Savage memories of Lillehammer 1994’s ice hockey final thriller
Brian Savage looked to his left and then his right as he thought about whom he was cheering for at a men’s ice hockey game between Canada and the United States at the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
To his left was Kristins Hall where his son, Ryan Savage, was wearing the colours of the United States.
To his right was Hakons Hall, where Brian Savage walked off the ice 22 years ago broken-hearted after Canada lost 3-2 to Sweden in a dramatic gold medal final at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympic Winter Games.
“It was a tough one to swallow,’’ said Savage about the memorable final. “Emotions were running so high and we were winning 2-1 late in the game. The Swedes tied it and then we go to the shootout and we are up by two goals.
“But it was just one of those things. You are up and you are down and it was an hour after, when things settled down, that we thought about what we did and it was a big accomplishment. It was ‘hey we did something pretty special but we did not do it all’.”
The Canada-Sweden game featured breathless end-to-end rushes, desperation comebacks and not a shred of surrender in either team. The game had three bone-bruising periods of regulation time, each harder and more wicked that the last.
There were 10 throat-constricting minutes of overtime where the tempo rose beyond the bearable, and then rose again, but the deadlock remained, bringing on a sudden-death shootout.
Sweden Peter Forsberg clinched his place in ice hockey history when he pushed the puck into the Canadian net for the golden goal. The goal was captured on camera by two photographers, who were in the rafters directly above the Canadian net. Their photographs served as a basis for more honors for Forsberg.
Sweden’s postal service broke with tradition of using images of the Swedish royal family on its stamps by honoring their new hero with a commemorative stamp.
“Lots of memories,’’ said Brian Savage. “It was one of my most memorable hockey experiences.”
About five months ago, just before Ryan was named to Team USA, the father and son watched the Lillehammer 1994 final together for the first time.
“He has not really talked about it much but I think he is OK with a silver medal,’’ said Ryan Savage.
Ryan Savage of the USA during a practice session at Kristins Hall on Thursday (11 February). Photo: YIS / IOC Thomas Lovelock
After the 1994 Games, Brian joined the Montreal Canadiens of the North American professional National Hockey League (NHL). Ryan was born in Montreal but the family moved to Arizona in the USA in 2001 when Brian was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes of the NHL.
“We have dual citizenship but he has been down in the States his whole life, and he has either played with or against his teammates his whole career,’’ said Brian.
Brian retired as a professional hockey player a decade ago and he is currently a development coach in Austria.
Canada beat the USA 4-2 in the YOG men’s ice hockey on Tuesday (16 February) and there is every chance the two teams will meet for the gold medal, and the possibility of a shootout looms over the Savages.
“Wouldn’t that be something,’’ said the father.
“He has a lot of stories about 1994 and I am just hoping to make my own here,’’ added the son.
As for the question of loyalty – of cheering for the team he wore the national colors of or the team that is one of Canada’s top rivals – there was really no choice.
“Ya, the red, white and blue,’’ said Brian about the Stars and Stripes.
“But it is odd. My other son is in Quebec (at a youth tournament) and he is on team Austria. So we have Team Canada, Team USA and Team Austria. Maybe I am neutral.”
Written by YIS / IOC Alan Adams
Alan Adams is a reporter for the Lillehammer Youth Information Service ‘YIS’. Based in Toronto, Canada, he has covered sports since the mid-1980s including covering five Winter Olympic Games.