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Ice Hockey Friday, 11 January, 2002, 11:30 GMT
US have much to prove
The USA celebrate their ice hockey gold medal at Lake Placid
Celebration time for the USA at Lake Placid
Home soil seems to suit the USA men's ice hockey team.

Their two gold medals in the event have both come in front of their own supporters and at Salt Lake City they will be hoping to make it third time lucky.

Back in 1960 the US team won at Squaw Valley in California and 20 years later they repeated the trick at Lake Placid.

But after some less than inspiring performances in subsequent Games, the US team have a lot to prove this time around.

Between 1956 and 1994, the Soviet Union (including the 1992 Unified Team) won all but three of the Olympic hockey tournaments.

But the US triumphs against the odds in 1960 and 1980 were a surprise - all the better as they beat the Soviet Union en route to gold.

Goaltender Dominik Hasek helped the Czech Republic to a gold medal in 1998
Czech Republic goaltender Dominik Hasek starred at Nagano

In 1960, the Soviets came into the tournament as defending Olympic champions and unbeaten in international competition since 1956.

But the USA triumphed 3-2, grabbing the winning goal with five minutes to play.

Celebrations

It was the first time the USA had beaten the USSR at ice hockey and it sparked wild celebrations.

At subsequent Games, the Soviet Union regained the upper hand and at Lake Placid in 1980, they again looked red hot favourites to make it to the top of the podium.

A week before the start of the games, the US were beaten 10-3 by the Russians and confidence was not particularly high.

But in one of the greatest ever Olympic ice hockey matches, the Americans rose to the big occasion yet again in front of the fanatic crowd and, unlike the 1960 victory, a huge television audience.

USA's 1980 medal winner Mike Ramsey
Mike Ramsey helped the US to 1980's gold

They came from behind three times before beating the Soviets 4-3 in the semi-final before clinching the gold medal with victory over Finland.

Just a week before the start of the Games, America had been beaten 10-3 by the Russians so their victory in front of the home crowd was a sweet success.

All-time low

When it comes to the medals table, the US lag behind Canada and the Soviet Union and that gold in Lake Placid 20 years ago was their last medal.

NHL star Jaromir Jagr was also part of the 1998 gold medal winning side
Jaromir Jagr captained the 1998 Czech Republic side

Despite the presence of 17 NHL players, the first time the NHL allowed its players to compete, things reached an all-time low for the US at Nagano in 1998

They lost to Sweden in their opening game and were eliminated by the eventual gold medallists the Czech Republic.

Shame

The players were criticised for their casual attitude to the tournament - some had been spotted partying late into the night.

They heaped further shame on themselves after the 4-1 defeat to the Czechs when a dorm room in the Olympic Village was trashed, causing $3000 worth of damage.

USA star Jeremy Roenick
USA star Jeremy Roenick lined out in Nagano

But surprisingly, Great Britain has also made it to the top of the podium in ice hockey.

Against all the odds, they took the gold medal in 1936 at the Bavarian resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Nine of the twelve-man team were born in Great Britain but moved to Canada when they were children and learned to play the game there.

Links to more Ice Hockey stories are at the foot of the page.


Links to more Ice Hockey stories



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