Legends of Hockey - Spotlight - Team Canada (women) - 2002 Olympic Games
One on One Turning Point

Turning Point - Team Canada (women) - 2002 Olympic Games
Canada's Haley Wickenheiser celebrates with Geraldine Heaney after a goal against the U.S. during gold medal game action at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, UT. (Dave Sandford/HHOF/IIHF/Hockey Canada)
The super-powers in women's hockey at that time, Canada and the United States, accomplished what they had set out to do. Both rolled over their opponents through preliminary games resulting in the expected showdown with the two facing each other for the Olympic gold medal.

The U.S. had captured the first gold medal in Women's Hockey at the Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan in 1998. While Canada had won each of the World Championships against their American adversaries, it was the Olympic gold on which they had set their sights in 2002.

The competition was difficult enough, but the Canadians faced another adversary in the title match on February 1, 2002. They were called for eight successive penalties by referee Stacey Livingston. Team USA iced a strong squad, but to have them on the powerplay, including two five-on-threes in the first period, was more than a little daunting. Yet, the Canadians weathered that storm. Strong defensive play backstopped by the fine work of goaltender Kim St-Pierre kept the Canadians in the game.

With millions of eyes glued to their television sets, the two battled to the every final moment. Just after Hayley Wickenheiser put Canada up 2-1, It looked as though the United States had potted the equalizer. In fact, Karen Bye's shot travelled through the Canadian crease, but convincing enough that U.S. teammate Krissy Wendell begin a celebration that turned out to be unfounded.

Canadian players and staff celebrating after a 3-2 victory over the U.S. in the gold medal game at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, UT.
(Dave Sandford/HHOF/IIHF/Hockey Canada)
Canada fended off both the American powerplays and the onslaught, although a late goal on a deflection gave Team USA a new lease on life. But 3-2 was as close as they got on that day, and Team Canada celebrated wildly, their gold medals proudly hanging around their necks.

The win took place in advance of the men's Olympic gold medal game. To a person, the Canadian men's team admitted that the women's victory gave them a real lift going into their final game. And the women on Team Canada had also been tipped off that the Edmonton icemaker in Salt Lake City had buried a one-dollar coin, a "loonie," under the faceoff circle at centre ice to bring both the women's and men's team luck. As the women's team began to search for the good-luck coin, they were shooed away, not wanting to give away the secret of a hidden talisman benefiting both Canadian hockey teams. Subsequently, Team Canada's men also took the gold and the "lucky loonie", now housed at the Hockey Hall of Fame, has taken on legendary status.

Two players from Team Canada's Women's Team that won the Olympic gold medal in 2002 have gone on to represent Canada in three further Olympic tournaments, bringing a total of four Olympic gold medal championships to Jayna Hefford and Hayley Wickenheiser.

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