Canadian and US fans walk the streets after Canada defeated Slovakia during their Winter Olympics semi-final in Vancouver on February 26, 2010.
Photograph by: AFP, Getty
VANCOUVER — In 2002 in Salt Lake City, Jarome Iginla was the young, 24-year-old forward tucked under the wing of players like Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic when Canada last faced the U.S. for gold in Olympic hockey.
In 2010, Iginla is in the veteran, in the Sakic-like role. Playing on his line Sunday in a gold-medal rematch is expected to be the young star who everyone will be watching — Sidney Crosby.
Crosby, widely viewed as Canada’s best player, has been shut out the past two games and suggested Saturday he will try to remove the rivalry aspect from this grudge match.
"People are saying it’s more intense, it’s more emotional," Crosby said. "But if you take away those things, it’s still the same game."
Crosby was 14 in 2002 and said Iginla’s performance has stayed with him.
“I can still remember him from that game, how well he played," Crosby said.
Iginla scored two goals, became the tournament’s breakout star and made history as Canada ended a 50-year gold medal drought.
"It was back and forth, chances on both sides," Iginla recalled Saturday. "The crowd was half-and-half.
"To this day, that was the most exciting game I have ever been a part of. (Sunday) may top it. This is a very special game, being at home."
And to the home fans, this is the gold medal that matters most.
In 2002, the 5-2 result didn’t do the game justice. Canadian goalie Martin Brodeur was brilliant early, stopping two odd-man rushes in the first period and made clutch saves late.
Iginla and Sakic were the heroes then. But, competitively, it was a close game and could have gone either way. It remains the biggest game in the U.S.-Canada rivalry. That could change Sunday.
"We’ve been building up for this for years," Iginla said. "We’ve talked about it as Canadians and hockey players and wanting to be a part of this team, wanting to get a chance to win a gold medal."
The 2010 Team Canada lineup may be the country’s deepest. It has not needed big point production from Crosby to win.
"The reality is, and I talked to Sid about this, in the past he didn’t score that much in the Stanley Cup final last year, but he played well without the puck and he helped his team win," Team Canada head coach Mike Babcock said.
"That’s what it’s all about here. It doesn’t make any difference what the name on the back of the sweater is. We’ve just got to find a way to get more than they do."
Iginla vowed just like in 2002 everyone will be ready Sunday.
"Yzerman talked to us before the Russian game (a 7-3 win in the quarter-finals)," Iginla said. Mike (Babcock) talked to us throughout the tournament, about not being tentative, being aggressive, assertive, confident, come out and skate and compete.
"The last three games, we’ve used the energy in the building to get some jump — and have gone from there."
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