Wednesday, March 4, 2020

What's the fourth-best Canadian international hockey moment?

Last Friday was the 10th anniversary of Sidney Crosby’s golden goal, the overtime winner against the United States that delivered Olympic gold in front of a delirious Vancouver crowd.

It was a remarkable goal that still holds up as a “where were you” moment to this day, and the anniversary spurred a rush of pride and patriotism among Canadian hockey fans. But it also prompted something else, something far more rare and wonderful: a good tweet.

Specifically, a tweet by user @thupka1982 asking a seemingly simple question: What’s the Mount Rushmore of Team Canada goals? In other words, which four stand above the others as the best and/or most memorable in Canadian international hockey history?

I’m going to take the liberty of expanding the question to not just goals, but moments. The beauty of the question is that the first three are obvious. Just about everyone would give you the same list: Crosby’s Golden Goal, Paul Henderson’s winner in 1972 and Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux teaming up to beat the Soviets in 1987. You can’t get hockey fans to agree on anything, but I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t have those three moments on their list.

But what’s No. 4? That’s where it gets interesting. Today, with permission from our pal @thupka1982, let’s break down some of the candidates.

Darryl Sittler’s fake shot

The game: The inaugural Canada Cup in 1976 was meant to expand on the success of the 1972 Summit Series, with the expectation that we’d get a rematch between Team Canada and the Soviets. Instead, Canada ended up facing an underdog Czechoslovakian team in the final.

The moment: Canada won the first game of the best-of-three in a 6-0 blowout. But they had a tougher time in Game 2, needing a late goal to send the game to overtime. That’s when this happened:

Why it’s in the running: It was the first great international moment to happen in sudden death, and it’s an absolute beauty of a goal. (Side note: Don Cherry has tried to claim the credit for the move, which may or may not factor into where you rank it.)

The case against: Not having it come against the Soviets hurts the case a bit, as does the fact that it wasn’t a must-win game for Canada.

Bottom line: It’s definitely in the conversation, although I’m not sure there’s room on our Mount Rushmore for two games from the 1970s.

John Slaney plays the hero on home ice

The game: Heading into the 1991 World Junior Championship, Canada was the defending champs. But they’d never won back-to-back tournaments and had never won the tournament on home ice. They had a chance to make history on both fronts when they faced the Soviets in their final game of the tournament, with the winner taking gold.

The moment: Late in a 2-2 tie, a draw in the Soviet zone ended up with the puck sliding back to Canadian defenseman John Slaney, who had time to step into the shot of his life.

Why it’s in the running: It’s not the greatest goal on the list, although it might challenge for the best celebration. But this moment, along with the crowd reaction and TSN’s coverage of it all, may have been the one that elevated the world juniors from a vaguely important tournament to a Canadian institution.

The case against: In terms of big names to score a crucial goal, Slaney doesn’t exactly rank up there with Crosby or Lemieux or Sittler. Then again, when it comes to the world juniors, that might be part of the appeal.

Bottom line: It’s probably hard to explain to younger fans, but this one really was a huge moment back in the day and set the stage for other great WJC moments to come. Like this one …

Jordan Eberle’s buzzer-beater

The game: Canada and Russia renewed international hockey’s greatest rivalry at the 2009 world juniors in Ottawa. Canada had won four straight golds, but the Russians held a one-goal lead late in the game.

The moment: With the goalie pulled and Canada pressing in the final minute of the third, Ryan Ellis made a play at the blue line to keep the puck in the Russian zone. After an extended scrum along the sideboards, the puck squirted free to Jordan Eberle in front of the net.

Why it’s in the running: There may not be a goal in Canadian hockey history that came out of nowhere quite like this one. One second, the puck was by the boards as the game ticked away; the very next, Eberle was somehow all alone in front of the Russian net. The whole thing played out almost too quickly for a fan’s brain to process in real time, which made it one of the great “Did I actually just see that?” moments ever.

The case against: Memory is a funny thing. You know Canada went on to win the game, but do you even remember who scored the winner in overtime? Nobody did because the game was decided in a shootout, which is kind of lame. Another piece you may not remember, with shades of the Miracle on Ice: This wasn’t the gold medal game. It was the semifinal.

Bottom line: The fact that a goal that didn’t end a game or a tournament is still remembered to this day just drives home how insane the moment was for those that watched it live.

1 comment:

  1. Canada Cup 1984 Mike Bossy in OT vs the Soviets.