Turning Japanese: Team Canada and the dreaded Nagano shootout

Jagr and Gretzky shake hands post game. (Photo: Kathy Willens)
Jagr and Gretzky shake hands post game. (Photo: Kathy Willens)

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.

Hasek. Fleury.
Hasek and Fleury.

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”

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NHL Agrees to Allow Players in 2014 Olympics

After spending the week debating on will they or won’t they, they National Hockey League has ruled in favour of letting it’s players participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics. The joint decision was made after months of talks by the Olympics themselves, the League and the National Hockey League Players Association. It’s a good thing because some players were threatening to go even without the league’s blessing.

sochi-2014-logoThe Olympics, which are being held in Sochi, Russia, will feature a dozen nations competing for gold. These nations include Canada, The United States, Russia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Austria, Finland, Norway, Czech Republic, Latvia, Switzerland and Sweden.

The NHL will shut down its season for two weeks in February to allow for the players to complete in the games. The stake is set high for Team Canada as they will be looking for a repeat as gold medal champions. If successful, they will become to the first nation to repeat as champs since the Soviet Union in 1988.

Another shock to the 2014 games is the first time competing of Team Slovenia. Slovenia is slated to be in Group A along Russia, Slovakia and the United States. They definitely have their work cut out for them. Team Austria will be competing in their first Winter Olympic games since 2002.

Now that the ruling has come down to allow for the players to participate in the Olympic Games, the National Hockey League should be releasing its 2013/2014 regular season schedule at some point later today.

The Canadian Women’s Team And The Road To Sochi

The Canadian National Women’s Hockey Team have started the long road of training for the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi, Russia.

(Photo: Greg Hounslow. Flickr.)
(Photo: Greg Hounslow. Flickr.)

A roster of 27 players just finished an intense month long boot camp in Penticton, British Columbia. The roster of 27 is made up of 3 goaltenders, 9 defencemen and 15 forwards. Veteran players Hayley Wickenheiser, Gillian Apps and Jayna Hefford were all in attendance. Team Canada is looking for another repeat gold medal in Sochi and head coach Dan Church is pleased with he the team he has put together so far.

In November, the team will take part in the famous 4 nations cup in Lake Placid, New York.  Along with Canada and The US, Sweden and Finland make up the four teams. Team Canada has come out on top 12 times in 17 tournaments and is favoured to win it once again.

Women’s hockey has come a long way in the past ten years. Finland, Sweden and Russia have stepped their game up and now ice competitive teams. We can never count out Team USA though as they are still incredibly strong.

The 2014 Olympics in Sochi are right around the corner. Except Team Canada to announce the final roster sometime in late December.