Not only did Sidney Crosby's OT-winner give Canada men's hockey gold, but it also set a new benchmark for gold medals by a country in the Winter Olympics. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Time is the one ingredient that separates Sidney Crosby’s Olympic gold medal-winner in overtime from being ordained the greatest Canadian goal ever.
Time will also be the great arbiter.
In assembling our 124-page commemorative issue on the Canadian men and women’s championship at the Vancouver Olympics, we included a section on Canada’s top five goals ever. Our decision desk made Crosby’s riveting goal No. 1 all-time. I emphatically and respectfully disagree.
First we have to define what we mean by greatest goal. It’s not really about the individual or team effort that went into the actual goal. It’s more about the goal’s significance during the time of game and time in history. What was the goal’s resonance? What did it mean to hockey and citizens in Canada?
Canada won gold in Salt Lake City in 2002, but there wasn’t a single goal from the final 5-2 victory over the U.S. that stands out as one of Canada’s greatest goals ever. Certainly not top five, anyway.
Crosby’s goal last Sunday couldn’t have been better scripted: Overtime of the gold medal game, on home ice, against American rivals. The goal’s author was Canada’s greatest player at this slice of time in history. Moreover, the game was watched by more Canadians than any other sporting event in history and embraced even by non-hockey fans.
How could it not be Canada’s greatest goal ever, our decision desk decided.
It might very well be, but I think we need the passage of time to determine that. We need at least another Olympics or two to pass before giving Crosby’s wrister the No. 1 rubber stamp.
If Canada wins the next four Olympics, two of them in overtime, does that make Crosby’s goal less special? Perhaps.
One thing that won’t change is the importance of Paul Henderson’s winner in 1972, not to mention Mario Lemieux’s winning goal in the 1987 Canada Cup. Those goals were both extremely timely and meant a lot to Canadians then and now.
My preference is the 1972 Summit Series goal, because it was the culmination of a back-and-forth eight-game series against a great unknown. It helped that Henderson’s goal was his third consecutive winner on Soviet Union ice. If anything, that goal has mushroomed in importance with the passage of time. It gave Canadian hockey players and fans a lesson in humility, while also allowing room for celebration. Who can’t picture that goal in their mind 38 years later, whether you were alive at the time or not?
Crosby’s goal was fabulous and meaningful as well and maybe some day, 20 years from now, it will mean more to me than Henderson’s goal. But not right now.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can find his blog each weekend.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.