Hockey Hall displays Salt Lake loonie

The latest inductee to the Hockey Hall of Fame is a loon.

More specifically, a loonie, the one buried under the ice of the E-Center, where both Canadian Olympic hockey teams won gold medals at the recently-completed 2002 Salt Lake Games.

"I didn't know until looking at it today that it's a 1987 loonie," said Trent Evans, the Edmonton ice maker responsible for embedding the coveted coin at centre ice.

It was in 1987 that Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux combined to lead Team Canada to victory in the Canada Cup tournament at Hamilton's Copps Coliseum.

At Salt Lake, Gretzky, as executive director, and Lemieux, as captain, reunited to lead Team Canada its first Olympic gold medal in men's hockey since 1952.

The loonie, which Gretzky and the rest of Team Canada's braintrust was well aware of, became Canada's lucky charm.

"Trent told us about it the day we arrived and it was kept a great secret to the end," Team Canada head coach Pat Quinn admitted on Friday.

"I probably told a dozen people within Team Canada, people I felt could be trusted with the secret," Evans added. "If they wanted to use that as motivation for the men's and women's teams, well, that was great."

Evans, supervisor of event operations at Skyreach Centre, began installing the Olympic ice on Feb. 3, shortly after being contracted by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.

Initially, he used a Canadian dime to mark centre ice on the concrete floor before flooding the surface overnight.

The next day, Evans placed his so-called lucky loonie over the dime -- now covered by half an inch of fresh ice -- and promptly reflooded.

"I have the dime," Evans said. "It's in a safety deposit box back home.

"Our provincial museum wants to display the dime in Edmonton as part of a coin display."

The loonie, meanwhile, is prominently displayed between photos of Canada's victorious teams with an opening that allows patrons to touch it for good luck.

"On the money market, this loonie is worth 63 cents," Hall of Fame curator Phil Pritchard said. "To the Hall and to hockey fans, it's worth its weight in gold."

"If it was a little piece of good luck -- great," Evans added. "If there are any superstitious things that happen around the game of hockey and I was part of that -- great."

According to Danielle Goyette, who played for Team Canada in a 3-2 win over Team USA in the women's gold medal game, superstition certainly played a part.

"After the game, I went and kissed centre ice," Goyette recalled. "Hayley (Wickenheiser) came over and said to me, 'Get away, Danielle, we can't tell people it's there.

"The men's final is in three days and we have to keep it secret."'

Sure enough, Canada went on to defeat the U.S., 5-2 in the men's final, following which Evans and assistant GM Kevin Lowe extracted the two coins.

The loonie was presented to Gretzky, who later handed it over to the Hockey Hall of Fame.