The Sochi Olympics brought back some great hockey memories and added a few new ones as well. So as a tribute to the many inspiring Olympians we watched this February, here is a top-ten list of the best Olympic hockey moments. Relive the blood, guts and glory of the past century.
It was 2002 in Salt Lake City when Canada won their first men’s hockey gold medal in 50 years. Before the tournament, the Edmonton Oilers ice specialists hired to work on the Olympic E Centre rink sank a loonie under the surface for good luck. The team needed it.
They hit a rough start to the tournament, losing their opening game to Sweden and just barely beating Germany. However, by the gold medal game against the US rolled around team Canada was hungry. Joe Sakic and Jarome Iginla scored two goals each, leading their team to a five-two victory.
9. The Upstarts
1998 was the first year professional hockey players were allowed to represent their country in the Olympics. In a tournament where NHL stars dominated Canada, the United States and Sweden, the Czech Republic team won one-nothing against Russia in Nagano, Japan’s gold medal game, thanks to goalie Dominik Hasek’s second shutout of the tournament.
No one expected the Czech’s to win. “I knew we had a great team,” defenseman Jiri Slegr said. “I told everyone if we play as a group, we can win it all. Everyone laughed. Now we’re laughing.”
8. Lake Placid
In what some claimed to be a bid for home court advantage, the 1932 Lake Placid tournament was held in an outdoor rink. The Winnipeg Hockey Club beat the US team in the opener but when they met again in the finals Canada needed either a win or a tie to strike gold. Canada’s Romeos Rivers’ goal tied it up with six minutes remaining and the game was called after three overtime periods.
Olympic rules dictated they needed 30 minutes of overtime before a draw could be reached. According to a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, the only thing standing in the way of a goal in overtime was “excellent goal-keeping and the fact that the players were too tired to shoot properly when in position.” After winning the gold medal, most of team Canada’s players returned to their full-time jobs in Winnipeg.
For a cool, silent-movie style rundown of the Winter Games, check this out:
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7. Immortalized on a Swedish Stamp
Forsberg made history in a gold-medal shootout against Canada in 1994 Lillehammer, Norway. His home country Sweden had never won first-place when young center Peter Forsberg scored his dazzling winning goal. Stick handling right, left, right, he slid a backhand just under the glove.
Sweden won 3-2 and 22-year old Forsberg became the country’s first hockey player to have their picture on a national stamp. He claims he learned his fancy scoring move from Swede Kent Nilsson. “I saw him use it in the 1989 world championships,” he said.
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After just squeezing through the preliminary rounds and losing to the US and Finland 8-1, Belarus shocked everyone by beating Sweden 4-3 in the 2002 quarterfinals. With two minutes and 24 seconds remaining, Vladimir Kopal shot the puck 70-feet through the air and it bounced off Tommy Salo’s head to land in the net. Like all great hockey moments, you can find the play on Youtube.
The former soviet bloc, which was still developing its hockey program, was expected to be no competition in a tournament choking with NHL giants. “Sometimes, a gun without bullets can shoot, and that was us,” said Belarus goalie Andrei Mezin, who blocked 44 of team Sweden’s shots.
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5. The Originals
The first ever Olympic hockey tournament was played in 1924 Chamonix, France. The Toronto Granites won Canada its one single medal of the Games. The two-time Allen Cup winners won all five games, outscoring their competition by a combined total of 110-3. In their final game against the US both teams played their hearts out in an extremely physical battle. Harry Watson, who scored the only goal of the third period, was cross-checked in the face in the first minute of the game. He played the rest of the game with a bleeding mouth and the American players agreed he was the best hockey player they had ever seen.
4. Most Impressive Save
Henrik Lundqvists’ cringe-worthy gymnastics clinched the gold for Sweden in 2006 Turin, Italy. Sweden was ahead of Finland with 25 seconds left on the clock when Lundqvist, then a goalie for the Rangers, did the splits to block a shot. “It was one of the most important saves of my life,” he said. Also the most painful?
3. Sochi Record Setters
The Canadian Women’s team won their fourth straight gold medal in Sochi this year. The US pulled ahead in the third period when Poulin tied it up 54 seconds before the game ended. Then they were neck and neck in overtime when Marie-Philip Poulin scored the Golden Goal for the second straight time in her career (She scored the winning goal in Vancouver 2010). “We just wanted to play our game and it was such a team effort,” she told the CBC. “We never gave up today.”
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2. The Canadian Dream
I’m probably showing my Vancouver bias here, but the 2010 gold-medal men’s hockey game will always stand out in my mind. It was the best kind of hockey game, one that could have gone either way. Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal seven minutes into overtime.
The fact that it was the country’s first win on her home-soil just made it that much sweeter. “To win it in overtime, here in Canada,” Crosby said. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”
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1. Do you believe in miracles?
In what might be the biggest upset of Olympic hockey, the United States team won the 1980 gold medal against the then Soviet Union. The US’s team of college-hockey players had no chance against the skilled USSR. But thanks to team captain Mike Eruzione’s winning goal ten minutes into the third period, goalie Jim Craig’s 36 saves and, mostly, an indomitable will, they made the impossible happen. The game was named the top sports moment of the 20th Century and went on to inspire the hockey movie “Miracle.”
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What are your favourite moments? Do you have a top-ten?