Until 1998, Canada had never sent all of its best players to compete at the Olympics, yet no other nation has as many Olympic hockey medals as Canada. This is an amazing accomplishment when you consider that until very recently Canada sent over Amateur club teams and rosters of minor leaguers, university students and Amateurs to face off against elite level European professional players.

For years, a major bone of contention has been the interpretation of the word Amateur in the framework of the Olympic Games. The Russians, for example, won several Olympic gold medals icing a team featuring their best of the best; names like Vladislav Tretiak, Valeri Kharlamov, Igor Larionov and Slava Fetisov fill their Olympic history. However, these players did not face off against Phil Esposito, Ken Dryden, Guy Lafleur and Mario Lemieux in the Olympic Games because these Canadians weren’t permitted to play due to their "professional" status. Why the Russians weren’t considered professionals when, in fact, that is exactly what they were, is totally unclear and the basis for the Canadians’ dispute. This ill-will led Canada to choose not to ice a team in the Read More
Until 1998, Canada had never sent all of its best players to compete at the Olympics, yet no other nation has as many Olympic hockey medals as Canada. This is an amazing accomplishment when you consider that until very recently Canada sent over Amateur club teams and rosters of minor leaguers, university students and Amateurs to face off against elite level European professional players.

For years, a major bone of contention has been the interpretation of the word Amateur in the framework of the Olympic Games. The Russians, for example, won several Olympic gold medals icing a team featuring their best of the best; names like Vladislav Tretiak, Valeri Kharlamov, Igor Larionov and Slava Fetisov fill their Olympic history. However, these players did not face off against Phil Esposito, Ken Dryden, Guy Lafleur and Mario Lemieux in the Olympic Games because these Canadians weren’t permitted to play due to their "professional" status. Why the Russians weren’t considered professionals when, in fact, that is exactly what they were, is totally unclear and the basis for the Canadians’ dispute. This ill-will led Canada to choose not to ice a team in the 1972 and 1976 Games. For those years Canada withdrew from international hockey altogether, frustrated by the inability to properly represent the country.

Nevertheless, this dark cloud should not overshadow the incredible accomplishments of Canadians at the Games. In the sixteen Olympic Games in which Canada has participated, it has won six gold medals and twelve medals overall.

The 1998 Nagano Games saw Canada finally ice a team comprised of the nation’s best players. The National Hockey League chose to freeze its schedule to allow its players to participate in the games. While Canada did not medal in the ’98 Games, Canada is expected to be a favourite in future Olympics with a roster full of the very best players from hockey’s number one hockey nation.

© 2001, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Team Canada

Team Canada celebrates a victory at the 1984 Winter Olympic Games. The '84 team boasted 14 players that went on to play in the NHL.

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© Hannu Lindroos/Hockey Hall of Fame


Eric Lindros

Eric Lindros, who captained the '98 Olympic team has many international appearances under his belt. Lindros has appeared in two World Junior championships, a World Senior, a Canada Cup, two Olympics, and the World Cup, all by his 26th birthday.

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© Phil Pritchard/Hockey Hall of Fame


The Silver-Medal Winning 1994 Canadian Olympic Hockey Team

The silver-medal winning 1994 Canadian Olympic Hockey team. The Canadians fell in a shoot out versus Sweden.

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© Canadian Hockey Association/Hockey Hall of Fame


Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Investigate the role that hockey plays in Canada’s national identity
  • Identify significant people involved in hockey in Canada
  • Explore Canada’s involvement over time in international hockey competitions including the Olympics and the Canada/USSR summit series

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