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20 Questions: The call of a lifetime | Posted Sports | National Post

In Canada on December 19, 2010 at 09:57

20 Questions: The call of a lifetime

Cris Bouroncle/AFP/Getty Images

Cris Bouroncle/AFP/Getty Images

Canadian forward Sidney Crosby scores the winning goal in the Men’s Gold Medal Hockey match at the Canada Hockey Place during the XXI Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada on February 28, 2010. Canada beat the USA 3-2 to win gold.

  December 18, 2010 – 8:00 am

Last spring, just after the conclusion of another disappointing campaign for the Toronto Maple Leafs, TSN play-by-play announcer Chris Cuthbert pulled Ron Wilson aside to get his thoughts on a tough year.

As the conversation wound down, the Leafs head coach changed the subject. “So,” he said, “want to talk about the game?”

It needed no further identification — it was the game: the Olympic hockey final between Wilson’s United States squad and the home side, Canada. It was a game that produced a zeitgeist moment for this generation of Canadian hockey fans — Sidney Crosby’s overtime, gold-medal winning goal — and the call of Cuthbert’s career.

Whether you realize it or not, “Sidney Crosby! The golden goal! And Canada has once-in-a-lifetime Olympic gold!” will be played for the rest of your days, just like Foster Hewitt’s “Henderson has scored for Canada!” and Al Michaels’ “Do you believe in miracles?” before it.

And yes, Cuthbert does, in fact, want to talk about it.

1. Considering how the tournament started (Canada struggled against Switzerland and lost to the U.S. before the knockout phase), were you at all surprised the Canadian team ended up in the final?
Chris Cuthbert:
You know, I went into the tournament, I won’t say expecting Team Canada to struggle, but historically they had struggled early on, so I kind of reminded myself from the start that there were going to be some bumps in the road. They certainly tested that theory. But when I went into the tournament, I fully expected Canada and Russia would be in the gold-medal game. So the biggest surprise was, here were those two teams playing in the quarter-final and one of them was going home empty-handed. That, for me, was a huge surprise.

2. In the final, when Zach Parise scored to tie the game in regulation, did you think the gold was going to go Team USA’s way?
You know, I felt like the whole game, Canada was in control, but I felt like the lead was precarious. It was 2-1 for about 30 minutes. I thought about this game for almost as long as I’d had the assignment, and not once, I’m embarrassed to say, did I think it was going to go to overtime. I just never expected that. In hindsight, the best thing for the game was that Parise tied it. It turned a great game into an epic.

3. Your call of the Parise goal was pretty even-handed. You almost sounded excited that he tied it up. Were you aiming to be impartial throughout the tournament?
I think that’s my job. In the aftermath, I noticed there were some people who took offence to me telling stories about Ryan Suter, as a kid, taking his dad’s gold medal to school [Bob Suter won gold with Team USA at the 1980 Games in Lake Placid]. Everybody knows the Canadian audience wants Canada to win, but I’ve just always felt you have to have balance in your broadcast. I didn’t really think twice about it. I’ll admit that when Parise scored, almost immediately I thought, “There’s J.P.’s kid making things interesting.”

4. Did your heart race during the overtime or were you completely focused on calling the action?
Focused and, I’m not going to say worried, but you want it to be a clean goal. To be honest, I didn’t sleep the night before. I was starting to get into the double coffees in that intermission. In fact, I did a radio interview in the overtime intermission with the FAN just to stay alert, just because I was worried that the focus was slipping a bit. That’s all you’re worried about: seeing the goal as well as you can see it. As it turned out, it was quick-developing and probably on the worst place on the ice for me to get a good gauge on it.

5. Was the radio interview something that was scheduled to happen?
No, I think it was Dan Dunleavy or Howard Berger who came up to me and said, “I know you’re busy, but if you’ve got five minutes, would you mind joining us?” And I kind of thought I should probably be listening to what was going on with our intermission. But then I thought I’d better take the opportunity. Ray Ferraro was sitting beside me and he kind of looked at me like, “Are you nuts? Don’t you have something else to do?” But I felt like I wanted to stay in the moment as much as I could, and I didn’t want 15 minutes to get mentally lazy.

