Canada, the self-proclaimed hockey mecca on Earth, had a hard time arguing that claim due to the fact that they failed to hold Olympic Gold in the sport since 1952, before the Soviet Union team existed, and Canadians would run roughshod over the world. Even at the first Olympics with NHL participation in 1998, Canada disappointed a waiting nation by failing to medal.
But in Salt Lake City, on enemy ice, Canada was able to shake that disputed claim, as they became kings of the hockey world once again, and headed home with Canada’s first Olympic gold in 50 years, and the International Hockey Lineal Championship to boot.
In a final almost nobody would have predicted, with powerhouses like Sweden and Czechia making unexpected early exits, Canada had to show they were prepared to face a true challenge. Canada went 1-1-1 in the preliminary round, only defeating the lowly Germans, they barely squeaked by Finland in the Quarterfinals, and only made the finals due to the lucky break of facing the sacrificial lamb of Belarus in the Semifinals. And with the U.S. jumping out to an early lead on a Tony Amonte breakaway goal, it seemed that the U.S. was en route to their third consecutive Olympic gold won on home ice, following the 1960 “Forgotten Miracle” in Squaw Valley and 1980 “Miracle On Ice” in Lake Placid.
But the leadership on Team Canada was not prepared to go the way of the Miracle On Ice. Canada pushed back with a goal by Paul Kariya, spurred by an unbelievable through-the-legs visual fakeout by Mario Lemieux on a Chris Pronger pass to fool U.S. goalie Mike Richter, leaving Kariya wide open to equalize. Jarome Iginla put Canada on top with less than 90 seconds remaining in the first by crashing the net, deflecting a Joe Sakic pass past Richter. The U.S. continued to fight in the second, capitalizing on an Al MacInnis penalty with a power play tally from Brian Rafalski. However, Joe Sakic again closed out the final 90 seconds with a go-ahead goal, this time deflecting a shot off Brian Leetch and past Richter to make it 3-2 after forty minutes.
The third is really when Team Canada came alive, keeping up both a defensive game and offensive attack to keep the Americans at bay. However, they would not gain their insurance until four minutes remained, when Iginla tallied his second of the afternoon on a snap shot that barely trickled past Richter to make it 4-2. And just for extra zip, the Sakic-Iginla duo struck one last time, with Joe Sakic putting the final nail in the coffin just under three minutes later with a breakaway goal. The monkey was finally off Canada’s back, and one of the best-assembled Team Canada squads in history, put together by executive GM Wayne Gretzky, was finally bringing Men’s Olympic Gold back north of the border. And for the first time since women’s hockey was introduced at the Olympics, one country unified both hockey golds.
This was the fourth straight Olympics where the Gold Medal and ILHC were unified – for more, check out the IHLC @ Olympics & Invitationals page. The Czechs entered the 2002 Games as IHLC champions, winning the title from Russia at the 2001 Baltika Cup in December. The Czechs defeated Germany in their opening match, but lost the IHLC to Sweden, who then defeated the Germans for their reign’s second win. However, in one of the most shocking upsets in Olympic history, Belarus eliminated Tre Kronor from the Quarterfinals to win the IHLC, which Team Canada was all but happy to claim in their Semifinal showdown. This began Canada’s 46th reign as IHLC champions, and their first since the Sweden Hockey Games in February 2000.
03:04 – PEN – Niedermayer, interference
08:49 – GOAL – Amonte (Weight, Poti)
10:03 – PEN – Fleury, cross checking
14:54 – GOAL – Kariya (Pronger, Lemieux)
18:33 – GOAL – Iginla (Sakic, Gagné)
29:27 – PEN – Hull, hooking
30:19 – PEN – Miller, high sticking
34:40 – PEN – MacInnis, interference
35:30 – PP GOAL – Rafalski (Modano)
37:30 – PEN – Roenick, tripping
38:22 – PP GOAL – Sakic (Jovanovski, Blake)
53:43 – PEN – Yzerman, tripping
56:01 – GOAL – Iginla (Yzerman, Sakic)
58:40 – GOAL – Sakic (Iginla)
W: Brodeur (31-33)
L: Richter (34-39)
SHOTS ON GOAL
11+17+11 = 39
10+14+9 = 33
Goaltenders: Martin Brodeur, Curtis Joseph. Defence: Rob Blake, Eric Brewer, Adam Foote, Ed Jovanovski, Al MacInnis, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger (A). Forwards: Theoren Fleury, Simon Gagné, Jarome Iginla, Paul Kariya, Mario Lemieux (C), Eric Lindros, Joe Nieuwendyk, Owen Nolan, Michael Peca, Joe Sakic (A), Brendan Shanahan, Ryan Smyth, Steve Yzerman.
Goaltenders: Mike Dunham, Mike Richter. Defence: Chris Chelios (C), Phil Housley, Brian Leetch, Aaron Miller, Tom Poti, Brian Rafalski, Gary Suter. Forwards: Tony Amonte, Adam Deadmarsh, Chris Drury, Bill Guerin, Brett Hull, John LeClair, Mike Modano, Jeremy Roenick, Brian Rolston, Keith Tkachuk, Doug Weight, Mike York, Scott Young.