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Clash of the ice hockey titans Salt Lake 2002 Ice hockey men


Any team performing under the tutelage of the greatest ice hockey player the game has ever known understands that the pressure is on to win gold.

Such was the prospect facing the Canada ice hockey team at the 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City with Wayne Gretzky, or the Great One as he was affectionately known, their executive director.

For a country so steeped in its love of ice hockey, Canada’s Olympic record was mixed, without a gold  medal for 50 years going into the tournament at the E Center in West Valley City.

The pressure was piled on even further when the Canadians got off to a poor start with a 5-2 defeat at the hands of Sweden in their opening group match.

The US press was on Gretzky’s back and indifferent performances in the next two matches left the Canadians third in their pool and expectations at a low.

Sweden were stunned by Belarus in the first quarter-final and the other fancied teams struggled through while Canada’s poor pool performance handed them a tough tie against the Finns.

It was here that performances started to instil the Canadians with a sense of belief that they could go deep into the tournament.

Joe Sakic, who would play a key role in their success, gave them an early lead in the quarter-final and Steve Yzerman doubled the lead in the second period.

The Finns pulled one back but Canada held on and followed it up with a crushing 7-1 victory over Belarus to book their place in the final.

The United States celebrated the 22nd anniversary of the Miracle on Ice victory against Russia at Lake Placid in 1980 by again confounding Russian hopes with a 3-2 win in the semi-finals.

Now the stage was set for an all North American final and the TV viewing figures consequently dwarfed anything that had gone before.

The Americans opened the scoring against the run of play in the opening period when Tony Amonte netted but goals from Paul Kariya and Jarome Iginla put the Canadians ahead.

Emotion was etched on Gretzky’s face in the crowd with every phase of play, not least when the Americans pulled back to tie at 2-2.

But two goals from Sakic and one from Iginla settled it 5-2 in Canada’s favour, Gretzky a picture of elation with his entourage in the crowd.



15 Highlights

  • Short Track Speed Skating
  • Short Track Speed Skating
  • Ice hockey
  • Image
  • Figure Skating
  • Bobsleigh
  • Freestyle Skiing
  • Alpine Downhill
  • Figure Skating
  • Nordic Combined
  • Luge
  • Alpine Skiing
  • Skeleton
  • Snowboard half-pipe
  • Snowboard