It’s Olympic season so I thought I’d take a little trip down memory lane. It’s not such a great memory but one that sticks out of Canada’s hockey history like a sore thumb. The lessons learned at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan were pivotal to the shape of how Team Canada creates and maintains it’s roster in the present time. Sit back and enjoy the tale of Team Canada and Czech Republic’s quest for hockey gold.
The 1998 Canadian Men’s Olympic hockey team came into Nagano looking for a score to settle with the United States. Just two years earlier, the US captured gold at the 1996 World Cup. What both teams didn’t expect though, was neither of them even medaling.
The Canadian team was put together with once again gold in mind. With it being the first time the National Hockey League would take a break from their regular season and allow NHL players to compete, household names such as Patrick Roy, Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Scott Stevens, and Martin Brodeur complemented the greatest player in the world. That player named Wayne Gretzky.
With a stacked team at hand, Team Canada made its way to the medal round with a perfect 3-0 record. Wins came from the beatings of Belarus, Sweden and the aforementioned Team USA. While coming into the game against Kazakhstan a bit cocky, the hockey gods bestowed its power against the red and white. Proving just anything can happen in Olympic sport, Joe Sakic strained a knee ligament and was out for the rest of the tournament. The not so good turning point for Team Canada.
Entering the semifinals against the Czech Republic, Team Canada again once had the advantage. The Czechs iced a team that at the time only had 10 players on its roster playing in the NHL. Things were neck and neck and anxiety was at an all time high as both teams entered the third period with a score knotted at one.
The Canadian team was carefully put together by none other than Mr. Broadstreet Bully, Bobby Clarke. With a little input from head coach Marc Crawford, the Team Canada brass was beaming with pride with their selections. On paper, there was no way anyone could come close. Back home, some of the choices were controversial. Eric Lindros was named captain ahead of the likes of Gretzky, Yzerman and Raymond Borque. Clarke’s pick of Lindros may have been a bit biased as he was General Manager of Lindros’ Flyers at the time. A sleeper pick that had heads shaking was Rob Zamuner. Continue reading “Turning Japanese: Team Canada and the dreaded Nagano shootout”