6. It was such an intense game and it had such a euphoric ending. Can you remember the goal vividly, or is that part of it a blur?
I was numb for a couple of days after, just with the emotions of everything, kind of going through in my mind, “Did you do it justice?” and everything else. But I do remember it almost like it’s in slow motion, now. I did tell a couple of people after it happened that it was a hard goal to see, and when I saw it hit the back of the net — you hear these downhill skiers talk about split seconds — I remember telling myself, “That puck’s in and you’ve gotta go now.” The whole scene is nothing like I’ve ever been a part of before, and one of the nice things about it was that we, Pierre [McGuire] and I, called about five minutes of the post-game celebration and then a lot of it was just taking it all in and handing it over to James Duthie and the panel. Really, I sat there for 15 minutes and soak everything in. It was pretty special.

7. You saw the puck cross the line? It happened so fast Crosby didn’t even see it.
I guess I had a better view of the open net. It was on the far side of the ice for us and it did surprise me. I didn’t think he was in a position where it was going to be a potential scoring opportunity. And that quickly — it was off the boards, off his stick and all of a sudden — again, you’re trying to be hypersensitive to any opportunity on the ice, and yet it still did catch me a little off guard.

8. The call on Crosby’s goal itself: totally spontaneous or mildly prepared?
Because I hadn’t thought about overtime, right before they dropped the puck, I thought, “If this was soccer, the next goal would be the golden goal. That probably will work if it happens.” I think it worked perfectly because it was Sidney Crosby.

9. How about the “once in a lifetime gold for Canada” part?
That probably was going to be my call if [the game ended] in regulation. I got kind of stuck on that because, right before the Games, I had done an Anaheim game. And Scott Niedermayer was saying, “This really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” And I thought, “You’ve won everything.” The more I thought about it, being at home and never having won Olympic gold on home ice, this, for their careers, would be once in a lifetime. Who knows when we’ll get another chance to play a gold medal game at home? The captain kind of inspired that, and in all honesty, I wish I hadn’t said it then. I’ve got an even greater appreciation for Foster’s call in ’72, because he kept it simple. I think if I’d just said, “Sidney Crosby, the golden goal for Canada,” I might be even happier about my call.

10. Your own excitement over the goal was so palpable. Was it tough to actually get the words out at the end?
The noise level, the explosion after the goal, kind of did a number on our audio board. We actually lost all our sound in the headsets for a couple of seconds. And I actually thought they turned the mic off. And I thought, “This is the biggest moment of my career and they’ve shut the mic off on me.” It really wasn’t as smooth as it should have been.

11. TSN has played that moment maybe 3,000 times since it happened. Is it surreal to hear your call on that particular clip?
I actually haven’t watched the game, and I don’t plan to for quite a while. But you do hear it in the commercial breaks. If I’m PVRing, I definitely [fast-forward] right through it.

12. Was there any thought after it happened what an iconic moment it was probably going to end up being?
For me, it hit when, a couple of minutes after we threw back to James, they were starting to show the streets in Toronto. And I guess I kind of work in a bubble trying to stay as focused as possible, and I knew it was going off in Vancouver. But for whatever reason, and it shouldn’t have surprised me, but these shots across the country, that kind of got me. Because I thought, back in ’72, I would have been out on the streets like that. I mean, we knew it was a big moment, but when you use the word “iconic,” that kind of hit home for the first time. My BlackBerry started going into overdrive and people who don’t usually watch sporting events were sending me messages, overwhelmed with what they just saw. A niece emailed or texted me right afterwards, and I know she doesn’t spend a lot of time watching hockey, a [the message] was like, “That’s like fairytale.” I realized, this is larger than life for sure.

13. Any question it goes down as the biggest call of your career, your “Do you believe in miracles?” moment?
I’ll get sidetracked for a second: I talked to Al Michaels about two days before, maybe the day before, with [NBC’s] Doc Emrick. I’d introduced myself and said, “We can’t get a call like that, but I certainly hope we have a moment that could compare.” And I kind of said it not believing it was possible. I guess we got as close as you could possibly script. So yeah, if there’s a better moment for me in my broadcasting career, I can’t wait to sign up for it.

