On Saturday, February 22nd in 1998 all people from the Czech republic were watching an early morning gold medal game – the final Czech republic against team Russia.
Czech TV speaker Robert Zaruba was opening the golden gate and screamed on air: ” We are Olympic champions! Rewrite the history – the Czech republic won the Olympic Games.”
The 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano were the first games that the NHL allowed their players to participate in. The result featured the best hockey talent that the world had to offer at the time.
The Czech Republic had a number of those players, including the legendary Jaromír Jágr, Hall of Fame goaltender Dominik Hašek, Martin Ručinský, and defenseman Petr Svoboda, the first Czech to play 1000 games in the NHL.
And while the USA and Canada – who had previously faced off in the 1996 World Cup – were the heavy favorites to win, the Czech team stunned the world by beating both of them and then topping Russia in the gold medal final to become only the 7th country ever to win a gold medal in ice hockey, just five years after the nation had been founded
An incredible performance by goalkeeper Dominik Hašek coupled with Petr Svoboda’s lone goal midway through the third period (in his first appearance with the national team at a senior level) handed the Czechs a historic victory.
The following day, a victorious parade with the team drew hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of Prague to celebrate the victory. In the minds of many older Czechs, the memory of Czechoslovakia’s victory against the Soviet Union at the 1969 World Championship, less than a year after the crushing of the Prague Spring, was not too far away.
The story of Czech team’s dramatic win at Nagano is recounted in The Nagano Tapes, produced by Frank Marshall and directed by Czech filmmaker Ondřej Hudeček.
Most people remember where they were at the time of Nagano,” Hudeček said. “We are better able to recall moments that were highly emotional for us. I was ten and was at my grandparents on the Sunday morning. I woke up a bit late for the match and missed a few minutes. I was annoyed.