QUEBEC – There probably aren’t too many Canadians that will agree with this choice – the top hockey story of the past 100 years belongs to the Americans.
The 1980 Miracle on Ice victory at the Olympics was named the best hockey moment of the century at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s gala dinner on Saturday night.
Paul Henderson’s winning goal for Canada at the 1972 Summit Series was selected as the second best story.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in attendance and mentioned that event during his speech.
“For Canadians of my generation, the 1972 Summit Series stands out above the rest,” said Harper. “It was an epic battle.”
The IIHF compiled a list of the top 100 moments to commemorate its 100th birthday and unveiled the final 10 here at the world championship. It also named an All-Century Team that included Wayne Gretzky at centre.
The Great One was a unanimous selection and the only Canadian chosen by the panel of 56 writers from 16 different countries.
There are four Soviets on the team – forwards Valeri Kharlamov and Sergei Makarov, defenceman Vyacheslav Fetisov and goalie Vladislav Tretiak. Sweden’s Borje Salming was the other defenceman selected.
It’s hard to argue with anybody in that group but there will certainly be some who question the IIHF’s story of the century. A small group of hockey historians from that organization spent two years compiling the list and ranking the stories.
The 1980 U.S. Olympic team was comprised of collegiate players and knocked off the Soviet Union 4-3 in a thrilling semifinal. The Americans went on to beat Finland 4-2 in the championship game, capturing gold on home soil in Lake Placid, N.Y.
“If we had played (the Soviets) 100 times, we probably would have lost 99,” said Mark Johnson, who was a 21-year-old centre on that team. “What happened at Lake Placid nobody thought about, nobody fascinated about, nobody dreamed about.”
It has been the subject of two films and numerous books.
“This is what defining sporting moments are made of,” said International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge.
The Summit Series took the next two spots on the list. Henderson’s goal was second while the Soviets’ surprising 7-3 win in the opener of that event in Montreal was third.
Habs legend Jean Beliveau gave the introduction for Gretzky, who didn’t attend the ceremony and had Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe accept the honour in his place.
Gretzky played his first international event at the 1978 world junior championship and later represented his country at Canada Cups, the 1982 world championship, 1996 World Cup of Hockey and 1998 Olympics.
“He singlehandedly altered the perception of Canadian hockey internationally,” said Beliveau. “All the other nations were scared (of him).”
Gretzky received 38 votes, which is 35 more than anyone else received at centre.
No other Canadian players were even close to earning a spot on the team. Mario Lemieux finished 13 votes behind Makarov and Paul Coffey was 13 back of Salming.
Three of the six players named to the team were in attendance. Kharlamov’s son Alexander accepted the award on behalf of his father, who was killed in a car accident in 1981.