Very little was expected of the Canadian national men’s team at the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway — the last Olympic hockey tournament played without the NHL’s participation. Although Canada had claimed silver just two years earlier at the Games in Albertville, France, most of those players had left the program, including stalwarts Eric Lindros and Sean Burke. Head coach Dave King’s graduation to the NHL left a young Tom Renney, fresh off a Memorial Cup championship with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, behind the bench. During a half-season of barnstorm exhibition games and amateur tournaments in preparation for the Games, the Canadians posted a 27-24-3 mark while cycling through 42 different players, often struggling against elite competition. But the late additions of Paul Kariya and Petr Nedved, the Czech-born defector who on July 1, 1993 became a Canadian citizen, helped turn the tide and a plucky group fought its way to a surprise silver, losing to Sweden in a classic gold-medal game on Peter Forsberg’s iconic shootout winner. This is their journey.
TOM RENNEY, Head Coach It was difficult for me to get a hold of Dave and have him walk me through the Olympic experience. He was the new head coach of the Calgary Flames and he had his own world to concern himself with. Myself and Dany Dube, the associate coach, we talked a lot to Clare Drake, and he was very helpful, having been to the Olympics a couple of times himself in a coaching capacity. We had George Kingston, who’d been in and around the international game to the point where his help was beyond valuable. We also had Paul Henry, our head scout, who was absolutely essential in the procurement of players. More than anyone else [Henry] got us players — simple as that.
FABIAN JOSEPH, Captain Having played in the ’92 Olympics and being one of the older guys on the team, I was fortunate enough to become the captain of the ’94 team. We also had Brad Schlegel, he was our captain in ’92, [and] Wally Schreiber, that was his third Olympics, so we had some veteran players and there’s definitely an advantage to lending some of our experiences to the younger guys on the club.
PAUL KARIYA, Left Wing I was drafted by the Ducks that year. I don’t actually remember if they offered me a contract, but I made it clear that playing for Canada was my No. 1 goal. I was able to get a semester in at the University of Maine before I joined the national team and maybe I had two months with them before the Olympics.
COREY HIRSCH, Goaltender I was playing for the Rangers at the time and when they signed Glenn Healy to a four-year, $1-million a year deal as a backup, it was a foregone conclusion I was going to the minors. The previous year I was AHL Goalie of the Year, Rookie of the Year, had a really good season. They felt the national team was the best spot for my development. Tom Renney was my coach in junior hockey and the connection with him started when we won a Memorial Cup together, so it was a progression of who you know and who you’re comfortable with. The timing was perfect.
TODD HLUSHKO, Left Wing In a nutshell, I played two years in the Washington Capitals system in the American Hockey League, did well there, but as the hockey world goes, they had different ideas and plans for me, so I really didn’t have anywhere to play after my second year. I ended up getting a call to try out with the national team.
CHRIS KONTOS, Left Wing I missed the 1992 Olympics with a nagging hip flexor that just wouldn’t heal 100 per cent because we were playing so much hockey, living out of a suitcase. Luckily for me, two years later the Olympics were back on. I had contract problems with Tampa and the national team said, “We’ll take you.” I needed clearance to become an amateur again. I wanted to get out, the NHL had me sign some documents that allowed me to get out of my contract so I could go play at the Olympics. It was something I wanted to do and looking back all these years, I’m glad I did it.
ADRIAN AUCOIN, Defence I got passed over in the [NHL] draft and went to Boston University. I went into the school of engineering thinking I was going to get a job. At the time, I didn’t realize the potential I had, which turned out to be a good thing. The summer after my first year at BU, I ended up getting drafted [in the fifth round by the Vancouver Canucks], which was great, and got invited to the world junior camp, which was really a shot from way out in left field because it’s usually all first-rounders, maybe second-rounders. I ended up showing well and Paul Henry asked if I’d be interested in coming to play for the men’s national team for a full year. It was a no-brainer. It ended up being, hockey-wise, the best decision of my life.
HLUSHKO We were a bunch of castoffs, a lot of guys trying to rejuvenate their careers, get things going again, and young guys like myself who didn’t have a place to go. It turned out to be a great thing, just an unbelievable year of travelling around the entire world, places I would never have gone if not for hockey.
