The fast pace, superior skill and guaranteed excitement of professional hockey make it one of the greatest team sports on the planet today. North America and Canada may have the biggest tournaments but European countries like the Czech Republic, Finland and Sweden also have first rate teams in play. It’s a game the world can get behind.If, like myself, you’re already a fan of high-octane on-screen excitement, you might already enjoy squeezing in a game of Risk, spinning the wheel at Sky Vegas roulette or tuning in to the latest hockey game. No doubt you’re also a die-hard fan of this lively sport. It’s no surprise that countries with a natural surplus of snow and ice for at least half of the year excel in this arena, but which games have been the best hockey matches of all time? I mean the games that have showcased the most exceptional players, the most thrilling goals and the tensest, edge-of-your-seat moments. Here I’ve listed our top 5 at Section1Hockey.
1980 Winter Olympics: United States vs Soviet Union
We start off with a big moment in hockey-playing history, sometimes referred to by American fans as a ‘miracle on ice’. On the ice were a bunch of inexperienced but enthusiastic U.S. college players, going up against the indomitable Soviet Union team. Nobody expected the U.S. to come out on top, especially as they’d lost spectacularly to this very same competitor just two weeks earlier. What transpired was a red letter day for the young American team. With just under 12 minutes left to play, they tied with the Soviet Union before snatching victory from them two minutes later. The match ended 4-3 to the U.S., who went on to win the Gold medal for that year.
1972 Summit Series: Canada vs Soviet Union
Hockey is the national (winter) sport of Canada and one that holds a special place in the nation’s heart. Therefore, when Team Canada went up against the Soviet national team in an eight game series to show which country was the supreme champion of the game, fans held their breath. Going into Game8, the final match, it was an even playing field with both sides having secured 3 wins each and the third game ending in a draw. The Soviet team looked strong all the way up to the last period, until Paul Henderson secured victory for Canada with a literal last minute winning goal. The rest, as they say, is history. Ask any Canadian over a certain age where they were at this moment, and there’s no doubt they’ll be able to tell you; it’s seared into the national consciousness.
1950 Stanley Cup Final: Detroit Red Wings vs New York Rangers
Moving a little further back in time to 1950, we see two big American teams pitted against each other to win the prized Stanley Cup. This was the match that started the victory laps of the rink, that proved American players could be skilful and proficient, and which became known as one of the closest finals in the Cup’s history. Heading into double overtime, the score was 3-3 with no indication of which way it would go. Then relatively unseen Detroit player Pete Babando skidded onto the stage, scoring the winning goal for the Red Wings. His team mate Ted Lindsay then led a victory lap around the arena, holding the Cup aloft triumphantly.
1987 Canada Cup Final: Canada vs Soviet Union
That’s right, it’s those two titans of hockey together on the ice again with a close call that had fans on the edges of their seats. This goes down as one of the most entertaining, nail biting games of hockey in the sport’s history and one which, regardless of the result, was enjoyed by everybody that watched it. Again, the Soviets started out strong, but Canada managed to pull it back in the last few minutes. Legendary players Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux worked together to deliver a hot shot goal that ensured their team’s place at the top of the leader board. It was a beautifully set up shot, expertly executed by two world-renowned players.
2014 Winter Olympics: Canada vs United States
Whilst women’s hockey may not yet receive the screen time and notoriety that it well deserves, there are some stand out games that gain their fair share of recognition. Canada vs the U.S. in the 2014 Olympics was one such game. With whispers of dropping women’s hockey from the roster all together at the next Games, this match meant more than ever. These two teams are the biggest names out there when it comes to women’s hockey and, in the arena at Sochi, they put on one hell of a show. It looked like the Americans might maintain the upper hand, but then Canada tied in the last minute before scoring that sweet winning goal during overtime.