Record of ice hockey flagbearers
by Andrew Podnieks|02 FEB 2022
In PyeongChang 2018 Hwang Chung-gum was the only ice hockey player carrying the flag of Unified Korea. The player from the north of the peninsula was the flag bearer together with bobsledder Won Yun-jong from the south.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Beijing 2022 will set a new record of ice hockey players as flag bearers at the Opening Ceremony.

Lauris Darzins (LAT), Valtteri Filppula (FIN), Alena Mills (CZE), Frans Nielsen (DEN), Marie-Philip Poulin (CAN), Emma Nordin (SWE), Andres Ambuhl (SUI), Vadim Shipachyov (ROC) and Marek Hrivik (SVK) have been announced. The nine flag bearers will break the record of seven set in Vancouver 2010 tonight.

Nielsen’s presence is especially noteworthy because Denmark is competing for the first time at the Olympics in hockey. The night will be a memorable one for everyone, but especially the men and women carrying the flag of their country.

We are all set for the Opening Ceremony in Beijing, which means the parade of nations will take place as part of the official celebrations to start these 2022 Olympic Winter Games. Each country will assign one or two flagbearers, and for ice hockey that is a rich tradition that goes back to the first Winter Games in 1924.

That year, in Chamonix, France, four countries had flagbearers from ice hockey: Canada’s Ernie Collett, Taffy Abel from the United States, Ruben Rundquist from Sweden, and Jaroslav Rezac from Czechoslovakia. 

Since that first tournament hockey has had at least one flagbearer every Olympics, excepting 1972 in Sapporo, and in all some 18 countries have had a flagbearer from hockey over the last century. Czechoslovakia/Czechia leads the way with nine, starting with Rezac and carrying on with Vladmir Zabrodsky (1948), Vaclav Bubnik (1952 and again in ‘56), Jan Starsi (1960), Oldrich Machac (1976), Bohuslav Ebermann (1980), Jiri Kralik (1984), and Jaromir Jagr (2010). 

Canada isn’t far behind, most recently in Sochi 2014 when Hayley Wickenheiser carried the flag into Fisht Olympic Stadium prior to leading Canada to a gold medal. In between her and Collett were Jack Porter (1928), Harold Simpson (1932), “Pud” Kitchen (1936), Hubert Brooks (1948), and Danielle Goyette (2006). 

Sweden has had five hockey flagbearers, two of which were coaches in the early days – Rundqvist and Viking Harbom (1928) – while the Latvians, Slovaks, and Soviets have had four. Legendary goalie Vladislav Tretiak carried it twice, in 1976 and 1984, and he is also one of only two hockey players to light the Olympic cauldron. Tretiak did it, of course, at Sochi in 2014, while four years earlier Wayne Gretzky did same in Vancouver. In 2002, the cauldron was ceremonially lit by the entire 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team.

Since women’s hockey became an Olympic event in 1998, there have been four women to carry the flag. Cammi Granato carried it at the Closing Ceremony in 1998 after she led her team to a stunning gold medal, and Julie Chu also brought it in to Fisht at the Closing Ceremony in 2014. 

Oddly, despite playing in a record six Olympics and being the all-time scoring leader at the Olympics, Temmu Selanne never carried the flag for Suomi, nor did Raimo Helminen, the only other hockey player to appear in six Games. Three Finns have had that distinction, though: Jorma Valtonen (1984), Timo Blomqvist (1992), and Ville Peltonen (2010).

Speaking of 2010, when Canada hosted the Olympics and brought home the men’s gold on the final day with Sidney Crosby’s golden goal, that Vancouver Games has held the record for most hockey flagbearers until now – seven. In addition to the aforementioned Jagr and Peltonen were Peter Forsberg (SWE), Zigmund Palffy (SVK), Alexei Morozov (RUS), Tommy Jakobsen (NOR), and Oleg Antonenko (BLR). Interestingly, Clara Hughes (speed skating) was Canada’s flagbearer in 2010, while Joannie Rochette was the flagbearer at the Closing Ceremony.

At the last Olympics, in PyeongChang, only one nation had a hockey flagbearer and that was Korea (Chung Gum Hwang). In all, there have been 53 flagbearers from hockey, and only Bubnik and Tretiak did it twice.