KONTOS We had the circus tournaments across Canada where you’d play Russia, play different university clubs — anywhere you could play — practices at the national training centre, conditioning and everything. If the Olympics were [in the fall of ’93], we wouldn’t have had a chance. But we bonded, worked at things and tried to figure things out and it all came together at the right time.
JOSEPH In November, we went to a test tournament in Lillehammer. They were still building the Olympic village, the facilities and stuff, and there were all kinds of big boxes for furniture and appliances. There was quite a walk between where we stayed and the security at the front. I remember Hlushko hiding in one of the boxes until some of us walked by, he’d jump out and scare the crap out of us.
AUCOIN Todd is arguably one of the best, if not the best teammate I’ve ever had. He wanted to be involved in everything in a positive way. Not to say that he didn’t like to stir the pot and get guys wound up, because that was his specialty, but he was always such a team player.
JOSEPH Chris Kontos was quite a prankster, too. He had a whole suitcase filled with dentures. He went up to the security guy one time, got a hold of his hat and coat. I think it was late at night. He woke up Tom Renney and myself and said we had to talk to Paul Kariya at the security desk. He had us all fooled because he was dressed as a security guard, he had these teeth in. We made that long walk, which seemed longer because of the circumstances. He got us all in the interrogation room with Kariya, started asking questions. All of a sudden he took the hat off, the glasses and the teeth — he got us pretty good that night. It was unreal.
HLUSHKO One of the best disguises and acting jobs I have ever witnessed. He had me completely fooled.
KONTOS Tom Renney and Dany Dube went crazy. They wanted to fight me until I took my disguise off. We did a lot of hard travel and I was one of the elder statesmen on the team and I’ve always been a prankster, so I’d always do stuff with the guys to joke around and keep everybody loose. I had wigs and false teeth that I made up for myself, kind of like Chevy Chase in the old Fletch movies. It’s just something to break up the monotony.
HIRSCH We weren’t very good up past Christmas. Once Nedved and Kariya joined us, it was a different team. We had always wondered about the citizenship thing with Nedved and how he was going to get it. We’re happy that he got it. As far as Kariya goes, he was a college player, none of us knew how good he was. We’d heard he was good, but we didn’t know he was going to change our whole team.
RENNEY Obviously two pretty key people for us. Petr was involved in contract issues with Vancouver and they were good enough to allow him to play for us. And Paul had always wanted to be an Olympian. He had to finish his first semester at school. When he joined us, along with Petr, you could see the whole group take a huge step forward.
KARIYA I think the Ducks were happy for me to have another year to get stronger, especially during that first semester at Maine; to keep lifting weights during the year and get as strong as I can for the following year.
AUCOIN Some of the talk in the locker-room was, everybody got a standard contract, how did they get these guys? Who’s going to come here for $22,000 when you’re a player of their stature? But Kariya and Nedved were just so different, so elite. There were so many other awesome players, Brian Savage, Dwayne Norris, Todd Warriner, but they were just at another level.
HLUSHKO In late November, we had a black Sunday in Waterloo, Ont. Tom had to make some serious cuts to get these higher-level guys to come in and play for Team Canada. It sucked. Everyone was in tears. We were on the ice, like, “What’s going on, where is everybody?”
RENNEY We had player meetings and released players. It was a bit of a haphazard practice, no different than a trade deadline day in the National Hockey League, that’s the dynamic of human nature and paring a group of people down to what you think will have success. It was obviously a big day for a lot of people and not a particularly fun day for others.
KONTOS I got there just before that. Unfortunately, I would have been one of the reasons guys got cut. They were changing the roster to try and find that mix they wanted to go with. I’m a seasoned pro by that time, I’m 30 years old, I’d been up, I’d been down, sideways. That’s part of the business, man. You get numb to it, know what I mean?
RENNEY I’d certainly made player releases, but there was nothing that matched this at all. All I ever wanted to do as a coach is coach Team Canada at the Olympic Games, that was my No. 1 objective. There’s certainly an emotional connection to all of that. The last cut I made was Jason Marshall, who I had as a 16-year-old in junior hockey and half-a-dozen years later he’s the last cut for the Olympic team going into Lillehammer. You can appreciate how we felt about each other prior to that, leading up to that and during that. That was personally my toughest release, for sure.
