Saturday, February 27, 2010
The 1994 Winter Olympic hockey tournament, held in Lillehammer, Norway will always be remembered for one defining moment, Peter Forsberg's memorable gold medal winning shoot out goal.
Forsberg had debuted with the Modo Hockey junior team in his hometown of Örnsköldsvik in 1989-90 and made one appearance with the senior club later that same season. The following year he split time between the junior club and the senior club, getting into 23 games and scoring his first goal in the Elitserien. He was also drafted 6th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers during the NHL Entry Draft that year, although he would remain in Sweden for an additional three seasons, in part to play in the 1994 Olympics, at a time when he felt it would be his only Olympic opportunity prior to the NHL suspending it's season to allow it's players to participate in the games, something that wouldn't begin until 1998.
Forsberg moved up to the senior club full time the following year, scoring 28 points in 39 games. As his experience and confidence grew, so did his point totals, and in 1992-93, Forsberg averaged more than a point per game for the first time, with 47 points in 39 games and was named as both the the MVP of the Elitserien as well as the Swedish hockey Player of the Year.
He would win both awards again the next season after 44 points in 39 games.
Internationally, Forsberg first appeared for Sweden in the 1991 European Junior Championships, followed by both the World Junior Championship and World Championship in both 1992 and 1993.
Already considered by that point to be the best player in the World not in the NHL, Forsberg would make himself known to hockey fans all across North America with the events of this day in the 1994 Olympic Gold Medal Final.
Sweden was placed in Group B for the Preliminary Round with Canada, France, Italy, Slovakia and the United States and tied in their first game 4-4 with Slovakia, making their first ever Olympic appearance. They easily handled Italy 4-1 and France 7-1 before defeating the United States 6-4 before losing to Canada 3-2 to finish their group in third place behind Slovakia and Canada.
As a result of their third place finish, they drew Germany (second place in Group A) in the first round of the Medal Round playoffs and easily eliminated them 3-0. Next up was the surprisingly down Russians, who were feeling the effects of the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the resulting turmoil in their hockey program. Having lost to the Finns 5-0 and the Germans 4-2 in Group A, Sweden ended their tournament 4-3 to advance to the Gold Medal Final against Canada, who knocked out the Czech Republic 3-2 and Finland 5-3 for their shot at gold.
The scoring was opened by Sweden at 6:10 of the first period on the power play on a goal by Kenny Jonsson from Hakan Loob and Peter Forsberg. There was no additional scoring until Canada got on the board with a goal by Paul Kariya from Chris Kontos and Greg Johnson at 9:08 of the third.
Canada went up by one when defesman Derek Mayer scored an unassisted goal at 11:43. Canada was able to keep their lead until Brad Werenka was called for a penalty at 17:50 and Sweden made them pay the price when Magnus Svensson scored on a shot from the point with assists from Forsberg and Jonsson at 18:11 on the resulting power play.
The game would finish deadlocked at 2-2 and the following ten minute overtime failed to settle the score, moving the game to a deciding shootout.
Petr Nedved opened the shootout with a goal for Canada, while Loob missed for Sweden. Kariya then converted for Canada and Svensson matched that with a goal of his own to keep Sweden within one.
Dwayne Norris was stopped by Swedish goaltender Tommy Salo and Mats Nasulnd was kept off the scoreboard by Canadian Corey Hirsch. Unlike today's three round shootouts, this one was scheduled to go five rounds.
Greg Parks missed for Canada and Forsberg evened the shootout at 2-2 for Sweden. After Johnson missed for Canada, Roger Hansson failed to win it for Sweden and the shootout moved into sudden death.
With players now allowed to shoot again, Svensson missed for Sweden before Nedved had Salo beaten but put the puck wide during his chance to win gold.
The 13th shooter would see the 20-year-old Forsberg take his second attempt with the weight of the world on his shoulders, and using a move that would be immortalized on a Swedish postage stamp, faked to his forehand (having gone to the right on his first shootout goal) before nearly skating past the net on his left, drawing Hirsch to the side of the crease, as Forsberg fully extended his right arm and gently tucked the puck into the center of the net on his backhand around the outstretched Hirsch.
