SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — February 9, 2002
The climax of every Olympic opening ceremony is the lighting of the torch, the symbol of every Olympics and a beacon for the world's greatest athletes. The honour of lighting the flame is usually bestowed upon a great athlete from the host nation's glorious past, and when USA hosted the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, there were enough choices for the duties that it became a much discussed mystery in the days leading up to the Opening Ceremonies at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
But as the torch entered the stadium on the first day of the Games and passed from one famous pair of hands to another, it became increasingly obvious who would be lighting the torch to begin the 2002 Olympics. Figure skaters Dick Button and Dorothy Hamill started the final procession, followed by Scott Hamilton and Peggy Fleming. The anticipation started to build as fans realized that the torch lighting would have some connection to the Miracle on Ice team of 1980, the team that shocked the hockey world with its gold-medal victory. Still, few fans could have expected what transpired.
Standing high above the crowd at one end of the stadium was team captain Mike Eruzione, who scored the game-winning goal against the Soviet Union midway through the third period some 22 years earlier. He was wearing his original sweater, and soon he beckoned to his left and beckoned to his right. Out came the entire USA Olympic hockey team from Lake Placid 1980 and together, as one, they lit the torch to officially begin the 2002 Olympics. The hometown crowd went berserk, and the Opening Ceremonies culminated with one of the most dramatic and emotional events of those Olympics.
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.