Let the real games begin.
Now that the Olympic hockey tournament is into the quarterfinal stage and none of the international gnats-on-ice upset one of the big boys, the excitement gets ratcheted up another notch with some serious one-and-done drama.
But the Games haven’t always offered high drama; there have been some serious blowouts over the years. The all-time Olympic goal leader, for instance, is Canada’s Harry Watson with 36 tallies. Watson scored all of those goals at the 1924 tournament in Chamonix, France, one in which the Canadians outscored their opponents 132-3 in six – yes, six – games. (And you thought the women’s results were lopsided.)
The rule of thumb when it comes to Olympic records is that 1956 represents the dividing line between the early and modern eras. That’s the year the Soviet Union skated onto the international hockey scene and began its reign as the preeminent international hockey power; any record book without the Soviets is hardly worth noting…sorry, Mr. Watson. Also, by ’56 a number of countries could boast top international teams.
So we present THN.com’s Top 10 Olympic records of the modern era, based on how impressed we were by them.
10. Most points, one game
Czechoslovakia’s Vaclav Nedomansky posted six goals and eight points against Poland in 1972 at Sapporo, Japan; the six goals are also the standard for goals in a single contest. But the Poles weren’t exactly a powerhouse that year – they were 0-5-0 and outscored 39-9 – which is why Nedomansky’s record leads off here.
9. Most points, one tournament
Canada’s Fred Etcher set this mark with nine goals and 21 points in 1960 at Squaw Valley, Calif.; Etcher’s 12 assists are also tied for the most ever in a single tournament. Like Nedomansky, Etcher’s opposition wasn’t always the toughest – opponents included Japan in group play and West Germany in the final round – but Canada did only win silver, so Etcher beats out Nedomansky.
8. Most goalie games played, career
The Soviet Union’s legendary Vladislav Tretiak leads with 19 Olympic appearances during four Games from 1972 to 1984, earning three golds and a silver for his troubles and finishing with a 1.87 goals-against average in 1,000-plus minutes. Tretiak’s 17 career Olympic victories are also a record, but we deemed that mark less impressive because NHL and World Hockey Association pros were barred from the Games.
7. Most medals, career
Russian Igor Kravchuk’s two gold medals breaks a tie with Czechoslovakia’s Jiri Holik; both have four total medals. Kravchuk’s first and final medals came 14 years apart. He began with the Soviet Union in 1988 and finished as an NHLer playing for Russia in 2002.
6. Most goals, one tournament
Nikolai Drozdetsky scored 10 goals at the 1984 Sarajevo Games, helping the USSR return to the top of the medal podium. In 1964 at Innsbruck, Austria, Albin Felc of Yugoslavia and Japan’s Masahiro Sato both notched 12 goals, but did so in the B Pool, so we give Drozdetsky the edge in this category.
5. Lowest goals-against average, career
Lots of Soviets and Russians in the Top 10 and this category is no exception. Mikhail Shtalenkov played 13 games for Russia during two Olympics – the 1992 Albertville (France) and 1998 Nagano (Japan) Games – finishing with a 1.64 GAA.
4. Most assists, career
Best known on the west side of the Atlantic for having his ankle broken by Bobby Clarke during the 1972 Summit Series, Valeri Kharlamov is to Russia what Maurice Richard is to Canada – an original superstar. Kharlamov totaled 22 assists in three Olympics from 1972 to 1980, cementing himself as the greatest Olympic set-up man ever.
3. Most Olympic tournaments
Few things are more impressive than longevity, something Finland’s Raimo Helminen had in spades. Helminen played in an amazing six Olympic tournaments, beginning in Sarajevo in 1984 as a 20-year-old and ending in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2002 as a 38-year-old. Not surprisingly, Helminen’s 39 Olympic games is also a record.
2. Most goals, career
Sweden’s Sven ‘Tumba’ Johansson was voted Sweden’s greatest player ever in 1999 for good reason. Although he did play at the 1952 Oslo (Norway) Games, we’re going to say his 25 Olympic goals are good in this category because he’s classified as a “modern-day” player (he also played at Innsbruck in ’64). ‘Tumba’ led the Tre Kroner to bronze and silver medals during his career.
1. Most points, career
This record was set at these Olympics to a decidedly little amount of fan fare. But with his second assist of the Vancouver Games, Teemu Selanne passed Kharlamov and Czechoslovakia’s Vladimir Bastalik (who also played in the Oslo Games). The Finnish Flash had 37 points (20 goals, 17 assists) heading into Wednesday’s quarterfinal action.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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