Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - Sweden - 2006 Olympic Games
One on One Turning Point

11 JUNE 2013
Sweden's Niklas Kronwall #7 battles with Finland's Teemu Selanne #8 for the loose puck during gold medal game action at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Hockey Canada Images)
The Olympic Games of 2006 took place in Turin, Italy in February of that year, and it came as a surprise to many when Sweden skated away with Olympic hockey gold.

With NHLers allowed to participate in Olympic hockey competition beginning in 1998, the quality of hockey was exceptionally strong as it was the best hockey players in the world now competing for their respective countries. Sweden was as stacked as any of the teams participating in the tournament, with a roster that started with Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers in goal. The defence corps included Christian Backman of the St. Louis Blues, Niclas Havelid of the Atlanta Thrashers, former NHLer (Maple Leafs and Islanders) Kenny Jonsson, Detroit's Niklas Kronwall and Nicklas Lidstrom, Mattias Ohlund of the Vancouver Canucks and Daniel Tjarnqvist of the Minnesota Wild. At forward, the Swedes included Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators, P.J. Axelsson of the Boston Bruins, Peter Forsberg of the Colorado Avalanche, Tomas Holmstrom, Mikael Samuelsson and Henrik Zetterberg of Detroit's Red Wings, Freddy Modin of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Sammy Pahlsson of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Daniel and Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks and the Toronto Maple Leafs' captain Mats Sundin, who served in the same capacity with Sweden.

Team Sweden jersey worn by netminder Henrik Lundqvist throughout the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy.
Twelve spots were reserved for the men's hockey tournament, with the first eight awarded to the top eight teams in the International Ice Hockey Federation's ranking following the World Championships in 2004. This gave berths to Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and the United States. The ninth spot was allotted to Italy as the host country. The last three spots were awarded through qualification tournaments, and Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Switzerland won those places.

Sweden's Daniel and Henrik Sedin showing off their gold medals after a 3-2 gold medal game win over Team Finland at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Hockey Canada Images)
The twelve teams were then placed into two groups. Group A was comprised of Canada, the Czech republic, Finland, Germany, Italy and Switzerland while Group B was made up of Kazakhstan, Latvia, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and the United States. After playing a round-robin, the top four teams in each group advanced to the medal round.

Finland proved to be the cream of Group A, going undefeated in five games and scoring a whopping 19 goals while allowing just two. The other three qualifying teams from this group were Switzerland (two wins, one loss and two ties), Canada (three wins and two losses) and the Czech Republic (two wins against three losses).

Pucks used to score all five goals by Sweden and Finland during the gold medal game of the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy. Sweden defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom broke a 2-2 tie earning to give his country a 3-2 win and its first Olympic hockey gold medal since 1994.
After suffering a 5-0 spanking at the hands of Russia, the Swedes topped Kazakhstan 7-2, Latvia 6-1 and the United States 2-1 to guarantee themselves a quarter-final berth, but still had a game to play against Slovakia in the Group A round-robin. The final score saw Slovakia shut out Sweden by a 3-0 count and during one five-on-three advantage, with Daniel Alfredsson, Peter Forsberg, Nicklas Lidstrom, Freddy Modin and Mats Sundin on the ice, Sweden failed to register a shot on goal. Whispers surfaced that Sweden may have purposely lost the game so that they would meet Switzerland rather than traditional powerhouses Canada, the Czech Republic or Russia.

As it turned out, Slovakia topped Group B in the round-robin, going without a loss in their five games, with Russia (four wins and a loss), Sweden (three wins and two losses) and the United States (one win, three losses and a tie) also qualifying.

Sweden's Mats Sundin #13 and Peter Forsberg #21 showing off their gold medals after a 3-2 gold medal game win over Team Finland at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Hockey Canada Images)
Advancing to the medal round, Sweden defeated the Swiss quite handily (5-2) and then dumped the Czech Republic, 7-3. This set up a gold medal final against the archrival Finnish team; an all-Nordic final that featured 36 NHL players between the two teams.

The gold medal contest was played on February 26, 2006. After one period, Finland had a 2-0 lead over Sweden, but the Swedes managed to tie the score in the second period. Early in the third, Peter Forsberg won the faceoff, passed inside Finland's zone to Mats Sundin who then passed the puck back to Nicklas Lidstrom at the point. Lidstrom wired a slapshot that beat Antero Niittymaki to give Sweden a 3-2 lead, and it proved to be not only the winning goal, but the gold medal-winning goal to boot. Henrik Lundqvist was stellar in maintaining the Swedish victory. With the win, Sweden earned its first Olympic hockey championship since 1994.

With Sweden's gold medal-win, Finland had to settle for the silver medal. Bronze went to the Czech Republic, who blanked Russia 3-0.

Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu led all Olympic scorers with 11 points in 8 games. Sweden's leading scorer was Daniel Alfredsson with 5 goals and 5 assists for 10 points in 8 games. Mats Sundin scored three times and added 5 assists for 8 points in his 8 games for Sweden.

Antero Niittymaki of Finland was named best goaltender as well as most valuable player. Directorate Awards for best forward went to Finland's Teemu Selanne and best defenceman to Kenny Jonsson of Sweden. The Olympic All-Star Team was comprised of Selanne and Koivu from Finland and Alexander Ovechkin of Russia at forward, Kimmo Timmonen of Finland and Nicklas Lidstrom of Sweden on defence and Niittymaki in goal.

Team Sweden players and staff gather for the celebratory group photo following their 3-2 gold medal game win over Team Finland at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy.
(Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Hockey Canada Images)

Kevin Shea is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame.