February 20, 1998—Nagano, Japan
It was the year of the Dominator, but the number of subplots surrounding the semi-final game between Canada and the Czech Republic at the 1998 Olympics were many. These Olympics marked the first time that the NHL stopped playing for two weeks to allow its players to participate in the first fully professional Olympic hockey tournament. As a result, Canada was the heavy favourite at the outset. The team had Wayne Gretzky playing his last international tournament; goalie Patrick Roy was playing for Canada for the first time; and, Eric Lindros, in his prime, was named captain by general manager Bobby Clarke. Clarke was also Lindros’s NHL GM in Philadelphia.
Both teams played to form leading up to this semi-finals, but Czech goalie Dominik Hasek was the difference in the game. Canada outplayed the Czechs, but after 40 minutes the game was still without a goal. It was Jiri Slegr who scored the first goal midway through the final period. He got the puck at the point, moved in quickly, and fired a shot over Roy’s right shoulder to give the Czechs a vital lead.
Canada intensified its offense, but as the game wound down it looked like the Czechs would win. Canada, however, has a history of late-game heroics, and just seconds after Roy went to the bench for a sixth attacker with a little over a minute left in the game, the Canadians evened the score. Lindros made a quick pass to Trevor Linden, and his shot from the slot was deflected off Richard Smehlik’s stick and past a surprised Hasek. In the ten-minute overtime, Canada dominated and the Czechs played for the shootout. They got their way.
At this point, history was being made. Canada’s coach, Marc Crawford, inexplicably left Gretzky off his list of five shooters for the dramatic penalty shot contest. The most prolific scorer in hockey history sat on the bench as his teammates were foiled one by one by Hasek.
Theo Fleury took the first shot and was stopped by Hasek. Robert Reichel wired a shot off the post to Roy’s stick side, and the puck caromed into the net to give the Czechs a 1-0 lead. It was the only goal Roy surrendered in the shootout. But Ray Bourque was stopped easily by Hasek, followed by Joe Nieuwendyk. Eric Lindros, with Canada’s fourth shot, beat Hasek cleanly with a deke, but his backhand bounced off the crossbar and landed harmlessly into the corner of the rink. Brendan Shanahan, Canada’s final hope, was stopped, and Hasek leaped into the air in wild celebration. He and his countrymen had advanced to the gold-medal game, and Canada was relegated to the bronze medal game.
Hasek continued his mastery, shutting out the Russians in a 1-0 win and giving the Czechs their first ever Olympic gold. The celebration in Old Town Square two days later remains one of the country’s greatest moments.
As part of the IIHF's 100th anniversary celebrations, www.IIHF.com is featuring the 100 top international hockey stories from the past century (1908-2008). Starting now and continuing through the 2008 IIHF World Championships in Canada, we will bring you approximately three stories a week counting down from Number 100 to Number 11.
The Final Top 10 Countdown will be one of the highlights of the IIHF's Centennial Gala Evening in Quebec City on May 17, the day prior to the Gold Medal Game of the 2008 World Championship.
These are the criteria for inclusion on this list: First, the story has to have had a considerable influence on international hockey. Second, it has to have had either a major immediate impact or a long-lasting significance on the game. Third, although it doesn't necessarily have to be about top players, the story does have to pertain to the highest level of play, notably Olympics, World Championships, and the like. The story can be about a single moment — a goal, a great save, a referee's call — or about an historic event of longer duration — a game, series, tournament, or rule change.
Click here for the 100 Top Stories