Hockey: A People's History - Book
Canadian Ladies and the lucky loonie at Centre ice, Hockey Hall Of Fame
The Salt Lake City Olympics' premier hockey venue was the E Center, and as an international ice surface, it was fifteen feet wider than in an NHL arena. As the Salt Lake logo on the ice had no centre-ice mark, ice-maker Trent Evans had to find a way to gauge the measurements of the arena to ensure that the nets and other markings were in the right place. After painting the ice white, he said, "We drew a string through the centre of the goals and both nets and made sure that we were square." Normally, Evans would fix a screw into a lead insert to make centre ice, but he didn't have one. So he reached into his pocket and pulled out a dime, "knowing that a coin from my pocket, being warm, would melt into the ice and it would stay there at centre."
That night, he and fellow Edmonton ice-maker Duncan Muire concluded that a dime was not the right solution. "We both agreed that it would be better to have the gold of a loonie . . . because we wanted the teams to win gold, and not the silver of a dime."
The following day, Evans went out and placed a loonie, named for the indigenous Canadian loon bird on its obverse, on top of the dime at centre ice, and because he was responsible for flooding the arena, he was the one to seal but not conceal his handiwork in the ice. "You could tell visually over top of it that it was definitely a Canadian loonie," he said. That was a problem for the people supervising Evans, who told him to remove the loonie. "They just thought it was, being Canadian, an unfair advantage," he said. "It's not like it's had any bearing on the game. So that's why I didn't think of it as being a huge issue to take it out."
Evans secretly hoped that the coin would have a bearing on Canada's Olympic hockey fortunes, and instead of removing the loonie, he daubed
yellow paint over the ice above it. Now he had to let the Canadian teams know. He went to the Canadian Pavilion and introduced himself to Bob Nicholson, president of the Canadian Hockey Association. After hearing the story, Nicholson "was so excited he actually pulled me into a VIP room and he wanted me to tell the story again to Pat Quinn and his wife and some of the Canadian trainers," Evans says.
Evans delivered the news himself to the Canadian women's team, who would be skating for the gold medal against their nemesis, the United States, and now the loonie became a battle standard for the teams. "It was rah-rah, come on girls, we're skating on top of the Canadian loonie, let's do Canada proud."
The Canadian women came into the gold-medal game as underdogs, having lost eight straight pre-Olympic matches to the United States. They had trouble with Finland in the semifinal, before rallying for a come-from-behind, and convincing, 73 win in the third period.
Canadian veteran Thérèse Brisson used an American classic to put her team's task into perspective, e-mailing a friend at home to say that she and her teammates felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. "So we came here with some friends, a Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion, looking for some brains brains for me especially (she had suffered a concussion a few months earlier) heart, courage, and Dorothy found the Wizard and he told her, You have what it takes to do it.'"
But now they were playing the United States on home ice, and it seemed to the Canadians as if the Olympic ideal might be trumped by unbridled nationalism. The referee, an American, called thirteen penalties against Canada eight of them in a row while giving Team USA only six. "She might as well have had an American jersey on today," defenceman Geraldine Heaney said after the game.
With four minutes left, the women wearing the Maple Leaf had a two-goal lead when Karyn Bye, who had wrapped herself in an American flag in celebration after winning gold at Nagano, closed the gap to one, and it looked like the momentum might have shifted. But the Canadians had the golden loonie beneath them, and then gold around their necks as they avenged their loss at Nagano, and proved they were who they thought they were: the golden girls. "It was the most emotional moment in my life," said Wickenheiser, who had scored one of Canada's goals, and would be named MVP. "Everything I had worked for, hoped for, came together at that moment. I was the happiest person on earth."