14. What do you think was your biggest call prior to that? The 13th man in the Alouettes-Roughriders Grey Cup?
It might have been. It’s a different call, but I was involved in the Sale-Pelletier thing in Salt Lake City, so it wasn’t necessarily the call, but how it all spun out afterwards was pretty gratifying to be a part of. And the Adam van Koeverden gold [in 2004 Games in Athens], it was a K-1 500-metres that was over in a minute or so. But I actually remember, it wasn’t his best event and he had not won in the previous race where I thought he’d win gold. When he didn’t, I thought, “Jeez, we’re not going to have a gold at this venue.” It was the last day and it was the first race in morning, and … he literally pulled me out of my seat as the race — from the halfway point on, I remember getting out of my seat and standing. For me, the van Koeverden race call, which I also haven’t heard, was a pretty spectacular moment.

15. Is there something you’d love to call outside of a Canada gold medal game?
I haven’t had a chance to do a Stanley Cup final. I hope one day I get to do that. Selfishly, because I grew up watching all of the Canada-Russia games, even in the ’60s with Fran Huck and Morris Mott, Terry O’Malley, all those guys — as long as I’d been doing games I wanted to do a meaningful Canada-Russia. So the quarter-final was pretty special. I felt like I got two gold medal games for the price of one.

16. What’s holding you back from watching the final again?
Everything’s too good, I don’t want to ruin it [laughs]. Everybody always asks about the goal, but I was very proud of the whole broadcast and everybody’s part in it. I think we all did a pretty good job under the most pressure-packed circumstances I’ll experience. I think Pierre’s been there with the world juniors and seen all those gold-medal games. He’s been in the line of fire lots. That, for me, I thought was a really solid broadcast with so many eyes on it and so much pressure attached to it.

17. Is it a crazy notion, to you, that we’ll hear that call for the rest of our lives, much the same as Henderson in ’72?
Well, no matter who was calling it under those circumstances, you were going to hear it. I’m just fortunate I was in the right place at the right time. For me, there was never going to be any moment in hockey like “Henderson scores for Canada.” But even now, it hasn’t sunk in that I’ll be able to say to my grandkids that I was around for that goal, for this generation of hockey fans. It’s pretty special.

18. You can’t see it surpassing Henderson as the Canadian hockey moment?
Just for my age reference, there’s never going to be a moment like that. There was so much political — so much wrapped up in all of that ride. But in a sense, I guess you can argue that it was socially significant this time, as well. Some people describe it as a coming-of-age moment for Canada — the entire Vancouver Olympic experience. Maybe there’s some parallels. But for me, or anyone over 45, it’s always going to be tough to compare Henderson scores for Canada with anything.

19. You’d have been in your mid-teens around that time?
I tell a story: there was a lottery for tickets for Game 2 at Maple Leaf Gardens, and I was lucky enough to win, I don’t remember if it was reds or golds. You still had to pay for them, but I actually got seats in the best section. I remember going to the rink that night and you felt the building, the anticipation, the anxiety. We’d just been blown out in Montreal and it was a big shock to everybody’s system and psyche. Everything seemed to be on the line in Game 2 in Toronto. Peter Mahovlich’s goal stays with you. If you’d had a chance to call that goal, it would have been pretty spectacular, too. That entire ride, all eight games were something pretty remarkable.

20. Was the atmosphere at the final in Vancouver, was it similar or was there more of a “happy Vancouver” vibe?
No, there was plenty of tension and Zach Parise added to that. Again, I think we all owe Parise a big debt of gratitude because he enhanced the whole experience. I don’t think I’ll ever be in a rink quite like Canada Hockey Place. It was spectacular throughout the tournament. We just did a review of the Canada-Russia game, so I kind of looked back on a couple of moments from that game, and was reminded when Rick Nash scored to make it 3-0, the roof almost came off. That, before Crosby’s goal, was pretty spectacular, and maybe the best moment of the Olympic tournament for Canada.

• Follow Noah Love on Twitter.

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8:59 PM on December 18, 2010

This comment is hidden because you have chosen to ignore JMH33. Show DetailsHide Details

#15…Cuthbert makes mention of Morris Mott. I didn’t think many people outside of my circle had ever heard of Morris Mott. He now has a PhD in History and is a professor at Brandon University. I took quite a few classes with him there in my undergrad and we students affectionately referred to him as either Mo Mo or Uncle Mo. He would tel numerous stories of his exploits with the national team in class.

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There’s a dent in the roof of the living room in my apartment because I jumped so high in the air.



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