Slovakia (with captain Miroslav Satan) won its only World Championship in 2002.
Some games are great because of an underdog beating a champion, but sometimes it’s a great game when two of the top nations go at it, hammer and tong. These best-of-the-best matches show what makes hockey so great – the speed, skill, tenacity, and unparalleled competitive spirit among the players and teams.
Czechoslovakia win emotional games vs the Soviets
There was no more emotionally-charged World Championship than the one that took place in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1969. The Soviets had invaded Wenceslas Square in the middle of Prague the previous August, and the Czechoslovaks came to this hockey tournament seeking what revenge hockey players could. “We said to ourselves, even if we have to die on the ice, we have to beat them,” said team captain Jozef Golonka many years later. “We received hundreds of telegrams from fans back home when we arrived in Stockholm. Almost all of them said: ‘Beat the Soviets. You don’t have to beat anyone else. Just beat the Soviets.’” But the Soviets had been more or less unbeatable in the 1960s, so the task was a daunting one. The six teams played a double round robin, meaning each nation played every other twice. In their first meeting, on 21 March 1969, Jan Suchy scored early and Vladimir Dzurilla was perfect. Czechoslovakia skated to a 2-0 win. Exactly one week later, they did it again, winning 4-3. It was the first time since 1961 that the Soviet Union lost two games in one championship, and it was the first time ever that the USSR lost two games against the same opponent in one IIHF event. The Czechs were exhausted after these emotional wins and ended up in third place to CCCP’s gold, but that was besides the point. They won the two games that they simply couldn’t lose.
Sweden's Mats Sundin ends the Soviet Union's reign
On 4 May 1991, Mats Sundin scored what many people still consider to be the most incredible goal in World Championship history. It was the final day of the tournament, the gold medal on the line. A Sweden win meant gold for Tre Kronor; a Soviet win meant gold for CCCP. And a tie would give Canada the gold! The Canadian players were in the stands watching, and they couldn’t have been happier. By the midway point of the third, it was 1-1. But then Sundin took the puck behind his own net and moved up ice down the right side. He weaved through two Soviet players in centre ice and saw just one Soviet player in his path to the goal – Slava Fetisov. Sundin made an amazing inside-out move that left the Soviet veteran flatfooted. Bearing in on goalie Andrei Trefilov at full speed, Sundin fired a low shot that beat the goalie cleanly. As time wound down, coach Viktor Tikhonov refused to pull his goalie – one goal would give Canada gold, a thought he could do without. Sweden took top honours thanks to an incredible goal from the 20-year-old Sundin.
Moravec golden goal gives Czechs threepeat
The late 1990s and early 2000s were the golden years for Czech hockey. They won gold at the ’98 Olympics, of course, but they also won gold at the 2000 and 2001 World Juniors and gold at the 1999 and 2000 World Championships. At the 2001 Worlds, in Hanover, Germany, they were again dominant, advancing to the gold-medal game after beating Slovakia and Sweden in the quarters and semis. In the finals, they played Finland, a team they beat in 1999 for their second ever gold (after 1996). But in 2001, the Finns scored the first two goals and were ahead after two periods. In the third, though, the Czechs stormed back to tie the game, sending it to overtime. Midway through the extra period, Finn Toni Sihvonen carried the puck outside his blue line but was stripped of it expertly by Pavel Patera. Patera tore down the left side inside the Finland blue line and found David Moravec in the slot. He was being hounded by Sihvonen but managed to get off a low backhand that beat Pasi Nurminen, giving the Czechs a hat trick of gold medals.
Bondra's bomb secures gold for Slovakia
The gold-medal game of the 2002 World Championship in Gothenburg was a defining moment for the entire country of Slovakia. The young nation had started in C Pool as an independent nation in 1994, moved up to B and then A Pool, and then made further inroads within the top group. But after a poor showing at the Salt Lake Olympics because the team couldn’t ice its best players, the Slovaks were motivated in Gothenburg with what was their finest roster of players ever assembled. The team made it to the playoff round, then stunned Canada 3-2 in the quarter-finals and beat Sweden in a shootout in the semis, setting up a date with Russia for gold. They started off with focus, building a 3-1 lead through two periods, but Russia rallied and tied the game in the third. With overtime looming, Ziggy Palffy and Peter Bondra bolted up ice on a two-on-two rush. Palffy made a pass to Bondra who fired a quick shot past the blocker of Maxim Sokolov with only 100 seconds left in the game. The Slovaks hung on for the historic win. “This means more than a Stanley Cup to me,” Bondra said. “The Cup is celebrated by one city. This belongs to an entire nation.”
