Tuesday, February 11, 2014

2014 Olympic Hockey Preview - Sweden

The Sweden National Hockey Team is currently ranked 1st in the IIHF World Rankings and will be looking to return to the top step of the medals podium, having won the gold medal at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy. In addition, they are the current World Champions, having claimed the title in the spring of 2013 at home in Stockholm to become the first team to win at home since 1986, a span of 28 years without a host champion, which spawned talk of a "home curse". 

Sweden Federation logo photo SwedenFederationlogo.png

Based on their status as one of the top nine ranked countries, Sweden was automatically entered in the 2014 Olympic tournament, allowing them avoid the qualification process for teams outside the top nine.

The Swedes have participated in hockey at the Olympics 20 of a possible 22 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 nine times, the most recent being in the most recent championships held in 2013. They have also won silver 17 times and bronze an additional 15 times.

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Sweden celebrating their 2013 world championship

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 2014 Olympics with 24 NHLers on it's roster out of 25 players, with the lone European based player being forward Jimmie Ericsson of Skelleftea AIK in Sweden.

Jimmie Ericsson photo JimmieEricsson.jpg

The Swedes look solid all around with the New York Rangers Henrik Lundqvist in goal, a veteran defensive group led by Erik Karlsson of Ottawa. The forwards are led by Daniel Alfredsson and Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit plus Nicklas Bäckstrom of Washington and Daniel Sedin of Vancouver, with his brother Henrik Sedin being forced to miss the competition due to injury.

Zetterberg Sweden photo ZetterbergSweden.jpg

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 the Czech Republic in their opening game on February 12 and then taking maximum points from Switzerland on the 14th in order to win Group C and avoid playing an extra knockout game the day before the quarterfinals on the 19th. Not only is this a realistic goal for Sweden, it is what is expected of them.

Sweden fans photo Swedenfans1.jpg

Today's featured jersey is a 2006 Sweden National Team Mats Sundin jersey as worn in the 2006 Olympics where Sweden won gold. This style of jersey was one of the older style airknit jerseys, as Sweden and Switzerland were the only two nations in the field not to wear the new, supposedly performance enhancing Nike Swift jerseys for the first time.

Sweden's jerseys are the most traditional of all the national team jerseys, similar to the Montreal Canadiens or Detroit Red Wings in that they remain essentially unchanged with only minor tweaks throughout their history and are more resistant to manufacturer trends than other countries.

Note the detail of the Sweden Olympic logo added to the right shoulder jerseys, as well as the cosmetic "laces" in the neck yoke, two details which were unique to the jerseys worn in Torino, as Sweden then wore the Nike Swift style for the 2006 World Championships onward.

Sweden 2006 Olympic jersey photo Sweden2006OLYF.jpg
Sweden 2006 Olympic jersey photo Sweden2006OLYB.jpg
Sweden 2006 Olympic jersey photo Sweden2006OLYP2.jpg

Here is a look at the jerseys that Sweden will be wearing in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. The Swedes 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. These jerseys have even less striping than usual and also maintain their traditional, unique and preferred yellow home jersey paired with their less often seen blue roads.

Sweden 2014 jerseys photo Sweden2014jerseys.png

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.

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