Revisiting Canada's stunning loss to the Czech Republic in Nagano

The 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan marked the advent of NHL player participation in the men's hockey tournament. Naturally, the event was met with much fanfare and expectation, despite the fact that games were being played 14-17 hours ahead of local time in NHL cities across North America.

The tournament was billed as an opportunity for Canada and the United States to renew a rivalry developed at the 1996 World Cup, which was won by the Americans after they took Games 2 and 3 of the best-of-three final.

That storyline went awry when the Czechs knocked off the Americans in the quarterfinals, setting the stage for a semifinal matchup with Canada. That game has become perhaps the most well-remembered event from the tournament, primarily due to the fact that it was decided in a shootout, a concept that was rather foreign to North American hockey fans at the time.

Here's a look back at what transpired back on Feb. 20, 1998.

How they got there

All the scoring in this one was done in the third period: Jiri Šlégr gave the Czechs a 1-0 just prior to the ten-minute mark, while Trevor Linden tied it up with 1:03 left in the game.

A ten-minute overtime session (in which Canada posted a 5-1 advantage in shots) settled nothing, setting the stage for the skills competition.

The Results

With Patrick Roy in one net and Dominik Hasek in the other, the shootout played out as follows.

SHOOTOUT Czech Republic Canada
Round 1 Theoren Fleury - miss Robert Reichel - goal
Round 2 Ray Bourque - miss Martin Rucinsky - miss
Round 3 Joe Nieuwendyk - miss Pavel Patera - miss
Round 4 Eric Lindros - miss Jaromir Jagr - miss
Round 5 Brendan Shanahan - miss X

One goal was all it took; the Czechs were off to a gold-medal game against Russia (which they won), and Canada was relegated to a bronze-medal match with Finland (which it lost).

The Video Footage

Here's a replay of the shootout (via CBC), which, for some reason, took almost five minutes to begin.

Memorable Quotes

Legendary Hockey Night in Canada broadcasters Bob Cole and Harry Neale were on the call, and delivered more than a few great lines during the proceedings.

  • Neale on the coin toss: "This is the most important yen in Japan right now."
  • Cole on the best shootout strategy: "I don't know how you do this."
  • Neale after Reichel's goal: "1-0 Czechoslovakia in the shootout!" (Czechoslovakia had peacefully dissolved into the Czech Republic and Slovakia five years earlier. Details, Harry).
  • Neale on the shootout: "We don't want this in the NHL, it's too exciting!"
  • Cole prior to Nieuwendyk's attempt: "He's had a great series for Canada, Joe Nieuwendyk has. You gotta do it now, Joe baby!"
  • Cole on Hasek's save on Lindros: "NOOO! Hasek got a little piece of that. Is this guy human?"
  • Neale's wrap up: "As exciting as the shootout is, it's an awful way to lose."

The Great One, benched

Head coach Marc Crawford decided to leave Wayne Gretzky on the bench for the shootout, choosing instead to afford the famously accurate Ray Bourque an opportunity to pick a corner for the win.

The Great One's reaction pretty much sums up how all of Canada felt after the game was decided.

End Note: Overtime / Shootout Procedures for 2014

As the 2014 men's hockey tournament gets set to begin in Sochi on Wednesday, this tale serves as a reminder that, in all likelihood, a similar situation will arise at some point over the next couple weeks. 

Here's a quick recap of the what may transpire, courtesy of

For the preliminary round these are similar to what they are in the NHL; a five-minute overtime session of 4-on-4 play with the teams defending the same end they defended in the third period. If no goal is scored the game moves to a shootout.

The length of the overtime session increases in the playoff rounds.

Overtime will be 10 minutes of sudden-death play in the qualification round, the quarterfinals, semifinals and bronze-medal game. In the gold-medal game a 20-minute sudden death overtime session will commence after a 15-minute break. Teams also will change ends for overtime in the gold-medal game.

The shootout procedure is different from the NHL. In the Olympics coaches can re-use shooters that already have attempted a shot if no winner is determined through the first three rounds of the shootout.

Revisiting Canada's stunning loss to the Czech Republic in Nagano
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