Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - Team Canada - 2002 Olympic Games
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One on One Turning Point

Team Canada - 2002 Olympic Games

22 APRIL 2014
Canada's Joe Sakic scores a goal against USA's Mike Richter during the gold medal game action at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. (Dave Sandford/Hockey Hall of Fame)
National Hockey League players had only been permitted to compete in the Olympics in 1998, and Team Canada, much to their severe disappointment, had finished out of the medals. In 1998's tournament in Nagano, the Czech Republic took gold, Russia earned the silver and Finland won the Olympic bronze medal.

Canada's Martin Brodeur makes a glove save during gold medal game action against the U.S. at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. (Dave Sandford/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Eager to avenge their setback (some would say disaster), the Canadians roared back in 2002 at the Winter Olympic Games at Salt Lake City, Utah in 2002. Wayne Gretzky was named Executive Director of Team Canada, and he and his colleagues methodically pieced together a stellar squad. Mario Lemieux was named team captain, with Chris Pronger, Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman wearing the A's. Named in goal were Ed Belfour, Martin Brodeur and Curtis Joseph. Joining Pronger on the blueline were Rob Blake, Eric Brewer, Adam Foote, Ed Jovanovski, Al MacInnis and Scott Niedermayer. At forward were Theoren Fleury, Simon Gagne, Jarome Iginla, Paul Kariya, Eric Lindros, Joe Nieuwendyk, Owen Nolan, Mike Peca, Brendan Shanahan and Ryan Smyth, as well as the afore-mentioned Lemieux, Sakic and Yzerman.

Fourteen countries participated in the Olympic tournament, with Belarus, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Russia, Sweden and the United States advancing to the final round.

Team Canada players and staff celebrating after a gold medal game win over the U.S. at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. (Dave Sandford/Hockey Hall of Fame)
Canada had a slow start, losing 5-2 to Sweden, edging Germany 3-2, and tying the Czech Republic at three-apiece for a third-place finish, behind Sweden and the Czechs, in their group. But they rallied in the elimination round, doubling Finland 2-1, and then beating Belarus 7-1. In the meantime, Team USA topped their group, winning two and tying another. This set up a thrilling gold medal contest between the rivals: Canada and the United States.

Team USA opened the scoring on a goal by Tony Amonte, but Paul Kariya responded just over six minutes later by one-timing a cross-ice pass from Chris Pronger to tie the score. Then, less than four minutes later, Jarome Iginla directed Joe Sakic's shot past Mike Richter with just a minute left in the first period to put Canada up 2-1. Team USA , desperate to gain momentum, killed off a Canadian five-on-three advantage midway through the second period that led to a goal by Brian Rafalski that tied the game, but the Canadians regained the lead on a goal by Joe Sakic later in the period. In the third, Iginla scored his second when he redirected Steve Yzerman's shot from the left point with just under four minutes left to increase Canada's lead, then Sakic added his second goal to put the victory away for Team Canada.

"It's time for Canada to stand up and cheer," prodded announcer Bob Cole. "The Olympics. Salt Lake City. 2002. Men's ice hockey. Gold medal. Canada!"

"No other team had more pressure than ours," claimed Al MacInnis. "You don't know what it's like to have a piano on your back. Everybody in Canada was watching (on TV) with the same intensity that we played the game with. It's amazing the way a sport can bring the country together."

Canada's Martin Brodeur, Adam Foote, Simon Gagne and Scott Niedermayer celebrate after a gold medal win over the U.S. at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. (Dave Sandford/Hockey Hall of Fame) Canada's Theo Fleury celebrating with the Canadian flag after a gold medal game win at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. (Dave Sandford/Hockey Hall of Fame) Canada's Mario Lemieux celebrating with champagne after a gold medal game win at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. (Dave Sandford/Hockey Hall of Fame)

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.