International Ice Hockey Federation

Eight great 1998 moments

Eight great 1998 moments

Celebrating 20 years since women’s 1998 OG debut

Published 10.02.2018 09:39 GMT+10 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Eight great 1998 moments
The American team celebrates the historic, first women's Olympic gold in Nagano in 1998. Photo: IOC Archives.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since women’s hockey first appeared at the Olympics in 1998. It’s a special anniversary.

Women’s hockey has come a long way worldwide since the United States won that historic inaugural gold medal in Japan. Let’s revisit eight great moments from the Nagano tournament as we pay tribute to the pioneers of this Olympic sport.

1) Vaarakallio gets the party started

Finnish forward Petra Vaarakallio beat Sweden’s Annica Ahlen for the first goal in Olympic women’s hockey history. It came at 8:35 of the first period in a 6-0 win at the Aqua Wing Arena on 8 February. In 2005, Vaarakallio became the all-time leading scorer in the Finnish women’s league, although the Espoo product was later surpassed by fellow ‘98 Olympian Karoliina Rantamaki (the future all-time Olympic games leader with 27 games).

2) Hats off to Goyette

On 8 February, Canadian legend Danielle Goyette potted the first Olympic hat trick in a 13-0 romp over host Japan. The dazzling forward scored once in each period and added an assist on captain Stacey Wilson’s second-period goal. Goyette, who retired at 41 in 2007, was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2013 and the Hockey Hall of Fame last year.

3) Riikka runs wild

Riikka Nieminen (now Valila) racked up two goals and three assists in a 11-1 victory over Japan on 9 February, which put her on track to win the first Olympic women’s scoring title with 12 points. Inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2010, Valila, 44, is the only player in PyeongChang who also participated in Nagano.

4) China steps up

China’s 3-1 win over Sweden on 12 February was a vital stepping stone en route to fourth place in this six-team tournament. As usual, goalie Guo Hong, nicknamed “The Great Wall of China,” played a key role for her team. She made 23 saves, limiting the Swedes to one goal through two periods before the Chinese rallied with three goals in the final stanza. China will host the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.

5) Greatest American comeback

U.S. coach Ben Smith gave out chocolate hearts to his team before this sweet Valentine’s Day victory over archrival Canada. Coach Shannon Miller’s stars, who’d never lost to the U.S. en route to all four previous Women’s World Championship titles, were up 4-1 at 5:53 of the third period. But amazingly, the Americans roared back with six unanswered goals in 11:53 to win 7-4. Captain Cammi Granato led the way with two goals and an assist. It was a major psychological boost to win such a bitter battle.

6) Hello, Hayley!

Hayley Wickenheiser didn’t get the medal she wanted, but the 19-year-old from Shaunavon, Saskatchewan still made an indelible impression at her first Games. Building her resume as the world’s top power forward, she totalled two goals and six assists in five games. “Wick” would go on to capture four straight Olympic gold medals with Canada and finish her career as the all-time Winter Games leading scorer (51 points).

7) A fine Finnish

Finland, often touted as the world’s third-best team, lived up to that reputation with a 4-1 win over China in the bronze medal game. Emma Laaksonen (now Terho), the future Finnish national team captain, became the youngest Olympian to win a medal for Finland at 16 years and 54 days.

8) America’s golden glory

In a supremely dramatic gold medal game, the United States triumphed 3-1 over Canada before 8,626 fans at the Big Hat Arena. Gretchen Ulion and Shelley Looney gave the Americans a 2-0 lead with power play goals before Danielle Goyette cut the deficit to 2-1 on the man advantage with 4:01 left. In the dying moments, U.S. goalie Sara Tueting made a fantastic skate save on Stacey Wilson, and Sandra Whyte capped off her three-point night with an empty-netter. The historic victory accelerated the growth of women’s hockey in the United States, which has gone from 6,336 registered female players in 1990 to 75,382 today.

 

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