It was the Olympic gold medal that mattered most to Canada, the one it believed was its birthright, the one that caused 16 days of hand-wringing by all those unfailingly polite fans in red-knitted mittens and maple leaf jerseys.
So, when Sidney Crosby slipped that little black puck past U.S. goalie Ryan Miller seven minutes into overtime Sunday, sealing a 3-2 Canada win for the precious gold, the entire nation finally could let loose and truly enjoy the final few hours of these Games.
Canada's party was delayed by the plucky Americans, who tied it with 24.4 seconds left in regulation when Patrick Kane's shot clanked off Jamie Langenbrunner's skate, and the opportunistic Zach Parise got his stick on it and wrapped it in past Roberto Luongo, the former goalie for the Florida Panthers.
Through the whole game the fans yelled: "Go, Canada, go!". How could the team betray their expectations ?
The pressure on Canada's team began ``the day they awarded the Games to Vancouver,'' U.S. general manager Brian Burke said. He wasn't kidding. The naming of the Canadian roster was broadcast live on national TV. Every move the team made was scrutinized. Since the Opening Ceremonies, there was much talk about Canada's aim to ``Own the Podium,'' but the one podium it fully expected to own was the one at Canada Hockey Place.
Most of the 17,000-plus fans in the building belted out O, Canada as their flag was raised and players accepted their medals. An hour after the game ended, a few dozen volunteers in the arena concourse broke into song again and performed yet another rendition of their national anthem.
Boston Herald has contributed to the report.