Canada's gold medal decided by video review
11 May 2003, will forever go down in IIHF annals as an historic gold-medal game at the World Championship. It featured two great rivals, Canada and Sweden, at the height of their powers. Sweden got to the finals after their incredible comeback from 5-1 down to beat Finland in the quarter-finals, and then had an easier 4-1 game with Slovakia. Canada needed overtime to get by Germany in the quarters and then, too, had an easier game, beating the Czech Republic, 8-4. In the gold-medal game, Sweden took a 2-0-lead on goals from Matthias Tjarnqvist and P-J Axelsson. Canada, however, bounced back thanks to Shawn Horcoff and Shane Doan, who tied the game with ten minutes to go. Overtime beckoned, the first ever played at four-on-four. After about 14 minutes in the fourth period, Canada’s Anson Carter took a hard shot on goal. Mikael Tellqvist made the save, but Carter jumped at the rebound behind the net and wrapped the puck in. He put up his arms and the Canadians jumped off the ice to celebrate. But Czech referee Vladimir Sindler called the video goal judge for help. The minutes passed. The fans waited. The teams anticipated. Finally, after ten agonizing minutes, Sindler signalled goal. It was the first gold-medal goal confirmed by video replay.
Russia defeats canada in wild 6-5 finale
The IIHF’s Centennial celebrations came to a dramatic climax on the night of 18 May 2008, at the Colisee in Quebec City during the World Championship. After 55 games and various rounds, the game everyone had hoped for had, indeed, arrived. Canada versus Russia for gold. Although Russia scored an early goal, Canada came back with three and led 3-1 after the first. Teams exchanged goals in the second, and now, just 20 minutes from victory, Canada held a solid 4-2 lead in a game it had clearly been the better team. But in the third, coach Ken Hitchcock opted for a more defensive strategy, and the Russians pounced. They made it 4-3 midway through the third and then Ilya Kovalchuk tied the game with only 5:14 remaining, setting up an overtime period. In the OT, Rick Nash cleared the puck over the glass and was given a penalty, and on the ensuing power play Kovalchuk wired a hard shot past Cam Ward for the golden goal. Heartbreak for the home crowd, but elation for the Russians, who had not won gold since 1993.
Schutz scores OT winner in front of largest crowd in Worlds history
The opening game of the 2010 World Championship in Germany featured hosts Germany taking on the United States. The game was played at a football stadium in Gelsenkirchen – outdoors in the sense that it was a venue much larger than a hockey rink, but indoors because Gelsenkirchen was a covered stadium. A world record crowd of 77,803 filled the venue and celebrated when the home side went ahead 1-0 early in the second period. The Americans tied the game in the third, though, to force overtime, but Germany still had one more moment of glory left. Early in the OT, defenceman Korbinian Holzer got the puck inside the U.S. blue line and passed cross ice to Constantin Braun. He snapped a quick shot on goal that hit the leg of Felix Schutz and went in just 21 seconds into the fourth period, giving Germany a dramatic 2-1 win.
Sweden wins back-to-back gold in shootout in 2017 & 2018
It’s difficult enough winning gold at the World Championship, and it’s even more difficult winning it consecutively. Indeed, only four countries have won back-to-back – Canada, Czech Republic, Russia/Soviet Union, and Sweden. But only Sweden won both their gold medals via the penalty-shot shootout. Those wins came in 2017 and 2018, and both were coached by Rikard Gronborg. In the first instance, Sweden made it to the playoff round winning five of seven games, and then had no trouble in the quarter-finals and semis, beating Switzerland and Finland by scores of 3-1 and 4-1. But in the championship game against Canada, it was 1-1 after 60 minutes, and still 1-1 after 80 minutes. In the shootout, Nicklas Backstrom and Oliver Ekman-Larsson got the only goals in Tre Kronor’s win. A year later, the Swedes won nine games in a row before facing Switzerland, and the game was tied 2-2 after four periods of hockey, again requiring a shootout. This time Filip Forsberg was the hero, and the Swedes won double gold thanks to the penalty-shot shootout.
During the 100-year anniversary of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship we bring you the top-100 moments in stories, photos and videos in 10 days. Check out more by clicking the chapters below: