The Most Successful Hockey Teams at the Olympics

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Ice hockey is a longtime staple of the modern Olympic program. The sport was played at the Summer Olympics in 1920 and has been featured at every Winter Olympics since 1924. The program expanded to include a women’s tournament in 1998. Over the years, seven men’s teams and two women’s teams have won gold medals.

Canada is the winningest nation in Olympic history with 14 gold medals for ice hockey and 23 medals overall. The men’s team has won nine golds and 16 total medals, both Olympic records. Canada’s first gold medal came during the first Olympic ice hockey tournament in 1920. The team defeated the United States by a score of 2-0 to complete the first Olympic hockey tournament, while Czechoslovakia earned the bronze medal over Sweden.

The men’s national ice hockey team from Canada defended their gold medal four years later in Chamonix, the first Winter Olympics. This time the tournament was held entirely in round-robin fashion, with Canada again beating out the United States for the gold. Great Britain became the fourth country to earn a medal in ice hockey, winning bronze.

Canada’s national team ultimately won the first four Olympic ice hockey tournaments, picking up additional gold medals in St. Moritz and Lake Placid. Canada’s 1928 gold came over Sweden, their first triumph over a non-US team. In fact, America fell out of the medal table in 1928, but regrouped to win silver during the 1932 games in Lake Placid. The US men’s team won four out of five games, but opened their campaign with a costly 2-1 loss to Canada. Switzerland placed third in 1928, while Germany earned their first medal in hockey with a bronze in Lake Placid.

Canada’s run atop the ice hockey podium came to an end amid the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Canada, America, Great Britain, and Czechoslovakia won their round robin groups to qualify for the final round of play. Canada lost their first game to Britain by one goal, which ultimately proved the difference. Great Britain claimed two wins and the gold, followed by Canada and the US.

Canada resumed its dominance over the ice hockey program at the Winter Olympics, picking up additional golds in 1948 and 1952. However, the 1956 Olympics in Cortina d’Ampezzo marked the start of the Soviet Union’s run as the world’s preeminent nation for hockey. The Soviet Union team won seven golds, trailing only Canada.

The Soviet Union’s seven gold medals came from nine Olympic tournaments - the nation’s only losses came in 1960 and 1980, both times to the United States on American soil. The American men’s team earned their first gold over longtime rivals Canada by winning all seven games played. The 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, meanwhile, culminated in a memorable 4-3 US victory over the Soviet Union during the final round.

Since the end of the Soviet era of men’s ice hockey, gold medals have gone to Finland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. Canada earned additional golds in 2002, 2010, and 2014. Canadian women have added five golds, with the United States women’s national team winning in 1998 and 2018.