Originally created 02/25/02

Canada pushes omens aside for coveted prize



WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah - So many coincidental anniversaries had been pointed out. Omens had been assigned to draw parallels to previous Olympic triumphs.

But the final gold medal of the 2002 Winter Games was decided by a far more reliable factor: Canadians played better hockey than Americans.

A Canadian Olympic team that was expected to do no less brought the Olympic title back to the game's birthplace for the first time in 50 years Sunday, beating the United States 5-2 in the gold-medal game and closing out what had been a successful Salt Lake Games for both nations.

The U.S. won more medals than it ever had in the Winter Olympics. Canada won the only medal that mattered in that country.

"This is not only for the guys in the room, the guys wearing the jersey; this is for the whole country," said forward Joe Nieuwendyk after his team of NHL professionals had delivered Canada its first Olympic hockey gold since the 1952 Games. "Everyone was emotionally into it. I'm sure they're going crazy at home right now."

Crazy guesses were being made leading up to the final competition of the Salt Lake City Games to pick who would win between two teams that had developed a deep rivalry since America beat Canada in the 1996 Hockey World Championships.

Which would be the more important premonition, Sunday being 22 years to the day since the United States won in Lake Placid or 50 years to the day since Canada won in Olso?

In the end, it was settled on the ice, not in the stars.