Surprising but true

Jokinen’s prowess, Shtalenkov’s saves among Olympic oddities

17.01.2014
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What did Finland's Olli Jokinen do better than Alexander Ovechkin, Marian Hossa, and Jarome Iginla over the course of the last two Olympics? Photo: Jukka Rautio / HHOF-IIHF Images

Here, IIHF.com offers a list of 10 of the most surprising but true facts about Olympic hockey. If you get to the end without learning a single new thing, award yourself a gold medal.

1. Only one host nation has won the Olympics twice

That nation happens to be one that has never ranked higher than fifth in the IIHF World Ranking (instituted in 2003). It also has not won an IIHF World Championship tournament since 1933.

However, the United States excels when hosting. It came first in 1960 (Squaw Valley) and 1980 (Lake Placid), and earned silver in 1932 (Lake Placid) and 2002 (Salt Lake City).

The only theoretical opportunity in the imminent future for another host nation to win a second Olympics would be if Canada made a successful bid for 2026. Korea will host in 2018, while China, Kazakhstan, Norway, Poland-Slovakia, Sweden, and Ukraine are bidding for 2022.

2. No Canadian has captured three Olympic gold medals

Even though Canada is the all-time leader in golds (eight), no individual Canadian has more than two, whereas six former Soviet stars have three. Why is that?

In the early era of Olympic hockey (1920-1952), when Canada won six of its golds, the motherland of hockey sent a different amateur team every four years rather than a collection of all-stars.

Only two active Canadian NHLers won gold in both 2002 and 2010: Jarome Iginla and Martin Brodeur. None of them was nominated for Sochi 2014.

3. Czechoslovakia never won the Olympics

The now-defunct Central European nation really should have done it at least once. The Czechoslovaks pioneered hockey in the Eastern Bloc after World War II. They became perennial contenders for bronze at the IIHF World Championship in the 1950s and silver or bronze in the 1960s.

Czechoslovakia’s great missed opportunity for Olympic gold came in the 1970s. Their national team ended the mighty USSR’s nine-year streak of World Championship titles in 1972, and won back-to-back titles in 1976 and 1977. On top of that, Canada withdrew from IIHF competition from 1970 to 1976 due to a dispute over amateur eligibility rules in international hockey.

In this pre-NHL participation era, the door was wide open for Czechoslovakia. But it settled for Olympic bronze in Sapporo (1972) and silver in Innsbruck (1976). The nation’s final Olympic medal was bronze in 1992 (Albertville), and the following year, it peacefully separated into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

4. Olli Jokinen is the overall goals leader for the last two Winter Games

Sometimes accused of underachieving, the veteran Winnipeg Jets centre played an important role as Finland won silver in 2006 and bronze in 2010. The Kuopio native scored 6 goals in Turin and 3 in Vancouver for a total of 9.

That outstrips the likes of Alexander Ovechkin (5+3=8), Daniel Alfredsson (5+3=8), Marian Hossa (5+3=8), Jarome Iginla (2+5=7), Dany Heatley (4+2=6) and Teemu Selänne (6+0=6).

5. Mikhail Shtalenkov is the all-time leader in goals-against average

The Dynamo Moscow product, who won Olympic gold in 1992 and silver in 1998, probably isn’t the first name that comes to mind when you think of Russian goaltending excellence. Nonetheless, Shtalenkov’s career goals-against average of 1.64 is better than that of any other Olympic goalie with a minimum of 500 minutes played, edging out Czechoslovakia’s Jaromir Sindel (1.74).

The great Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak, alone in surpassing 1,000 minutes between the pipes, is only tied for fourth place on the list with Jarmo Myllys (1.87). They’re ahead of Martin Brodeur (1.89), Tommy Salo (2.21), and Vladimir Dzurilla (2.25).

Third place belongs to Tretiak’s mentor, Viktor Konovalenko (1.78).

6. Slovenia has just 148 registered senior male players

To put that in perspective, about one out of every six eligible players will be on the 25-man roster for these 2014 Olympic debutants. There are more indoor rinks in the Czech Republic (158) than registered senior male players in Slovenia.

7. Jaromir Jagr isn’t the oldest active player from the Czech team in Nagano

It’s surprising because in every NHL city Jagr visits now, the 41-year-old legend faces questions about whether he’s drawing a pension now or personally knew Julius Caesar.

However, in the Czech Extraliga, fellow Kladno native Pavel Patera continues to play for his hometown club, while Martin Rucinsky suits up for his original team, Litvinov. And both these 1998 gold medalists are 42.

8. Seventeen of the NHL’s top 100 all-time scorers are Olympic gold medallists

Considering full NHL participation in the Olympics didn’t start until 1998, and that the Soviet stars of the 1970s and ‘80s, who came to the NHL after the Cold War ended, were mostly past their prime, this is a surprisingly high number.

In alphabetical order, the list includes Daniel Alfredsson, Theoren Fleury, Jarome Iginla, Jaromir Jagr, Paul Kariya, Alexei Kovalyov, Mario Lemieux, Nicklas Lidström, Al MacInnis, Patrick Marleau, Alexander Mogilny, Joe Nieuwendyk, Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan, Mats Sundin, Joe Thornton, and Steve Yzerman.

9. Norway has a 30-year Olympic goal drought against Canada

There’s nothing shocking about underdog Norway losing to Canada or even getting shut out. But 30 years is a long, long time.

When Canada faces the Norwegians on 13th February 2014, it will be 30 years to the day since Stephen Foyn potted Norway’s lone goal in an 8-1 loss to the red Maple Leaf in Sarajevo. Since then, the team with the polar bear jerseys has fallen 10-0 (1992) and 8-0 (2010) to Canada.

10. The only players who’ve won an Olympic medal as KHLers are Finns

The Kontinental Hockey League was launched in 2008, and 21 of its 28 teams are based in Russia. Unsurprisingly, it’s heavy on Russian talent, with lots of Canadians, Czechs and Slovaks seeking their fortune there too. But since Canada and the U.S. took the top two spots in 2010 with all-NHL rosters, only Finland flew the KHL flag, so to speak, in Vancouver. It used four KHLers en route to bronze.

Forwards Jarkko Immonen and Niko Kapanen played for the Gagarin Cup champion Ak Bars Kazan that season. Six-time World Championship captain Ville Peltonen was with Dynamo Minsk, while defenceman Lasse Kukkonen suited up for Avangard Omsk.

LUCAS AYKROYD


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