HLUSHKO It was a tryout the entire time, legitimately, up to the 11th hour. We had Brett Lindros on our roster but a month before the Olympics he [tore ligaments in his left knee]. We went to the [Sweden Hockey Games] a couple of weeks before the Olympics and we didn’t have a lot of success, but we started to compete more against the higher teams. Earlier in the season, we were getting destroyed by the better teams, like we have no hope, we’re getting killed. But in Sweden, we started figuring out a way to play against those guys, understanding the European game and how we could compete against those guys.
HIRSCH I wasn’t playing very well. Tom Renney knew how my mind worked. We had a one-on-one meeting in Sweden and he gave me the confidence that I was going to be the guy. After that, I felt comfortable, finally, and took off from there. In the media, there was a lot of talk of them bringing in another goalie, rumblings about an older, veteran goalie from the National Hockey League. As a young kid, it was weighing on my mind. But he told me I was going to be his guy, there was no one else coming, and when you know that as a goalie and can just focus on the task at hand, that changed everything.
KONTOS Just before the Olympics we were just starting to find our legs. Our grinders were finishing checks, disinteresting [the opposition] in playing their skill game, and we just kept coming in waves.
JOSEPH Tom Renney and Dany Dube had us totally prepared in terms of conditioning and the confidence level in the room started growing. They instilled in us that we were going to have to have success as a team, not as individuals, and be hard to play against. We knew that we were ranked sixth or seventh but we knew that if we played well as a team and everybody executed our system, we were going to be hard to beat.
HLUSHKO Tom implemented a basic left-wing lock: we’re going to trap it up a little bit; we won’t try to run-and-gun with any team; we’re going to rely on our defensive hockey, making sure we always had numbers in our own zone; and that seemed to frustrate a lot of teams. We were standing guys up on the blue line, guys weren’t able to enter the zone as easily they were before, and that’s what turned it around a bit. Everyone bought in and we started winning games.
RENNEY I think other teams looked at Canada as maybe an easy game, maybe this is our chance to beat Canada at the Olympics. Because of that, we were motivated to be well organized, well prepared. Our attention to detail was impeccable. We played hard, we played smart, we played harder longer and I think teams, I don’t want to say underestimated us, but I’m sure we gave them more than what they expected.
Canada opened the Olympics by beating Italy 7-2, followed by a 3-1 victory over France to set up a pivotal game with the United States. The Americans had gone 8-2-1 versus the Canadians in various exhibition games ahead of the tournament, but had tied their first two contests in Lillehammer. Dwayne Norris’s second goal of the game, 1:16 into the third period, put Canada up 3-2, but Todd Marchant evened it with just 28 seconds left. The teams settled for a 3-3 tie.
HLUSHKO Throughout all the preliminary games against them, we just had no chance. But they were scrambling and it was like all the good things they did were falling apart. It was disappointing we didn’t get the win but it was a bit of a statement game for us, like, “OK, we’re here for real now.”
RENNEY We felt we were the better team, that we had played better than them, that we were the dominant team and that we had in fact come full circle to where we could take on anybody and win a hockey game.
KONTOS We had a plan; Tom Renney had us all buy into it: finish checks, stay strong. You had goal-scorers buying into 30-second shifts, guys saying, “If that’s what it’s going to take to win, I’m in, unconditionally.”
After a 3-1 loss to a Slovakian team that featured Peter Stastny, Zigmund Palffy and Miroslav Satan, Canada closed out the round robin against a stacked Swedish team that was among the favourites for gold. Mats Naslund, Hakan Loob, Magnus Svensson, Tommy Salo and a young phenom named Peter Forsberg highlighted Sweden’s roster.
AUCOIN When we played at the [Sweden Hockey Games], Wayne Fleming, who was coaching Leksands at the time, met with us and Tom was like, “He’s going to give you some insight on Team Sweden.” Basically he told us how we were going to lose the game because Forsberg is better than any other player in the world. It was my first meeting with him and I thought he was such a douchebag — pardon my French. I was like, who comes into a locker room and says that? Then we played against Team Sweden and Forsberg dominated us, must have had four or five points. There’s nothing worse than a guy saying something you don’t like and then him being right. I ended up loving Wayne, he was so awesome, but not the first time I met him.
This time the Canadians kept Forsberg off the scoresheet. Nedved’s go-ahead goal at 10:56 of the second period stood up in a 3-2 victory.
AUCOIN We had that Canadian mentality where we’re just going to try to beat the tar out of them.
JOSEPH Beating the favourites really gave us confidence that we could get to the gold-medal game.
