Canada vs. U.S. a fit finale for a great Games

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Canada vs. U.S. a fit finale for a great Games

VANCOUVER - Canada and the United States were set to bring the curtain down on the Vancouver Winter Games with an Olympic showstopper in the men’s ice hockey yesterday, Canadian time.

The fireworks started early on the final day as Canada and the United States went toe-to-toe for the last gold of the Games, which could also determine which nation finishes at the top of the medal table.

But for Canadians, who had been waiting for this day since Vancouver was awarded the Games, there was only one medal that matters - men’s ice hockey gold.

A Canada-U.S. preliminary-round clash pulled in a record television audience of more than 10 million and that mark is expected to be smashed as Canadians from Newfoundland to Victoria gathered for the biggest day of the Olympics for the hockey-mad country.

The game was also expected to be a ratings blockbuster for NBC, which paid billions for the U.S. television rights and hoped to cash in with the dream final it craved. It marked the second time in three Olympics Canada and the United States have played for gold and both teams come into the contest with grudges to settle.

Canada beat the United States on its home ice at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games to end a 50-year gold medal drought. But the Americans gave the hosts a taste of what it feels like to be humbled at home, handing them a preliminary round loss on Feb. 21 that sent the Great White North into gloom.

“The past doesn’t matter,” Canadian forward Sidney Crosby told reporters after going through a final practice on Saturday. “It doesn’t matter who’s favored, who’s the underdog.

“It makes absolutely no difference right now.

“You go out there, you play desperate, you leave it all out there and let the result take care of itself.

“It’s why you play, for these opportunities.”

While Team Canada took its fans on a gut-churning roller-coaster ride to the final by surviving a shootout win over Switzerland, a loss to the United States and a heart-stopping semi-final victory over Slovakia, the unbeaten Americans enjoyed a smoother trip.

The young American squad was on course to join the 1960 Squaw Valley and 1980 Lake Placid Miracle on Ice teams as Olympic champions, but they have flown under the radar through the competition.

“We were booked to fly out [Sunday] morning. We won’t be making that flight,” said U.S. defenseman David Backes. “We’re happy to rebook all our flights out.”Reuters
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