Canada became the first nation to win back-to-back gold medals in Olympic men’s ice hockey in 22 years by defeating Sweden 3-0 yesterday at the Sochi Games.
The victory gave Canada a sweep of the hockey medals. Three days ago, the Canadian women beat the US 3-2 in overtime to capture the championship.
Canada, who won their record ninth Olympic title, are the first nation to retain their gold medal since the Soviet Union won three straight in 1984, 1988 and 1992.
Sweden, who won the gold medal in 2006, were trying to become the first reigning world champion to also win an Olympic crown in 30 years.
Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz scored for Canada. Toews, of the National Hockey League’s Chicago Blackhawks, scored on a deflection with just more than seven minutes left in the first period. Crosby, of the Pittsburgh Penguins, added his goal on a breakaway with four minutes, 17 seconds left in the second period.
In the third, Kunitz stole possession just outside the Swedish blue line, moved into the zone and sent a wrist shot above the shoulder of goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Canada went 6-0 in Sochi, becoming the first undefeated Olympic men’s hockey champion since the Soviets took gold at the 1984 Sarajevo Games.
Finland won the bronze medal a day earlier, defeating the US 5-0. The Finns, who now have won a men’s hockey medal in five of the past six Winter Games, got two goals from 43-year- old Teemu Selanne — who was playing in his sixth Olympics.
The Winter Olympics ended yesterday with Russia on top of the medals table in a surprise sporting success for the host nation, but news that a fifth Sochi athlete tested positive for a banned substance dimmed the golden glow.
With two of 98 medals yet to be decided ahead of the evening closing ceremony on the Black Sea coast, Russia had 12 gold medals after a podium sweep in the 50km mass start cross-country race brought loud cheers in the mountains.
Organizers will be delighted that athletic achievement has gone hand-in-hand with a generally well-run Games, so far untouched by violence at the hands of Islamist militants opposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his pet project.
Voices of dissent over Russia’s human rights record, particularly regarding legislation that critics say discriminates against gays, have occasionally crashed the party, but attention has largely focused on sport.
The men’s ice hockey final was followed by the closing ceremony at the Fisht Stadium, one of several gleaming new arenas built in Sochi that helped push the price tag for Russia’s first Winter Games to an estimated US$51 billion, a record for any Olympics.
Only time will tell if the project, on which Putin has staked much of his prestige, was worth it, as Russia faces the formidable challenge of turning Sochi and the surrounding areas into a year-round sports and entertainment hub.
However, for now Russian officials are basking in the glory of an event they believe has helped them build bridges with the West, with which Moscow has had uneasy relations under Putin.
“The friendly faces, the warm Sochi sun and the glare of the Olympic gold have broken the ice of skepticism towards the new Russia,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, also Putin’s Olympics organizer, said over the weekend. “The Games have turned our country, its culture and the people into something that is a lot closer and more appealing and understandable for the rest of the world.”