Following the IOC decision to stage Winter and Summer Olympic Games in staggered years, these Games took place just two years after the last competition in France in 1992. One of the most indelible images in Olympic hockey history showed Sweden's Peter Forsberg pushing the puck past Canadian goalie Corey Hirsch with one hand on the stick while Hirsch made a last-minute lunge to block it. Forsberg's goal in the second round of a shoot-out of the gold medal game gave Sweden its first Olympic championship.
Canada's Paul Kariya had a chance to prolong the shoot-out but was outguessed by Swedish goalie Tommy Salo. Kariya had put Canada ahead 2-1 at 9:08 of the third period before Magnus Svensson connected on a power play goal for Sweden with less than two minutes to play to force overtime. Neither team was able to score in the extra session.
Three players on the Swedish team - Tomas Jonsson, Hakan Loob, and Mats Naslund - became the first players to win World, Olympic, and Stanley Cup titles in three separate tournaments. Slovakia, competing in its first Olympics as a nation, and Finland had been the surprise group winners in preliminary round play. But the Peter Stastny-led Slovaks lost 3-2 in overtime to Russia in the quarterfinals and Finland, which had allowed just five goals in its previous six games, fell to Canada 5-3 in the semis.
Although Slovakia failed to make it to the final four, two of its players had exceptional tournaments. Zigmund Palffy was the tournament scoring champion with 10 points in six games and Miroslav Satan led the way in goals with nine. Russia, playing in the Olympics without the help of stars from the former Soviet Republics, lost 4-0 to Finland in the bronze-medal game and finished out of the medals for the first time in the history of Soviet/Russian hockey.