Winning on home soil 'felt good'

DAVE POLLARD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:26 AM ET

2002 or 2010.

Which Olympic gold meant more to Canadian hockey?

Clearly both rank high on any list of Canadian achievements at the Olympic Games but for different reasons.

The end result was the same, sure, but are the two historic moments viewed differently by Canadians?

"I'm not even sure how many years it had been, was it 50 years between gold medals?" Steve Yzerman, an assistant captain on Team Canada in 2002 and executive director in 2010, said when asked to compare the two . "So that was significant in itself. For a lot of Canadians, when NHL players were made available for (the Olympics), there was kind of an assumption we were going to win the gold medal every year. Obviously that didn't happen in '98.

"I think it was a tremendous sense of pride that after so many years Canada finally won a gold medal in hockey."

At the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, Canada ended a 50-year golden drought and erased the disappointment of Nagano by beating the U.S. in the final. There was some gnashing of teeth along the way -- everyone remember Wayne Gretzky's rant about the world wanting Canada to lose after a round-robin draw with the Czech Republic? -- and Canada was 1-1-1 after the first three games but the Great One's team was unstoppable after disposing of Finland 2-1 in the quarter-finals.

Eight years later in Vancouver, an overtime win against the U.S. washed away the bitter taste left by a seventh-place finish in Turin and helped Canada set a record for the most golds by a host country. Again, there were some tense moments during the Games as a result of the nearly suffocating pressure of playing at home but that fact made winning gold that much more satisfying.

"Being on home soil, it had that much more added significance for everyone," Yzerman said. "For the hockey team to win the final gold medal and, I think, set a record for most gold medals by a country, each have their own importance to Canada. Going into Vancouver and doing it on home ice, my sense was we were really proud of the way Canada was portrayed in the Olympics, the way the country was portrayed, the way our athletes were portrayed.

"Then to ultimately have success in several sports, I think everyone felt good about it."


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