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If Sidney Crosby can still be Sid the Kid at the age of 22, then he is also the Golden Child.
With a medal around his neck and a smile plastered on his face, he took a Canadian flag for a spin at Canada Hockey Place just as his teammates had taken a nation on an emotional three-hour whirligig. Crosby had earned a standing O Canada, but the open secret of these Olympics was that he had been unexceptional. He had not scored a point in the two previous games. Near the end of regulation in the gold medal game on Sunday, he failed to cash in a breakaway that would have dumped the U.S. into a cavernous two-goal hole. Team Canada general manager Steve Yzerman would later praise Crosby for doing all the little things, but some people are destined to do the big things on the biggest stage.
Crosby is one, blessed with an incomparable sense of narrative. So when he suggested 45 minutes after the epic Olympic final—Canada 3, United States 2—"it could have been anybody else in [our dressing room]" who scored that soul-soothing, Armageddon-preventing goal at 7:40 of overtime, he was only technically correct. Crosby collects goals, assists and moments. In a compelling match that needs only to marinate in memory to be elevated to among the best ever, it wasn't anybody else who scored. It was the Golden Child.
The decisive play started along the boards when Crosby chipped the puck past U.S. defenseman Brian Rafalski to Jarome Iginla. Crosby jumped off the wall, wheeled toward the net and, as he left Rafalski a stride behind, screamed, "Iggy! Iggy!"
"He was yelling pretty urgently," Iginla said. "There are different pitches of yell. You could tell he had a step." Iginla, wearing defenseman Ryan Suter like a 44 regular, slipped a pass onto Crosby's stick for the wrist shot heard, at the very least, from British Columbia to Newfoundland.
For a nation that never has been humble about its hockey ambitions, this was, in Canadian terms, a Paul Henderson where-were-you-when? In the U.S., defining events have more gravitas—the moon landing, 9/11—but it is a reflection of Canada's role in the world that its frozen-in-time moments of the last half-century involve frozen water. Henderson scored the game-winner against the Soviet Union in Moscow in the finale of the 1972 Summit Series, a goal that stopped time. Now at 2:53 PST in the most-watched hockey game in North America since the Miracle on Ice in 1980—it drew 27.6 million viewers on NBC and a staggering 16.6 (about half the country) on CTV in Canada—Crosby had done the same. He had written a new story for those who had experienced "Henderson scores for Canada!" only through the gilded memory of their parents.
"You're just happy he's on your team," Canadian center Joe Thornton said. "You're happy he was born in Canada. Thank God."
The queue at Earls Restaurant & Bar on Vancover's Hornby Street began to form around 6 a.m., even though the establishment would not open until 10. The gold medal game was a civic event—hockey is the thread that sews together the patches of Canada's cultural quilt—that begged to be shared among those of the maple-leaf persuasion. Although the face-painted communicants on the sidewalk were obliged to skip church on Sunday, they were free to while away the pregame hours outside Earls, flipping to the Vancouver Province's letters to the editors page.
Robert Bernath, of Agassiz, B.C., had written this:
Our father, who art in Canada Hockey Place, hockey be thy name. Thy will be done, gold to be won, on ice as well as in the stands.