HLUSHKO The Swedish game was really interesting. It was awesome, we were extremely happy — you see the guys they had, some great players. But I do remember one thing. After the game I was like, “Did they do this on purpose?” I don’t think that was the plan but by losing the game, they got a weaker opponent in the quarterfinals. I remember stretching in the hall, we were all in one general area, and Forsberg came out, looking up at the TV, seeing a result, seeing that they play Germany in the quarterfinals, and I remember him giving a fist pump — “Yeah, we got Germany.” He was excited, almost like the loss to Canada wasn’t a big deal because they’re going to get a weaker opponent in Germany, where we ended up drawing the Czech Republic. So, it kind of worked out in Sweden’s favour that we beat them 3-2. I’m not saying they threw the game by any means, but maybe that was in the back of their heads.
Sweden cruised past Germany 3-0 in the quarters while Canada matched up against a Czech squad manned by European veterans and led by Jiri Kucera and netminder Petr Briza. Brian Savage’s second goal of the game, with 5:25 left in the third period, tied things up 2-2 and at 5:54 of overtime, Kariya scored to send Canada into the medal round.
HLUSHKO In the final round-robin game, I went to hit Peter Forsberg and I separated my shoulder, a second-degree separation, so I had freezing before the [quarterfinal] game, my arm all shot up so I could play. By the time overtime started, my arm was hanging, just dangling dead weight. When Paul scored, I jumped over the side, putting my hands up and giving Paul a big hug, we’re all celebrating and I’m in the most excruciating pain. Big Chris Therien is tapping me and punching me, just hitting me in the shoulder, and I’m screaming because it hurt so much. But there was such jubilation.
KONTOS When we won in overtime, you realized you had a chance at least to win a medal — that was one of my goals leaving the NHL to go play in the Olympics. I’m of Greek descent, I lived there at 10 years old, went to school there, followed the Olympic Games. I knew what the Olympics were all about. They were on my bucket list. To have a chance to win a medal, you could taste it at that point.
JOSEPH I felt we were the top conditioned team at the tournament and when you’re in a tournament like that, playing every other day, your conditioning really comes to the forefront. That was a defining factor for us. We were phenomenal in terms of being an athlete as opposed to a hockey player.
In the semi-finals, Sweden held off a late rally to beat Russia 4-3, while Canada drew powerhouse Finland, which had finished the round robin 5-0 and dismantled the U.S. 6-1 in the quarterfinals. The Finns featured Saku Koivu, Jere Lehtinen, Ville Peltonen, Mikko Makela and the goaltending tandem of Jarmo Myllys and Jukka Tammi.
HIRSCH The Finns started their backup goalie [Tammi]. They were trying to save their No. 1 for the final. We were like, “Wow,” but halfway through the game we were down.
HLUSHKO Finland beat everyone handily — no one had a chance against them. Regardless of who was in net, they weren’t giving up any goals and I think they thought they would just skate us into the ground and pound away at us. It didn’t start well for us, going down 2-0. It was like an avalanche came at us. They were flying.
Saku Koivu and Esa Keskinen scored goals 1:40 apart early in the second, but the momentum turned midway through the period when, on a broken play in the neutral zone, Joseph corralled a loose puck and sprung Hlushko on a breakway that ended with a backhander lifted over Tammi’s glove. Nedved tied it 3:25 later, Brad Werenka and Jean-Yves Roy scored 3:03 apart early in the third period, and Greg Parks iced it at 14:19. The final was 5-3 Canada.
HIRSCH We just started going off on their goalie and we couldn’t stop scoring. It was unbelievable.
HLUSHKO I scored five goals in that tournament and the biggest goal of my life was scoring the first one against Finland. It could have been anybody, but that put us in striking distance. Then Nedved scores to tie it up and that got the ball rolling. For us to score five goals against those guys was incredible. I remember the look of disbelief on their faces. Counting down, I looked at their bench and remember asking myself, “How on God’s green earth did we just beat these guys?” But we did.
HIRSCH The coolest part about all of it was that after we had beaten the Finns, it was like, “Wow, I’m getting a medal!” After that everything was gravy. And it still felt like we didn’t have a ton of pressure. We were the underdogs. The Swedes had to perform and we had already beaten them. The real game that was stressful was the one against Finland. After that, it felt like we were playing with house money. We were getting a medal; it was just a matter of what colour it was going to be.
