Over the holidays, we will be looking at the moments and people that made 2010 so memorable in the world of sports. In the first of the series, we focus on the great Canadian teams of the year.
It had 14 NHL captains. All-stars. Scoring leaders.
But that's not why it's our team of the year.
It had Vezina winners. Players with Hart. Cup champions.
But that's still not why it's our team of the year.
Still wondering? Just remember how it looked. If you were anywhere in Canada when Sidney Crosby scored the winner at the Olympics, you know what I'm talking about.
How could you not? You were right there, arms raised in the air, embracing total strangers, drowned in a sea of red and white as you felt elation so strong that it blacked everything else out.
Now are you beginning to understand?
Of course, they were made up of the NHL's elite of elites. Names like Roberto Luongo, Sidney Crosby, Scott Niedermayer, Jonathan Toews, Chris Pronger, and others. So much talent on the roster that it was dizzying to comprehend, a who's who of current hockey royalty.
But the value of the Canadian men's Olympic hockey team isn't measured by talent, point totals, save percentages or Stanley Cup rings. It isn't even measured in gold. It's measured in emotion — an entire country's worth of it.
History of proof
Just remember 2006, and the day Canada lost to Russia in the quarter-finals at the Torino Games. The Canadian Olympic team had its best day medal-wise, but everybody was talking about the loss. Refer to the Summit Series, the Canada Cup, Salt Lake, Nagano, the World Cup of Hockey, etc. for more references.
And you could argue that by the second week of the Vancouver Olympics, Canada had never needed its team more.
The Games were teetering toward tragic farce. Opening ceremony malfunctions, spring-like weather on the slopes, Zamboni troubles, an Olympic cauldron set up in what looked like a DMZ, extremely poor results from the Canadian Olympic team, and most especially a horrific death on the luge track had pundits decrying Vancouver as one of the worst Olympics on record. A round-robin loss to the Americans on the ice didn't help matters.
But as things began to get brighter for Canadian athletes at the Games, it got better on the ice too, and the Canadian men suddenly found themselves in the gold-medal game against those same Americans after a rapturous 7-3 win over Russia and a much more nervy 3-2 victory over Slovakia.
Now close your eyes for a second and recall where you were for the game. This will be good practice for when you're older and telling the new generation this story.
Remember the tension exploding like a hydrogen bomb when Canada scored a couple to go up 2-0. Remember it stretching like a rubber band again when the Americans clawed their way back with a goal to make it 2-1. And then it broke.
Did your stomach sink when Zach Parise tied it with 25 seconds left? Multiply that by 33 million.
Now you're starting to understand.
Then "it" happened. History. Our generation's Henderson, its Gretzky-to-Lemieux, happened in the blink of an eye. Crosby trying a desperate split of the American defence in overtime. The Kid tipping the puck to Jarome Iginla, then dashing to the net screaming "Iggy! Iggy! Iggy!" The puck on his stick. Then in the net.
How many times did you sing the anthem that night? How many strangers did you hug? How many tears did you shed?
Statistically, that goal did a number of things. It gave Canada the record for most gold medals at a Winter Games. It tied Canada with Russia atop the gold-medal chart in men's Olympic hockey history. And it allowed the Canadian hosts to celebrate a rare feat, winning men's Olympic hockey gold on home ice.
The Canadian men's hockey team is always made up of stars, that can't be held up for debate. Measured on pure talent, it stands alone.
But you likely remember the emotion of that golden moment more than anything. That jubilant sea of red and white parading up and down every main street in every city and town in the country.
And the thought that no other team in Canada has the power to do this on such a scale, that you were seeing history unfold before your eyes.
That's why they're CBCSports.ca's team of the year. And it's a sure bet the 2010 men's Olympic hockey team will be a squad remembered for a long time after.
The following teams received votes from members of the CBCSports.ca voting panel
Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir
Innovators of their sport, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were nearly flawless on the way to Olympic ice dance gold, topping it off with a free dance skate so sublime it drew comparisons with British duo Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean and their Bolero at the 1984 Olympics, considered the greatest skate in the history of the Games.
You could cut the tension with a knife as the pair performed their final routine to Mahler's Symphony No. 5, but the Canadian crowd tore the roof off the arena after Virtue and Moir finished their skate. Gold came shortly after.
What made their performance even more incredible was the fact that Virtue was in constant, sometimes agonizing, pain due to chronic shin problems, and she underwent surgery to correct the problem in October.
Canadian Olympic women's hockey team
So dominant were the Canadian women that some observers questioned the future of women's hockey at the Olympics. While that wouldn't be a good thing, it connotes a level of excellence that has to recognized.
The women's team outscored the opposition 49-2 and neutralized their only serious competition for a large portion of the gold-medal game.
When they did allow the Americans to break through, Shannon Szabados was there to save the day in a 2-0 result. Talk about peaking at the right time: The teams had played six times in the run-up to the Games, and while Canada won those, they never managed a shutout.
These are some of the other team feats that deserve mention in a banner year for Canada.
Kaillie Humphries & Heather Moyse: The pair led from wire to wire and headed a 1-2 finish for Canada in the women's two-man bobsleigh at the Olympics.
Olympic men's curling: Kevin Martin and crew went 11-0 en route to gold, outscoring the opposition by slightly more than a 2-to-1 ratio.
Toronto Blue Jays: How do you say exceeding expectations? More wins than most anticipated, showcasing good young arms and the best slugging percentage in the majors.
Montreal Canadiens: Decidedly average in the season, the Habs (well, Jaroslav Halak and the rest of the Habs) upset the Eastern Conference leaders and the defending Stanley Cup champs to make a surprising run to the Eastern Conference final.
Montreal Alouettes: Far from dominant, but they were the first repeat CFL champs in more than a dozen years, with star quarterback Anthony Calvillo dealing with unpublicized health concerns.
Men's 5,000-metre short-track Olympic relay team: Brothers Charles and François Hamelin, along with François-Louis Tremblay and Olivier Jean, toppled short track giants South Korea with a near-perfect race.
Men's long-track team pursuit team: On the whole, it was a disappointing Olympics for the men's long track team, but Mathieu Giroux, Lukas Makowsky and Denny Morrison beat Chad Hedrick and the U.S. to finish on a winning note.
- By Chris Iorfida and Brandon Hicks