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

Team Canada (women) - 2002 Olympic Games

25 FEBRUARY 2014
USA's Natalie Darwitz and Canada's Vicki Sunohara battle during gold medal game action at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, UT.
(Dave Sandford/HHOF/IIHF/Hockey Canada)
Women's hockey was first introduced to the Olympic Winter Games in 1998. At the time, while there were women's hockey programs in several countries, making this tournament a truly international series, the game was not particularly well-developed outside of the United States and Canada. Expectations from the initial puck-drop were that the two women's hockey powerhouses would meet for the inaugural Olympic gold medal in the women's sport. And, true to expectations, that was exactly the way the tournament evolved. But, much to the chagrin of the Canadians, Team USA laid claim to that gold medal, winning the deciding game by a 3-1 score. Team Canada had to settle for the silver medal - not the colour they had had their eyes on going into the tournament.

Canada's Jana Hefford scores the game-winning goal against USA's Sara Decosta during gold medal action at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, UT.
(Dave Sandford/HHOF/IIHF/Hockey Canada)
Fast-forward four years, and the second Olympic tournament to feature women's hockey was set to take place in Salt Lake City, Utah. The core of the Canadian team in 2002 was very much the same as the one used in Nagano, Japan in 1998. The ten returning members of Team Canada in 2002 were Jennifer Botterill, Therese Brisson, Cassie Campbell, Lori Dupuis, Danielle Goyette, Geraldine Heaney, Jayna Hefford, Becky Kellar, Vicky Sunohara and Hayley Wickenheiser. Cassie Campbell was named team captain.

Stick used by Canada's Jana Hefford to score the gold medal game-winning goal against USA's Sara Decosta during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, UT. (Graig Abel/Hockey Hall of Fame)
The top six teams in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF)'s ranking after the 2001 Women's World Ice Hockey Championships received automatic berths into the Olympic tournament. Lower ranked teams also had an opportunity to qualify for the event. Teams ranked thirteenth and lower were divided into two groups and played in a qualification round. The group winners from the two groups then joined the other six teams to make up the squads that competed in the Olympic Winter Games in 2002.

Canada's Therese Brisson takes out USA's Cammi Granato during gold medal game action at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, UT.
(Dave Sandford/HHOF/IIHF/Hockey Canada)
The eight teams that competed in the 2002 Games were divided into two groups. In Group A, Canada was joined by Kazakhstan, Russia and Sweden. Group B was comprised of China, Finland, Germany and the United States.

Each team played three preliminary games, and then the top two teams from each group advanced to the medal round.

The Canadian loonie that was buried at centre ice at the E Center in Salt Lake City, UT during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. (Hockey Hall of Fame)
Team Canada had its eye on avenging the gold medal loss to the United States in 1998, but unfortunately, in preparing for the Olympic tournament, the two teams met eight times, with the U.S. victorious in each contest. That didn't necessarily instill confidence in fans, although it didn't seem to bother members of the team.

Canada rolled through the preliminary round, outscoring their competition 25-0 with wins over Kazakhstan (7-0), Russia (7-0) and Sweden (11-0). Canada then came from behind to beat Finland by a 7-3 count, once again setting up a North American final between Canada and the United States.

Canada's Kelly Bechard showing off her gold medal after a 3-2 victory over the U.S. in the gold medal game at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, UT. (Dave Sandford/HHOF/IIHF/Hockey Canada)
The gold medal game was played on February 1, 2002. Canada scored first at 1:45 when Caroline Ouellette picked up a puck that had caromed off a defenceman's skate after Cherie Piper shot the puck from behind the U.S. goal. The U.S. replied with a goal early in the second period, but at 4:10, Hayley Wickenheiser knocked in the rebound from a shot by Danielle Goyette. Then, Jayna Hefford closed out the second period one second before the buzzer to give Canada a 3-1 lead going into the third.

Team USA poured on the pressure, and finally were able to score when a shot deflected off a Canadian stick with 3:33 to play in the third period to draw within one of their opponents. In spite of pulling their goaltender and playing with six attackers for 1:14, that was as good as it got as Canadian netminder Kim St-Pierre blocked everything that came her way to give Canada the 3-2 win and the Olympic gold medal.

Canada's Therese Brisson, Geraldine Heaney and Danielle Goyette suround the buried Canadian loonie at centre ice at the E-Center after a 3-2 victory over the U.S. in the gold medal game at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, UT.
(Dave Sandford/HHOF/IIHF/Hockey Canada)
The Canadian women poured over the boards at the final buzzer, throwing their sticks and gloves into the air. They had wanted this medal so badly, and having beaten the United States in every World Championship they had played, the Olympic gold medal was the prize they sought, especially having been disappointed in 1998.

Hayley Wickenheiser and Danielle Goyette each accounted for ten points to lead the Olympic tournament. Wickenheiser was named the most valuable player, and St-Pierre was selected as top goaltender.

It was Canada's first Olympic gold medal in hockey, male or female in fifty years! In 1952, the Edmonton Mercurys represented Canada at the Winter Olympics and took the gold medal in ice hockey at Oslo, Norway.

"It's our sport. It's the medal we want," stated a jubilant Therese Brisson in Sports Illustrated. "There's a lot of passion about hockey in Canada, and it's something that means something to a lot of Canadians."

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