The day before the gold-medal final, the Canadians finished practice with a shootout. “I won it,” Aucoin remembers proudly. But Renney and Dube also developed a contingency plan in the event regulation and overtime didn’t decide the outcome.
RENNEY Corey Hirsch played extremely well for us, he was every bit the goaltender we needed to get ourselves to a level of confidence where we could take our game to the opponent. We also felt like by the nature of the shootout and our lack of experience with it, we would be better served by a goaltender that could get himself into the butterfly, be a little more flexible and go from post-to-post. Hirschey was a stand-up goaltender and we felt Manny Legace would be the guy to go to in a shootout. We thought everybody would have seen Corey by now, they’d have some type of a book on him — he’d played every game. They would not know Manny to the degree they needed to in order to beat him. We felt that both by how he played the position and the fact that our opponents would not know much if anything about him, we would go to Manny in the shootout.
HIRSCH I hadn’t been very good in shootouts; I wasn’t a very good breakaway goalie at that point. It was a little bit out of our element, as North Americans we weren’t used to shootouts, we never had them.
HLUSHKO When we did have shootouts, Manny was really good.
RENNEY In the warmup, Manny took a shot off the top of the knee and his knee ballooned right up to the point where he couldn’t get his equipment back on, couldn’t skate and ultimately could not backup Hirschey in the final game. Allain Roy went in as the backup in his place.
HLUSHKO I always like to go out to the bench before the game and tape my stick up on the bench, look around, try to get the atmosphere, maybe get a puck and stickhandle on the ice in my running shoes. CBS was doing the games in the United States and Mike Eruzione, captain of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team, was doing some colour commentary for those guys and he was on our bench. I looked at him and was like, “That’s Mike Eruzione! This is foreshadowing something. This is a sign we’re going to win this game.” I went and introduced myself, talked to him for about five minutes. I go, “Any advice? You’ve been down this road before.” And he goes, “You know what? Just enjoy it. It’s going to go so fast. Make sure you play your game, but enjoy the game.” It wasn’t anything inspirational but it made a lot of sense because the game does go by so fast. You want to win it, but you have to enjoy the moment.
RENNEY We were a team of destiny.
HLUSHKO We walked on the ice side-by-side with Sweden. There’s young Peter Forsberg standing right beside me and all I could think to myself was, “I’m going to do something this game that’s going to be a difference-maker. I’m going to be so physically hard on this guy.” We played against him — Greg Parks, myself and Fabian Joseph — and I said, “Anytime I get an opportunity, I’m going to run this guy.” Every time I got out there, I tried run him and it was like running into a brick wall. The guy was so strong I had to abort that idea midway through the game and tried to come up with a different gameplan. Playing physical against him really wasn’t an option. He was so strong, even at that young age.
Forsberg helped set up the game’s first goal, 26 seconds after a Mark Astley hooking penalty, making a behind-the-back pass from behind the net to Loob, who sent the puck to the point for a Tomas Jonsson one-timer that beat Hirsch. The game stayed there until midway through the third.
KONTOS We had guys finishing checks, grinding hard. Hlushko’s eyes were black-and-blue from getting elbowed in the face trying to finish checks. Corey Hirsch, man, we were right there. It’s almost like you were playing a road game. Sweden was really good, really skilled, but Corey kept making the saves, we got our chances and ended up scraping two out.
HLUSHKO They were outplaying us. They had a lot of zone time, they created a lot of offence and we resorted to our gameplan for the entire tournament, which was let’s take care of our defensive zone and capitalize on chances if they get frustrated. That played into our hands. Sweden was getting frustrated. When Paul Kariya scored to tie it up [at 9:08 of the third period], that gave us some relief, and then when Derek Mayer scored [2:35 later], you’re sitting on the bench and it’s surreal. You’re five minutes away from putting a gold medal around your neck.
RENNEY We were in control of the game at that point. I felt that if we just stayed the course, continued to play hard, manage the puck, manage our shifts, keep fresh people out on the ice, that all the pressure would be on Sweden to the point where they might do something extraordinary and we could even get a third goal. As it turned out, there was the call very late in the third period on Brad Werenka for hooking — a bit of a phantom call, something that had not been called for the entire tournament.
KONTOS It was a really cheap penalty.
HIRSCH We took that penalty and it’s unfortunate how that went. The goal went off a defenceman’s skate.
