Swedish meltdowns have happened before

Originally published on IIHF.com in 2002

By Lucas Aykroyd

Before yesterday’s shocking result, Sweden losing to Belarus in Olympic hockey seemed about as likely as Greta Garbo posing for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue or ABBA releasing a gangsta rap album.

Belarus’s 4-3 upset in the quarter-finals will never be forgotten by Swedish hockey fans, or indeed sports fans around the world.

The day after the game, the Swedish press vented their outrage. One paper even ran a mock postage stamp depicting Tommy Salo clutching feebly at his mask as the puck skipped over him for the winning goal by Vladimir Kopat.

People should remember that this wasn’t the first time Swedish hockey has gone down in flames in international competition. Here are some of the more memorable examples.

The 1976 Canada Cup

In the inaugural edition of this classic hockey tournament, Sweden had to beat Finland and then trump the Czechs in order to advance to the final versus Canada. In those days, the Finns were much further down the world hockey pecking order, and Sweden was heavily favored to win. At one point in the game in Winnipeg, Tre Kronor held a 5-1 lead. But Finland mounted an unbelievable comeback and triumphed 8-6, rendering Sweden’s subsequent 2-1 win over the Czechs useless.

The 1993 IIHF World Junior Championships

The Swedes brought one of the strongest teams ever to the World Juniors this year, loaded with future NHLers. Peter Forsberg set a tournament record with 7 goals and 24 assists, while linemate Märkus Naslund grabbed his own record with 13 goals. Kenny Jönssön was chosen to the tournament all-star team. But despite Forsberg’s bold prediction that his team would beat a less talented Canadian squad, they fell 5-4 and Canada claimed the gold.

The 2000 IIHF World Championships

Sweden cruised to easy victories over the likes of Ukraine and Belarus early in the tournament in St. Peterburg, Russia. But down the stretch, it dropped a 5-3 decision to the USA and lost 4-2 to the Russians, who were at their most incompetent that year. Juha Lind sealed Sweden’s fate when his goal snapped a 1-1 tie and gave Finland a 2-1 win over Tre Kronor in the quarter-finals. Sweden’s seventh-place finish was its worst showing since 1937.

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