the Canadians. The Next One now has a Stanley Cup and a gold medal in back-to-back years — that makes him at least somewhat of a big deal in Canada, right?
This was the scene on the ice just after Crosby’s goal:
And this is what Team USA looked like, as it watched that celebration:
• Canada 2, U.S. 2, 18:37 left, overtime: I just realized that this Russian “journalist” next to me has been chewing up the paper in his little notebook and spitting it out during the whole game. There are wet spitwads all over the cement under his seat. Basically, he’s spent the whole game either chewing paper, screaming into a cell phone, or sneaking a VHS camcorder out of his backpack to take clandestine (non-allowed) video of the action. Sochi should be amazing in 2014.
• Canada 2, U.S. 2, end of third period: Wayne Gretzky is sitting down, with his face in his hands. The Great One had been up on his feet for the final minute of what looked like a gold medal for Team Canada — until Zach Parise struck with a miracle goal with just 25 seconds left in the game. A small American contingent behind the U.S. bench went nuts, but otherwise, the air was sucked out of this place. Really strange atmosphere in here as we wait for overtime. The Canadian fans are trying to stay upbeat — the ones who appear on the scoreboard are dancing, at least — but a lot of them have stunned expressions on their faces.
That photo above is of the Americans, post-goal. They just played the Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling on the house speakers. The chorus to that song is, “Tonight’s gonna be a good good night” — but I’m no longer so sure of that for the Canadians.
• Canada 2, U.S. 1, 3:32 left, third period: Ryan Miller just ranged way out of his net to thwart a Sidney Crosby breakaway, jabbing the puck away with his goalie stick to keep the U.S. alive for the final few minutes. It’s getting extremely loud in here as the clock ticks down.
• Canada 2, U.S. 1, 5:05 left, third period: The only two audible chants in here: The ubiquitous (at the Olympics) “Go, Canada Go!” And “LUUUOOOOO,” for Canadian goalie Roberto Luongo, who just stonewalled the U.S. once again, going to his knees — and then putting his helmet on the ice — to stop a backhand from Ryan Kesler. Luongo is 28-of-29 on saves thus far, and having a stellar game.
• Canada 2, U.S. 1, 10:00 left, third period: As the Canadians launch an all-out assault on the U.S. net — they’ve already hit the post twice, and had Ryan Miller sprawling out for multiple saves — I’ll pass along some music notes from the arena. There’s clearly a Phishhead at the controls somewhere, as Kill Devil Falls was played during the first period (as well as some good stuff from Tom Petty and Michael Franti during the rest of the game):
The Beatles: Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Phish: Kill Devil Falls
Steppenwolf: Born to Be Wild
The Romantics: What I Like About You
That horrible Cotton Eyed Joe Song
Reel 2 Real: I Like To Move It
Michael Franti: Say Hey (I Love You)
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: Runnin’ Down a Dream
• Canada 2, U.S. 1, start of third period: Just wandered around the concourse of the 300 level during the intermission, and overheard one of the approximately 11,000 dudes in here wearing Team Canada jerseys saying to a friend, “Have I mentioned yet that this is the single greatest day of my life?”
To which his friend said, “You’ve mentioned that like 30 times.”
A lot of people here are going to lose their minds if Canada maintains this lead.
On my way back to my seat, Donald Sutherland was kind enough to offer me a coffee. (Well … not really … but it kind of looks that way, doesn’t it?)
• Canada 2, U.S. 1, 7:22 left, second period: The Americans have come alive! Just as Canada Hockey Place was getting sleepy — the Canadians had stopped celebrating their second goal and were slowly chanting, “Miller, Miller” instead — the Americans went on a counter-attack. From the right wing, Patrick Kane flung a shot in in the direction of a cutting Ryan Kesler, who deflected it off a spot just above his stick blade. The puck found daylight under Robert Luongo’s right armpit and tumbled into the net. The game has changed — and I suspect we’re in for an epic third period.
