Gary Bettman dropped the ceremonial puck. Former NHL player Bret Hedican was out there on the pavement, opposite figure skating silver medalist Patrick Chan. (Hedican’s wife, Kristi Yamaguchi, was cheering from the sideline next to figure skater Jason Brown.) Pierre Lamoureux, the father of Team USA hockey twins Jocelyne and Monique, was in net for Team USA in a jersey and jeans. His daughters rode over on bicycles and cheered for him as he made many, many sprawling saves. In the other goal, at one point, was Marcel Aubut, president of the Canadian Olympic Committee.
I’ve seen a lot of things at these Olympics, but the semi-impromptu street hockey game that broke out in front of the USA and Canada houses on Wednesday morning may honestly have been the best.
The crowd was small, but passionate. The referee, in his stripes and orange armband, was Terry Gregson, who, until his retirement this summer, was the director of officiating for the NHL. Bettman remained for the entirety of the competition and stood in a blue puffy vest behind the Canada net, arms crossed, observing with Bill Daly. I think I saw him smile. The U.S. was leading at the conclusion of the second period, which was originally supposed to be the end of the game. But everyone was having so much fun that they decided to just keep playing.
A forklift carrying a delivery of Coca-Cola destined for Canada House appeared midcontest, and the driver, not knowing what to do about the zany “CA! NA! DA!” chanters blocking his path, opted to barrel right on through. The resulting hollers were classic Wayne’s World–style street hockey shouts: “CAR! GAME OFF!”
Chan scored a goal, and the official scoreboard — a giant sheet of paper with red tick marks on it — was updated accordingly. (Later, he was aggressively hip checked by Team USA’s leading scorer, Mark Jones, a USOC communications dude from Minnesota who represented his state well.) Team Canada tied things up late in the third period, and everyone wondered what would happen next: overtime? A T.J. Oshie–inspired shootout? Personally, I was hoping for the latter, and I’m sure Bettman was as well, but they decided to play a few minutes of sudden death 4-on-4. No one scored, and everyone was glad.
The two teams gathered for photos, and they were all smiling ear to ear. As NBC camera crews hovered, the competitors began hankering for a postgame celebration, but no one could quite agree on exactly how it should go. “Molson!” someone cried out. “Budweiser!” came the response. America won out on that front. The women’s gold-medal game on Thursday, and the potential USA-Canada men’s matchup on Friday, will really have nothing on this.