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Czech Republic’s Olympic ice hockey history: On this day

On this day in 1998, the Czech Republic won its first ever Olympic Ice Hockey gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Japan.

They defeated Russia in the final 1-0 to claim their first ever gold medal in the sport with former NHL player, Petr Svoboda, scoring the winning goal.

The 1998 Winter Olympics, better known as ‘Nagano 1998’ was a memorable occasion for the Czech Republic as they defeated Winter Olympic specialists, Russia, in the Ice Hockey gold medal match.

The victory was their first Olympic gold medal in the sport and as it turned out, it would be their only gold medal of the games. It was a great success for the Czech Republic who had crashed out at the quarter-final stage in the previous games.

Nagano 1998 was the first time players from the NHL (National Hockey League) were allowed to participate which proved to be a key factor in the Czech’s coming out on top as Svoboda scored the winning goal with 12 minutes remaining.

Svoboda became the first Czech to play over 1,000 games in the NHL having been selected fifth in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens and would go on to win the Stanley Cup with the team just two years later.

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Svoboda spent eight seasons with the Canadiens before moving on to spells with the Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning before retiring in 2001.

In May of last year he became the co-owner and director of hockey operations for Lausanne HC in Switzerland where he is still active today.

It was a stark contrast to the Russian team who were missing most of the NHL stars of their team who chose not to take part due to political reasons and as a result were not expected to do well.

The final turned out to be a closer encounter than people might have thought but the Czech team had the benefit of having Dominik Hasek in goal who was considered the best in the games as well as the NHL at that time.

The Czechs have been unable to replicate their success at Nagano 1998 and have since only won bronze at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin but it remains a historic victory and a memory never to be forgotten for Svoboda.

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