It was a shot Forsberg had recalled seeing when he was 15 while watching Kent Nilsson on a breakaway during the 1989 World Championships against American John Vanbiesbrouck.
"I liked it right away," Forsberg recalled. "The goalie ended up in the stands."
When Salo laid himself out in the crease and blocked Kariya's final attempt, Sweden had captured the gold medal.
With the gold medal victory, Loob, Naslund and Tomas Jonsson became the first players to win the World Championship, the Stanley Cup and the Gold Medal, an accomplishment that would become known as the Triple Gold Club. Forsberg would eventually join the exclusive club in 1996, which currently consists of just 22 players in the history of the sport.
Today's featured jersey is a Reebok 194 Sweden Peter Forsberg Jersey. These jerseys are very similar to the Tackla branded jerseys used in 1992, including the same distinctive block numbers with the 3-D geometric "drop shadow" effect for the numbers, with the obvious addition of the overly large Reebok logos on the shoulders and additional piping that runs down the arms. These jerseys are a medium weight mesh and all the graphics dye-sublimated.
Here is the complete Gold Medal Final shootout, in two parts.
Here is Nilsson's original goal which inspired the young Forsberg in 1989.
Dasherboard: The United States blitzed Finland yesterday with four goals in the first 10 minutes, chasing Miikka Kiprusoff from the goal, who seemed to be channelling the spirit of Evgeni Nabokov, in their semifinal matchup yesterday.
The US welcomed Niklas Backstrom to the game by scoring twice on him within the first 2:38 of his arrival to put the game completely out of reach at 6-0.
Kiprusoff started the carnage with a horrible giveaway in his own zone in a failed attempt to clear the puck, which Ryan Malone promptly buried as the fans were still settling into their seats.
Zach Parise scored four minutes later 23 seconds into a power play to put the US up 2-0.
Erik Johnson added another power play goal six minutes later followed by Patrick Kane less a than a minute and a half later when Kiprusoff went down and was a sitting duck when the puck went to Kane on the left side of the crease with the entire net to shoot at, ending Kiprusoff's day.
Another goal by Kane and Paul Stastny's first of the Olympics greeted Backstrom before the game was even 13 minutes old. The remainder of the game was played on cruise control, with the American's even pulling Ryan Miller with 11:31 to play despite his having a shutout in progress to protect him from injury and give veteran Tim Thomas some playing time.
Anti Miettinen spoiled the shutout with a deflection off an American defender o make the final score 6-1.
Canada also advanced to the Gold Medal Final following their defeat of Slovakia 3-2. The Canadians came back down to Earth and left the superhero capes in the locker room that they all seemed to be wearing against Russia.
Still, they finished the first period ahead by two on deflections by Patrick Marleau and Brendan Morrow. while outshooting Slovakia 10-4. The second period was more of the same, with Ryan Getzlaf extending the lead with a power play goal as they shots on goal again favored Canada, this time 11-5.
Rather than play out the string, the scrappy Slovaks rallied and fought back into contention with a goal my Lubomir Visnovsky at 11:35 and set up a dramatic finish with a second goal by Michael Handzus with just under five minutes remaining. The Slovaks kept up the pressure and Pavol Demitra had the opportunity they were looking for with 10 seconds remaining, but the puck deflected off the crossbar, giving Canada the victory.
Canada now gets a rematch with the United States with the gold medal on the line in front of their home crowd in a game that will certainly set new records for viewership in Canada. The Canadian dominance over Germany and Russia came to and end in the third period against Slovakia, while the United States enters the game on a high, having destroyed Finland.
The pressure on Canada to deliver the gold at home could cause them to perform as they did in the Preliminary Round, while the support of the home fans in the arena on game day could give them the adrenaline boost which puts them over the top.
The undefeated Americans, behind the goaltending of Ryan Miller, are now at the peak of their confidence, and with the knowledge that Canada is mortal again after their close game with Slovakia and the fact they have already defeated Canada once, albeit with Martin Brodeur in goal and not Roberto Luongo, who they will face on Sunday, will not be intimidated by the Canadians or their fans.
It will be a game for the ages and one to plan your day around. Be sure to add some extra time to your recorder because this one should be close and could very well end up going into a 20 minute overtime. Let's just hope it's not decided in a shootout...