With the 1998 Nagano games being the first Olympics to feature active NHL professionals playing for their nations, the world was ready for an epic tournament, an offensive outpouring of star power to make this one of the most exciting games ever. And surely, with a Canadian squad that featured the likes of Gretzky, Yzerman, Roy and Sakic, an American squad fresh off their shocking 1996 World Cup win, and a Swedish squad growing more dangerous every year, the world was destined for an epic Gold Medal final between two of these heavy favourites, with the winner sure to capture the IHLC as well.
What the world did not see coming, however, was The Dominator.
The Czech team, who as Czechoslovakia was only able to ever finish second best on four occasions, was the dark horse coming in to the tournament – while they certainly had NHL-caliber name recognition from the likes of Jaromír Jágr, Peter Svoboda and Martin Ručinský, it was their netminder, Buffalo Sabres star Dominik Hašek, that was the star. Only conceding 6 goals in the five games leading up to the Gold Medal game, and on the back of a brilliant shootout shutout of Canada in the Semifinals, Hašek and the Czechs were faced with a Group Round rematch with Russia, who defeated the Czechs 2-1.
The game, not surprisingly, was a defensive masterpiece from the Czechs. The Russian squad, who had some key mainstays like Igor Larionov and Alexander Mogilny stay off the squad over internal team politics, was certainly not lacking in alternate firepower, boasting the likes of Sergei Fyodorov, Alexei Yashin and Pavel Bure, fresh off a five goal performance against Finland in Russia’s Semifinal tilt. But the Czech defence, led by the likes of Svoboda and Jiří Šlégr, and of course backstopped by Hasek, pivoted the game to a defensive battle, matched by Russian netminder Mikhail Shtalenkov and defensive stalwarts like Sergei Gonchar and Darius Kasparaitis, leading to a combined total of 26 shots in the first two periods between both teams.
The third period was largely more of the same defensive-mindedness, until a seemingly harmless point shot from Svoboda flew past Shtalenkov 8 minutes into the third, putting the Czechs on top 1-0. Suddenly, the Russians were in the hole, but again, the shutdown defence of the Czech squad allowed only five Russian shots in the entire third period, leaving Hašek largely untested in the final minutes. At the final horn, a jubilant Hašek threw up his arms in celebration, an iconic shot that was surely duplicated in the streets of Prague and throughout the nation – the Czechs finally were Olympic hockey champions.
In addition to Olympic Gold, the Czechs also won the International Hockey Lineal Championship in the win over Russia, becoming the first team since 1980 to win the IHLC and Gold Medal in unison – for more, check out the IHLC @ Olympics & Invitationals page. This was the Czech’s 41st reign, including titles won by the Czechoslovakian team prior to 1992. Kazakhstan, of all countries, entered the Olympics as IHLC holders, having won the title from Norway in an Olympic Qualifier, and successfully defending the title against Italy, Austria and Slovakia in the Preliminary Rounds. Russia then won the IHLC in a 9-2 drubbing in the Group stage, successfully defending against Finland and the Czechs, and against Belarus and Finland in the Medal round before losing the Gold Medal Game.
01:11 – PEN – Mironov, interference
10:10 – PEN – Hašek, delay of game
16:13 – PEN – Jágr, roughing
19:24 – PEN – Svoboda, interference
35:49 – PEN – Svoboda, interference
41:12 – PEN – team, too many players
48:08 – GOAL – Svoboda (Patera, M. Procházka)
W: Hašek (20-20)
L: Shtalenkov (20-21)
SHOTS ON GOAL
6+5+10 = 21
9+6+5 = 20
Goaltenders: Roman Čechmánek, Dominik Hašek. Defence: Roman Hamrlik, František Kučera, Libor Procházka, Jiří Šlégr, Richard Šmehlík, Jaroslav Špaček, Petr Svoboda. Forwards: Josef Beránek, Jan Čaloun, Jiří Dopita, Milan Hejduk, Jaromír Jágr (A), Robert Lang, David Moravec, Pavel Patera, Martin Procházka, Robert Reichel (A), Martin Ručinský, Vladimír Růžička (C), Martin Straka.
Goaltenders: Mikhail Shtalenkov, Andrei Trefilov. Defence: Sergei Gonchar, Alexei Gusarov, Darius Kasparaitis (A), Igor Kravchuk, Boris Mironov, Dmitri Mironov, Dmitri Yushkevich, Alexei Zhitnik. Forwards: Pavel Bure (C), Valeri Bure, Sergei Fyodorov, Valeri Kamenski, Andrei Kovalenko, Sergei Krivokrasov, Alexei Morozov, Sergei Nemchinov, German Titov, Alexei Yashin (A), Valeri Zelepukin, Alexei Zhamnov.
(+ 18 ties)
|First IHLC Meeting (CZE vs. RUS)
URS 4-0 TCH – 02/27/1955 – WC – Krefeld
|Previous IHLC Meeting (CZE vs. RUS)
RUS 2-1 CZE – 02/16/1998 – OG – Nagano
|Last IHLC Game
RUS 7-4 FIN – 02/20/1998 – OG – Nagano
|Next IHLC Game
FIN 3-2 CZE – 04/17/1998 – EX – Helsinki