Forsberg pulled the Canadian forwards low by charging the net before delivering a nifty feed to Magnus Svensson. Svensson’s point shot snuck through traffic in front and nicked off Mayer’s skate and past Hirsch.
AUCOIN We were just rolling. It almost felt like it was meant to be. But it’s hockey. Seconds matter. Split-seconds matter. We take a penalty, all of a sudden the momentum swings a little bit, but it wasn’t that devastating because it was like, we’re still going to win this.
HIRSCH We still felt like we were in a position we never thought we’d be in.
RENNEY We’d overcome a lot already, we would overcome this set of circumstances, as well, and we’d find a way to win the game.
HIRSCH We were starting to dominate the overtime. Todd Hlushko hits one of their defencemen [Kenny Jonsson] behind the net, absolutely crushes him, and the game started to change. Unfortunately, there were only 10 minutes of overtime, but I felt like if the game would have gone longer, we were starting to control the game.
HLUSHKO We didn’t have a lot of success in shootouts leading up to the Olympics. We knew it wasn’t going to be to our advantage if we get to the shootout. They just had so much crazy skill and they were more accustomed to it.
RENNEY We practised the shootout continually. Even in our exhibition games, no matter what the score was, we’d do three shooters each just to practise it at the end. But we’d never done it in an Olympic Games before.
Each team selected five shooters after overtime ended without a decision. Canada shot first. Nedved scored and, after Loob was stopped, Kariya scored to make it a 2-0 lead. Svensson scored, then Norris, Naslund and Parks were all stopped before Forsberg tied things up. Both Johnson and Roger Hansson were stopped, sending the shootout into an extra round. The teams switched shooting order and Svensson missed, bringing up Nedved’s second turn.
KARIYA Petr went out and just deked the goalie, Salo was out of the net. He was on his backhand and had a big curve on his stick, and I can remember empty net and it just rolling off his stick.
AUCOIN I was at the end of the bench and I remember seeing Tom Renney and Dany Dube jump because they thought Nedved scored. For some reason, I think Nedved had broken his stick before the shootout, but grabbing a new stick just before the shootout makes no sense to any hockey player. Every stick is a little different, especially back then, with wood.
RENNEY After the game, Petr recognized that the tip of his stick was broken. He could still get his shot off, but he went forehand/backhand and the puck rolled off the tip of his stick and hit the floppy part and ended up in the corner. That’s the way it goes. We still had comfort in who we had in goal and who was shooting and we felt we could pull that off.
HLUSHKO I chalk it up more to the hockey gods saying Canada can’t win it with a defecting Czech guy scoring the game-winning goal, ending a 42-year gold-medal drought. Maybe there was a higher power saying, “You’re not doing it with a Czech.”
AUCOIN The story was their coach said, “OK, Mats Naslund, you go,” and [Naslund] was like, “I’m not going.” Then Forsberg was like, “I’ll do it.” The rest is history.
RENNEY Mats Naslund and Hakan Loob were both asked to go in and shoot and they told their coach they couldn’t shoot, it was too much pressure. Forsberg said, “Yeah, I’ll go shoot.”
KARIYA Then, of course, Peter Forsberg goes and does one of the best moves in hockey history.
AUCOIN Corey had him, he’s basically behind the net already, three feet to the left, it’s no problem. Suddenly he tucks it around. It was so effortless, like holy crap. It was almost unbelievable. You’re in awe. Like, what just happened? How did that happen?
KONTOS The thing that pissed me off the most is I thought Corey had just grabbed it with his glove. I thought he had nonchalantly picked it up and stood up. Then the crowd went nuts and you could see Corey look dejected and the puck was by him.
JOSEPH It was quite a gutsy play by him considering the circumstances. You might try that in practice, but you’d never think someone would try that in a game.
HIRSCH The whole shootout I just tried to be as aggressive as I could and force players to deke because we had just played a lot of hockey, I was hoping the ice would be bad. I did get away with it a couple of times with guys losing the puck. I forced Peter to deke, but great players in great moments do what they do and he did what he did. That move was completely foreign to us. It was kind of a surreal moment in time. It was such an amazing moment that I think everybody couldn’t believe it. But we had confidence that Paul was going to score.
