The men’s ice hockey competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, begins on Feb. 14. The top seeds are Canada, Olympic Athletes from Russia and Sweden, but as the past century has shown us, anything can happen. Some gold medal-winning teams have had to overcome ties and/or losses to win. Others have dominated from the get-go. Here are the 10 best men’s ice hockey teams in Olympic history.
10. Canada, 1920
Ice hockey was actually first introduced at the Summer Olympics in Antwerp in 1920. Only seven countries participated and the Winnipeg Falcons, an amateur hockey team, represented Canada. The Canadians blew out their three opponents by a combined score of 29-1 to win the first gold medal in ice hockey in Olympic history.
9. Canada, 1928
(St. Moritz, Switzerland)
As the defending Olympic champion, Canada was given a bye from the first round and advanced to the medal round. There, they shut out Sweden, Great Britain and Switzerland to win a third consecutive gold medal.
8. Soviet Union, 1956
(Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy)
The Soviet Union had not previously sent an ice hockey team to the Olympics and in fact didn’t even start competing internationally until 1954. However, that did not prevent the U.S.S.R. from immediately making its presence known on the Olympic stage. The Soviets beat all seven of its opponents, including defending champion Canada 2-0 in the final game to launch a new era in Winter Olympics hockey.
7. United States, 1980
(Lake Placid, New York)
Unless you have been living under a rock, you are well aware that the 1980 U.S. hockey team upset the Soviet Union on its way to winning the gold medal. The win snapped a streak of four straight gold medals by arguably the greatest team in Olympic history. Although Team USA did tie Sweden, who won the bronze medal, its win over the Soviets puts it on this list.
6. Soviet Union, 1964
The Soviet Union won its second gold medal in hockey, outscoring all eight of its opponents by a combined score of 73-11. Peppered amongst the blowouts were close wins over Sweden, Czechoslovakia and Canada, who respectively finished second, third and fourth.
5. United States, 1960
(Squaw Valley, California)
The 1980 “Miracle on Ice” has always overshadowed the ‘60 U.S. team’s remarkable run, despite its greatness. Playing on home ice, Team USA beat the top four teams in the world, Canada, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union and Sweden en route to winning the gold medal. Herb Brooks, who coached the 1980 team, was the last player cut from the ‘60 squad.
4. Soviet Union, 1976
The Soviets won the last of their four consecutive gold medals, beating all of their opponents by an average score of 9-2.
3. Canada, 1924
Team Canada opened up the first Winter Olympics with a bang, beating all five of its opponents by a combined score of 132-3 (six games) to claim the gold medal. To put things into perspective, Canada’s leading scorer, Harry Watson, had 37 goals. That was more than any of the eight participating countries, except the United States (who won silver) and Great Britain (bronze).
2. Canada, 2014
The best team of the now-defunct NHL era beat all of its opponents and limited Sweden to 24 shots in the gold medal game. On paper, this version of Team Canada is the most talented team on this list, but I’m still not certain they would have beaten the squad that’s in the top spot.
1. Soviet Union, 1984
After winning the silver medal at the 1980 Winter Olympics, the Soviet hockey team returned with a vengeance. They won all seven of their games, outscoring their opponents 48-5. Of the Soviet Union’s seven gold medal hockey teams, the 1984 squad was certainly the most dominant.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.
(Top photo courtesy of hockeygods.com)