TORONTO — Eric Staal was an hour late getting to the team hotel late Monday afternoon, experiencing some luggage problems on his flight from Vancouver.
Don't worry, he didn't pack away the gold medal. That always remained within easy reach.
Staal said he was told the medal weighs a pound and a half. It feels a lot heavier, kind of like the pressure Staal and Team Canada were under to win it Sunday against the U.S. as the Vancouver Winter Olympics came to an end.
"We went there to get the gold and obviously got the result we wanted in the end," Staal said. "It was an incredible experience. The atmosphere in Vancouver, not just at our hockey games but in the city in general, was unbelievable and something I'll never forget."
Nor will the Canes captain ever forget the gold-medal game. Team Canada led 2-0 in the second period, only to have the U.S. rally to tie the score 2-2 and force overtime on Zach Parise's goal with 24.4 seconds left in regulation.
But Staal said all was calm in the Canada locker room in the intermission before the overtime.
"After they scored and we went to the dressing room, I remember thinking there was no way we were going to lose," he said. "I still had such a strong feeling that we were going to win the game. Sometimes you don't always feel that way. You can get rattled and frustrated, but I had a feeling we were going to get it done.
"I was really confident and I think a lot of guys in our room felt the same way. ... It was pretty calm. Everyone was relaxed, getting ready for the next period. I remember saying it's just going to feel that much better in overtime."
Sure enough, Sidney Crosby won it 3-2 in overtime, beating Ryan Miller at 7:40 for a goal that left Canada Hockey Place -- and Canada in general -- in total pandemonium.
Staal now has won a Stanley Cup with the Canes, a World Championship with Canada and now the Olympic gold medal. He's the 23rd member of the "Triple Gold Club," they call it.
"They made a pretty big deal of that," Staal said. "I got to the locker room and (NHL) commissioner Gary Bettman shook my hand and gave me a little pin and I took a few pictures with him.
"They said I was the 23rd member and the sixth Canadian to be in that mix. So a pretty elite club and for me at 25 to be a part of that is pretty cool."
But as time passes, it may be as a member of Team Canada, the team that outlasted the Americans, the team that won the gold in overtime on home soil, that will be a big part of his hockey legacy.
"No question it's a special memory for me," Staal said. "It's a team that will always be remembered for probably as long as I live, for sure."