My favorite Olympic sports moment didn't come on a couch, with family, or anything like that. It came in the most unlikely of places.
Mackey Arena, where the MSU basketball team was taking on Purdue.
I had intensely followed the United States hockey team in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and was going to miss the Gold Medal Game against rival Canada because I had to cover a (big) basketball game. When the home of the Vancouver Canucks was announced as the home arena, I knew the U.S and Canada would have a major advantage with the smaller ice surface.
The tournament started off with a bang, as the U.S. upset Canada in the first game of the round robin. Canada hockey has always treated U.S. hockey similar to Michigan-Michigan State. While the countries are next to each other, Canada didn't respect U.S. hockey, and fans claimed Russia has been their true rival, even after the 2002 Olympics, when Canada beat the U.S. for the Gold Medal in Salt Lake City.
With the opening win, former MSU goalie Ryan Miller instantly became a national hero and the U.S. was off. The Americans didn't lose nor tie a game all the way to the Gold Medal Game, including a 6-1 thrashing of Finland. This wasn't the old guard of U.S. hockey: Chris Chelios, Brett Hull, Tony Amonte, Mike Richter and so forth. This was a new generation, led by Miller, Zach Parise, Dustin Brown, Ryan Suter, Patrick Kane and others.
Canada barely made it out of the group stage, but reached the Gold Medal Game with a chance to save national pride. All the hype and build-up, and I had to go to West Lafayette, Indiana, where MSU basketball had a big game at No. 3 Purdue, which had just lost Robbie Hummel. There were problems as soon as we arrived. The State News had only been given one spot in the tiny press area, so I was going to watch the first half in the media room and my partner would be out by the floor. We would switch for the second half.
I watched the basketball game alone on a small TV, and followed the hockey game on Twitter. Then I got out into the action for the second half. I just remember the Purdue crowd being so frustrated. In the first game without Hummel, Purdue's offense was a mess. A few reporters were asking what was going on in the hockey game.
Then, a (I think) CBS camera man in front of us waved us to look in his direction. On his camera screen was the hockey game. Apparently he could get TV channels on that thing. The U.S. was down for most of the game, and I had accepted the loss. Then, suddenly, Parise banged home a loose puck and tied the game with 25 seconds to play. A few of us let out a yell, but it couldn't be heard over the noise in Mackey (which gets really loud, by the way).
Moments later, The Paint Crew started chanting "U-S-A, U-S-A." Everyone was following the game in some form, and when the arena scoreboard showed the tied score, both Purdue and MSU fans let out a loud cheer.
MSU ended up winning that game, a share of the Big Ten championship and reaching another Final Four, but that moment sticks out to me during that season. Although bleeping Sidney Crosby ended up winning the game in overtime, it was a moment when Canada's high-and-mighty attitude about hockey sunk deep, deep into their gut.
I grew up playing hockey, so the sport has always meant a lot to me. Miller is an MSU legend, and he quickly had become the face of American hockey. During each game in the tournament, you could be sure the play-by-play man was going to mention a few times that Miller came from East Lansing and Michigan State. And who knows? Maybe Parise becomes a Red Wing this offseason, and the moment becomes even more special.
I know I'm going to sound ultra-young for listing that as my favorite moment, but so be it. The Summer Olympics start in a few weeks. What's your favorite moment?
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