Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - United States - 1996 World Cup
One on One Turning Point

United States - 1996 World Cup

2 APRIL 2013
Team USA's Brett Hull led all scorers
at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey with
seven goals in seven games.
(Photo by Ottawa Senators/HHOF)
The World Cup of Hockey made its debut in 1996, and is the successor to the Canada Cup, a tournament that began in 1976 and ran until 1991. It was organized by the National Hockey League and, accordingly, took place outside of the NHL season in order for the best players in the world to participate.

The inaugural World Cup tournament included eight teams divided into two divisions. The North American grouping included Canada, Russia, Slovakia and the United States, and was played in North American cities. The European grouping was comprised of the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany and Sweden, with games played in Europe.

Mike Richter backstopped the American
squad at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.
(Photo by Ottawa Senators/HHOF)
Each team in the group played a three-game series, with the top team in each group advancing to the semi-finals while the second- and third-place teams played single elimination games in a cross-over quarter-final. The championship final was a best-of-three series, played in North America.

Germany advanced to the semi-final from the European group and the United States finished first in the North American loop.

Canada eliminated Germany with a 4-1 victory to proceed to the semi-finals, while Russia blanked Finland 5-0. In the semi-finals, the United States defeated Russia 5-2 and, with a goal by Theoren Fleury at 19:47 of the second overtime period, Canada edged Sweden by a 3-2 count. At 99:47, it was the longest game in the history of international hockey.

Team USA pose for a championship photo following winning the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. (Photo by Doug MacLellan/HHOF)
The final featured an all North American three-game series with two hockey powerhouses, Canada and the United States. Game One, played in Philadelphia, took overtime to decide but saw Canada top the U.S. 4-3. The dramatic contest saw the U.S. tie the game in regulation with just seven seconds remaining in regulation time and goaltender Mike Richter on the bench for the extra attacker. Then, at 19:47 of overtime, Steve Yzerman of the United States scored to give his team the win.

Game Two, played in Montreal, was a 5-2 win for the United States. It all came down to Game Three, played September 14 and once again, at the Molson Centre in Montreal. Brett Hull, playing for the United States, scored in the first period, but Eric Lindros tied the score with a goal in the second period. Adam Foote put Canada ahead mid-way through the third. Hull scored for the U.S. on a goal disputed by Canada, who felt it was put in with a high stick, but the officials reviewed the goal and the tying goal stood. The Canadian team came unglued and allowed two more goals and then, in desperation, pulled their goalie with a 4-2 deficit late in the period. The U.S. cemented the win with an empty net goal and finished with a 5-2 score to win the World Cup of Hockey championship in 1996.

Skates worn by Team USA captain Brian Leetch during the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. Team USA jersey worn by captain Brian Leetch during the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. Team USA blazer worn by general manager Lou Lamoriello throughout the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.

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