Every four years we are given a month to observe the best in the world represent and compete in the Winter Games. Over the years, each and every event has given lasting memories of heroes rising from obscurity and national sports legends leave their mark. Men’s ice hockey is no exception and is the event responsible for some of the most surprising moments in Winter Olympic lore. It will be tough for this year’s ice hockey tournament to top the one we were treated to in 2010 (more on that later), but as spectators we can hope that Sochi will supply us with countless more lasting memories.
Supplied below are a few of the most surprising moments to have occurred during the men’s ice hockey competition at the Winter Olympics.
The Golden Goal – 2010 Vancouver
At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, there was a giant elephant in the room: can the Canadian men’s ice hockey team win the gold medal on home ice?
Team Canada started out the group stage in top form with an 8-0 win over Norway. However, the Canadians began stumbling and barley defeated the Swiss (3-2 in a shootout) and were stunned on their home ice 5-3 by their rival Team USA.
Many thought Canada’s confidence was destroyed and that they wouldn’t stand a chance in the knockout stage of the tournament. Canada proved the doubted wrong and rose to the occasion and advanced to the gold medal game.
Being up 2-1 with less than one minute left, Team Canada were poised to win the gold medal in regulation against Team USA. However, Team USA’s Zach Parise stunned the Canadian home crowd by scoring the game tying goal with 0:25 left in the 3rd period. America’s surreal comeback had many thinking that Team Canada had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. However, the Canadians demonstrated their resilience when, seven minutes into overtime, Canadian hero and hockey wunderkind Sidney Crosby surprised all of Canada Hockey Place when he scored the golden goal to give Canada the coveted gold medal. As one nation sat stunned in disbelief, another jumped in unison to celebrate an unbelievable moment.
The Forsberg – 1994 Lillehammer
Fortune favors the bold, just ask Sweden’s Peter Forsberg. In the gold medal game at 1994 Winter Olympics, Team Sweden and Team Canada battled in an exhilarating game which was deadlocked at 2-2 through overtime and headed to a gold medal deciding shootout. For six shootout rounds, Canada and Sweden traded goals and successful stops. In round seven, a young Peter Forsberg shocked the world by having the temerity to attempt an unreal, one-handed deke that resulted in a goal for Sweden. Canada’s Paul Kariya failed to convert on his chance, and Team Sweden won the gold medal as a result of Forsberg’s dreamy move.
No man was more surprised of Forsberg’s majestic skills than Canadian goaltender Corey Hirsch who helplessly watched the gold medal figuratively slide into his net.
Kopat’s 70-foot Stunner – 2002 Salt Lake
Team Sweden was 3-0-0 in the group stage of the 2002 Winter Olympics and were gold medal favorites heading into the knockout phase of the tournament. Obviously, the Swedes were going to eviscerate their first round opponents, the 0-3-0 Belarusians, right? Wrong.
To the surprise of everyone, Team Belarus took the boots to an aloof Team Sweden and secured the lead in the game twice before Sweden eventually tied the game 3-3 in the third period. Having comeback twice to tie Belarus, things seemed to be looking up for Sweden and they were on track to avoid one of the biggest upsets in tournament history. That did not end up being the case, however, because Vladimir Kopat of Belarus blasted a 70-foot slap shot from the neutral zone that went off of Sweden’s Tommy Salo’s head and trickled into the wide open net. The Cinderella Team Belarus won the game 4-3, and eliminated Sweden from the tournament.
For Belarus, the magical carriage turned back into a pumpkin two days later as they were easily dispatched by Team Canada in the semi-finals 7-1.
Do You Believe in Miracles? – 1980 Lake Placid
What is there to write about this surprising and historic moment that hasn’t already been written? Words cannot articulate what is meant for eyes to see and ears to hear, so here’s the footage.
One and Done – 2006 Turin
In 2006, Canada arrived at the Winter Olympics in Turin as the consensus favorites to successfully defend the gold in men’s ice hockey. From the get go, Canada struggled and looked nothing like the team that won gold in 2002.
The Canadians staggered out of the group stage by finishing third in Group A with loses to Finland and Switzerland. As a result of performing so poorly in the group stage, Canada drew a hungry Team Russia for their quarter-final opponent.
Team Canada finished off their surprisingly poor tournament with a fitting 2-0 defeat and were promptly eliminated from the competition. Sandwiched in between their 2002 and 2010 gold medal squads will always be the surprising failure that was the 2006 Canadian Olympic team.