Monday, February 8, 2010
The highest seeded team in Group C at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Tournament is Sweden.
The Sweden National Ice Hockey Team is currently ranked 3rd in the IIHF World Rankings and will be looking to defend their gold medal won in the last Olympics in Torino, Italy in 2006. Based on their status as one of the top nine ranked countries, Sweden was automatically entered in the 2010 Olympic tournament, allowing them avoid the qualification process for teams outside the top nine.
The Swedes have participated in hockey at the Olympics 19 of a possible 21 times since hockey first became an Olympic sport in 1920, with finishes in the medals coming in just under half of their appearances. Their best results have been gold medals in 1994, following Peter Forsberg's famous goal in the shootout of the championship game, and again in 2006 in Torino, Italy against rivals Finland. Additionally, Sweden has also captured silver medals in 1928 and 1964, with bronze medals coming in 1952, 1980, 1984 and 1988.
The postage stamp commemorating Forsberg's
1994 shootout goal against Canada
Sweden are regular participants in the World Championships, with their first appearance coming in 1931. Considered one of the World's elite hockey nations, Sweden has never been outside of the Top Division of the World Championships in their history, with medal winning finishes coming more often than not.
The Swedes have captured the World Championship eight times, the most recent being in 2006 in Latvia. They have also won silver 16 times and bronze an additional 14 times, including the most recent tournament in 2009.
Considered one of the World's elite teams, they have also participated in the six team Canada Cup tournaments all five times it was held, with a best finish of second in 1984, and the eight team World Cup of Hockey twice, reaching the semi-finals in 1996.
Sweden enters the 2010 Olympics with 13 returning players from the 2006 gold medal squad and 19 NHLers on it's roster out of 23 players. Of the four remaining players, three are playing in Sweden's Elitserien and one in the Russian KHL.
The Swedes look solid all around with the New York Rangers Henrik Lundqvist in goal, a veteran defensive group led by Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings and forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin, with Henrik currently leading the NHL in scoring. It remains to be seen how much Swedish legend Peter Forsberg will be able to contribute, but Daniel Alfredsson, Nicklas Backstrom and Henrik Zetterberg are more than capable of leading Sweden to the gold medal if Forsberg is not up to the task.
With the format for this year's Olympics calling for the top four teams after the Preliminary Round to receive byes into the quarterfinals, the key for Sweden will be defeating Finland in their game on February 21st, a rematch of the gold medal game from 2006, in order to win Group C and avoid playing an extra knockout game the day before the quarterfinals on the 24th.
Sweden must also avoid overlooking Belarus, who will be looking to repeat their upset performance over Sweden in 2002 in Salt Lake City, in their second game on February 19th.
Today's featured jersey is a Tackla 1989 Sweden National Team Thomas Rundqvist jersey as worn in the 1989 World Championships, where Sweden finished in fourth place. This style of Tackla jersey was also worn in the 1992 Olympics with the familiar Tackla diamond shapes on the shoulders.
Sweden's jerseys are the most traditional of all the national team jerseys, similar to the Montreal Canadiens in that they remain essentially unchanged with only minor tweaks throughout their history and are more resistant to manufacturer trends than other countries. Sweden, in fact, won the last Olympics in 2006 wearing regular style jerseys, while every other country, save Swizterland, was wearing the supposed performance enhancing Nike Swift jerseys for the first time.
Here is a look at the jerseys that Sweden will be wearing in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. The Swede's can always be counted on to bring their usual understated class to any tournament with their three crowns, or "Tre Kronor", and minimal striping, regardless of the design trends of the day. This year's jersey adds the vintage touch of the lace-up collar to to their unique and traditional yellow home jersey and blue roads.
Sweden has a long and illustrious history to draw on for today's video selections, and we begin with a look at several of the gold medals Sweden has won since 1987.
Here is the conclusion of the shootout in the gold medal game at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, which included Forsberg's famous goal.
In 2006, Sweden became the first country to win both the Olympics and the World Championships in the same season.
Here are highlights of the Gold Medal game against rivals Finland.
And here they celebrate the historic double by winning the World Championships three months later.
Finally, Kent Nilsson scores for Sweden against John Vanbiesbrouck of the USA in the 1989 World Championships and is congratulated by Thomas Rundqvist, wearing today's featured jersey.