• Canada 2, U.S. 0, 10:00 left, second period: Every time they show an American on the scoreboard here, something bad happens shortly thereafter for Team USA. First it happened to Vince Vaughn (before Jonathan Toews’ goal). Now, it just happened to the Night Train crew that won gold in four-man bobsled; a few minutes after they appeared, Corey Perry put a glove-side wrister past U.S. goalie Ryan Miller to give the Canadians a 2-0 lead. They have all the momentum, shutting down a U.S. power play right after the goal. Goalie Roberto Luongo even escaped what looked like a sure scoring chance by Jack Johnson, making a superb save with an extended right pad. I’m worried about the Canadians scoring again, too: The latest in-house interviewee was American nordic combined medalist Johnny Spillane.
• Canada 1, U.S. 0, start of second period: I think you have to be a gold medalist to even get access to this game as an Olympic athlete. It was that tough of a ticket. So far on the scoreboard, they’ve showed curling hero Kevin Martin ….
… skeleton winner Jon Montgomery …
… and Mark Messier, who hasn’t won a gold here, but happens to be quite famous, and is also the general manager for Canada’s 2010 world championship team:
• Canada 1, U.S. 0, end of first period: Both teams should be coming out angry for the second period. Just as the horn sounded in the first, U.S. defenseman Jack Johnson lit up Canada’s Corey Perry and started a scuffle. Ruan Getzlaf was the Team Canada member who took the most offense, swinging at Johnson as refs tried to get in the way. No penalties were called, but Johnson had to be escorted to the tunnel for the intermission.
• Canada 1, U.S. 0, 7:10 remaining, first period: I’m blaming Vince Vaughn for this one. The dude is bad luck. During a stoppage in play right before Canada’s first goal, the videoboard showed Vaughn sitting in the stands, wearing a U.S.A jersey. (I wasn’t quick enough to snap a photo — I’m sorry about that.) Jonathan Toews then went and slammed home a rebound after fellow forward Mike Richards did the dirty work, stealing the puck behind the U.S. net and getting off a quick wrist shot that American goalie Ryan Miller could only deflect.
• 10:09 remaining, first period: The energy finally picked up here midway through the first period. American defenseman Brooks Orpik sent Canadian forward Dany Heatley into the U.S. bench with a check. Shortly after that, the Americans nearly snuck a goal under Roberto Luongo’s right pad, but play was whistled dead in a commotion around the net. Canadian fans sitting on the other end of the ice began slow chants of “Miller, Miller,” taunting the U.S. netminder.
• Just before faceoff: There was a commotion up here in section 308 as royalty arrived: Wayne Gretzky and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper are sitting a few rows up and across the aisle from me. And in front of them? None other than Donald Sutherland. I’m kind of baffled as to why the Great One doesn’t have a lower-level (or skybox) seat for this thing. I’m actually closer to the ice than he is. And I’m not that close.
• Seven minutes until faceoff: While waiting in the media security line, I called “Mo,” my favorite ticket scalper that I’ve met this week. I had his card, which just says “OLYMPIC TICKETS” on it along with his cell phone number. He quoted me $2,200 for a lower-level seat and $1,500 for an upper, which was less than I expected. And that was just the first-quote-over-the-phone price; as it neared noon on the street, I’d imagine there were folks who got inside for closer to $1,200.
• 10 minutes until faceoff: I’m watching this from section 308 at Canada Hockey Place — otherwise known as the “media non-tabled section.” From the looks of it, it’s mostly freeloaders scoring seats to the biggest event of the Games. Maybe 15 percent of us have laptops up here (on our actual laps). The Russian guy next to me is alternating between reading a novel and shouting to other non-working (but credentialed) Russians.
• 28 minutes until faceoff: The bear is in the building:
• 33 minutes before faceoff: The U.S. team taking the ice for warmups:
• 42 minutes until faceoff: This pretty much sums up the Canadian attitude inside the arena. These Olympics won’t be complete without a pair of hockey golds.
• 70 minutes before faceoff: The arena is really a dreary place from the outside, even for a monster game …