KARIYA It’s my turn to go, and I remember thinking I’d beaten Salo glove side the first shot and I kind of felt like I had him set up to either go five-hole or low stick. I had a plan in my head and because of how great Peter’s goal was, there was a guy on the side of the boards, and he had his hand up and they must have been replaying the goal over and over and over again. I’m on the ice, circling, getting more and more nervous with each passing moment. I kept looking and the guy’s hand was up. I don’t know how long it was in elapsed time, but it felt like an eternity for me to wait there. By the time I went, I started second-guessing myself and I wound up trying to repeat what I did and go glove side. Obviously Salo saved it and that was history.
RENNEY Great shot selection. Tommy Salo dives to his right, Paul goes to take a wrist shot into the top right-hand corner and it hits Tommy Salo right in the pad. I’m not going to tell you it was a fluky save; he did everything he could in front of whatever was coming as a shot, and he made the save.
HLUSHKO It’s so easy to say now, just hold on to it and skate around him and you have an empty net, but I’ve been in those situations. Paul is a 19-year-old kid, he exceeded expectations in the tournament, he was fantastic, but if you go down there and you’re not 100 per cent sure, you change your mind — you’ve got to commit. He commits to it, Tommy Salo guesses right and stacks the pads and Paul just doesn’t get it up enough. It was devastation.
KONTOS I wish I was a shooter in the shootout after scoring 27 goals in the NHL [the previous season]. For whatever reason my shoulder never got tapped and deep down inside I feel like I could have made a difference. We’ll never know. We almost had them. They ended up having the last laugh and getting it.
KARIYA It was really disappointing, especially in that moment. When I look back on it, I should have kept with my gameplan and followed through with it. But at the same time, going into the Olympics we were ranked maybe eighth or ninth in the world, so for us to win a silver medal was a huge accomplishment for everyone involved. It’s probably the biggest achievement in my hockey career, even though we lost. I still have fond memories from it.
AUCOIN The only thing I really remember from the medal ceremony is standing with Corey Hirsch. I had my arm around him and I talked to him the whole time. Goalies put so much stress on themselves and we were good buddies so I tried to console him. There was nothing good about it. Corey was almost numb, just in disbelief. I can’t really remember the locker room after. I can’t remember if there were tears, any of that stuff. You just kind of blank.
HLUSHKO We never felt like we lost the gold medal. We felt like we lost the skills competition. To this day, that’s still what hurts more than anything. We never lost that game. We get presented the silver medals, which was bittersweet, but I look at that medal now, I’ve got it hanging in my basement, I get disappointed, I wish it would have been gold, but my solace is that we never lost that game.
RENNEY I’ve never watched a replay of the game. I’ve watched the Forsberg shootout goal. But I’ve not watched 10 seconds of that game since 1994. We wanted to win playing hockey. Period. That’s probably the biggest reason why I haven’t watched the game since. I know the result; I know how it finished and the mechanism behind that. I’ve coached in the NHL since and won lots of shootout games. Doesn’t mean I believe in it, like it, enjoy it. Lillehammer is probably the reason why.
JOSEPH As time goes by, it was a big accomplishment for our group. It was unreal. The bonds you form playing on an Olympic team, especially those national teams, travelling around together, representing your country throughout North America and Europe, the bonds last forever. A lot of people call it white gold as opposed to silver because it was decided in a shootout.
KONTOS When you lose the gold, you feel like, deep down, I don’t even want this silver, I lost. All these years later I cherish my silver medal, I love it, I’m so thrilled to have a medal it’s not even funny. But in the moment, it’s so hard because the gold was that close. I almost lost it three or four years ago. It was on display at the Penetanguishene Sports Hall of Fame, somebody broke in like four or five different doors with glass and wire in them, broke the case that was locked up and stole my medal. But the medals they made up had a flaw, they had a little clasp that if jiggled a certain way, the medal would fall off the ribbon. So it actually fell off on the thief afterwards, hit the rubber floor and rolled into some wires. I lost the ribbon but still have the silver medal.
HIRSCH We had put so much into it, our hearts and souls, a whole year of preparing for that moment. But at the end of it, we weren’t expected to get anything, we weren’t expected to medal, people had written us off. To bring home a medal is pretty cool. I look at it today, it doesn’t matter what colour it is. I have one, and it’s very select company that has an Olympic medal. Whenever I see one of those guys today, they’re like brothers to me. We shared something great for two weeks that linked us together forever. That’s pretty cool, too.
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