Sunday's epic final was the most-watched hockey game since the gold-medal game in 1980, when the United States beat Finland after stunning the Soviet Union in the "Miracle on Ice." That gold-medal game drew 32.8 million.
According to NBC, the game drew an average viewership of 27.6 million, a jump of 45.5 percent from the same matchup at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
The game, carried in Canada on nine national networks and in eight languages, became the most-watched television broadcast in Canadian history. An average of 16.6 million Canadians, or about half of the nation's population, tuned in.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s gold medal game, the Canadian coach, Mike Babcock, said of the Americans: "We know them and they know us. There won’t be a lot of surprises."
Against a younger, less experienced, less celebrated team from the United States, the Canadians controlled this game early. They jumped to an early lead and — after a late United States goal forced overtime — avenged their 5-3 loss to the Americans earlier this tournament with a 3-2 victory at Canada Hockey Place.
This contest marked not only a rematch from last week but also from the gold medal game in 2002 at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Canada won that game, 5-2, and eight years later, they played again, the crowd reversed.
Brian Burke, the general manager for Team USA, noted last week that the pressure had long been placed squarely on the Canadians. It started the day Vancouver was named host city, and built with frightening intensity, with each goal, victory and advancement.
If the Canadians felt like pipes about to burst, they hid that concern well. They recorded the first goal with 7 minutes 10 seconds remaining in the first period, when forward Jonathan Toews corralled a rebound and fired from close range into the net.
His goal gave the Team Canada its first lead and the Americans their first deficit in this tournament, while snapping Miller’s shutout streak at some 124 minutes.
The second came midway through the second period, when forward Ryan Getzlaf and defenseman Duncan Keith delivered the puck to forward Corey Perry, who was surprisingly alone, in front of the Americans’ net. His score put Canada up, 2-0, as the crowd rose and roared.
The first goal Canadian goaltender Roberto Luongo allowed on Sunday came from a familiar face, his Vancouver Canucks teammate, Ryan Kesler. The American forward Patrick Kane sent a missile from outside, and Kesler deflected the puck off of Luongo and into the goal. The United States had cut the deficit in half and trailed, 2-1, entering the final period.
The Canadians’ victory had seemed all but assured at the end of regulation, but the United States got a last-minute goal that bordered on miraculous. It came when forward Patrick Kane had his shot deflected, and the puck deflected off the skate of his teammate Jamie Langenbrunner.
Forward Zach Parise grabbed the loose puck and fired low, quick, sure. With 24.4 seconds remaining in regulation, Parise had tied the score at 2-2. The stadium did not exactly go silent, but the noisy celebration certainly quieted momentarily.
Finally, in overtime Sidney Crosby sealed what the Canadians had longed for, and the gold medal was theirs to savor. Crosby broke free from his defender, took a pass and scored 7 minutes 40 seconds ino the overtime, then threw his gloves off and started jumping up and down on the ice.
Instead of caving under the enormous weight of their expectations - from hockey fans, from locals, from one end of this country to the other - the Canadians seemed buoyed by the boisterous atmosphere inside. They dominated early, and dominated often, and when it ended, all of Canada rejoiced.
Oh yeah, and U.S. President Barack Obama owes Canadian PM Stephen Harper some Molson. Harper and Obama each wagered a case of beer on the outcome of the men’s hockey final. Now that Canada has won, Obama owes Harper a case of Canadian. If the U.S. had won, Harper would have owed Obama a case of Yuengling beer.
Molson is North America’s oldest brewery, founded in 1786 by John Molson. The company merged with U.S.-owned Coors in 2005. Yuengling is the oldest brewery in the U.S. and was founded in Pennsylvania in 1829.