January 21, 2014

1976 Olympics at Innsbruck, Austria

The Winter Olympics returned to Innsbruck, Austria in 1976 thanks to an emergency situation. Denver, Colorado originally was awarded the Games, but skyrocketing costs forced the Americans to withdraw. Even though Sion, Switzerland and Tampere, Finland finished 2nd and 3rd in the original selection process, the IOC offered the 1976 Olympics to Whistler. A bid from Vancouver originally finished 4th. Due to a change of government, the British Columbians declined the opportunity to host the Games, opening the door for Innsbruck.

Canada continued its international hockey boycott because of amateur hypocrisy. Sweden, with many of its top players going to the NHL and WHA, joined Canada in the boycott for the 1976 Games, resulting in a six team medal round tournament with teams from the Soviet Union, the United States, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Poland and West Germany. Romania, Austria, Japan, Yugoslavia, Switzerland and Bulgaria did not qualify.

Soviets Golden Again, CSSR Silver Lining

With Canada and Sweden not present, the only team standing in the Soviets' path to gold was their arch rivals from Czechoslovakia.

The Czechoslovakian hockey team had to battle the flu as well as their arch rivals from the Soviet Union. Goaltender Jiri Holecek was their key player, turning aside 46 shots in a 2-1 win over Finland followed by the tournament's only shutout in a 5-0 win over the United States. Later that year at the Canada Cup tournament, the legendary Bobby Hull proclaimed Holecek was the best goalie in the world.

The Czechoslovakian bid was almost derailed due to a failed drug test. Team captain Frantisek Popisil tested positive for using performance enhancing drugs. Apparently he was given a dose of pure codeine in an attempt to beat the flu. As a result of the failed drug test the CSSR 7-1 victory over Poland was recorded as a 1-0 forfeited win for the Poles. Popisil was allowed to continue playing in the tournament.

CSSR marched on, and found themselves in a position to win gold in the final game of the tournament. But the Soviets hung on for a 4-3 victory, with the great Valeri Kharlamov scoring the winning goal. Here is most of the third period of the gold medal deciding match between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union:

Germany's Greatest Olympic Hockey Moment

The West Germans were the surprise team on the podium, capturing the bronze medal thanks to a 4-1 victory over the United States on the final day of competition.

Tied 1-1 after two periods, the Germans erupted for three goals on 22 third period shots, while goalie Anton Kehle shut the door, making 35 saves in the game.

But the key player for Germany was the Czech-born Erich Kuhnhackl (pictured). He opened the scoring for the Germans and set up all third period tallies. His four point effort gave him 10 for the tournament, equalling four Russian players for the scoring title.

GreatestHockeyLegends.com is the home of an extensive history of Olympic hockey. You can view each Olympic hockey tournament (men's and women's) below by clicking on the year of your choice. You can also enjoy my profiles of Olympic Hockey Legends.

1920 - Antwerp, Belgium
1924 - Chamonix, France
1928 - St. Moritz, Switz.
1932 - Lake Placid, USA
1936 - G.P., Germany
1940 - No Games - WWII
1944 - No Games - WWII
1948 - St. Moritz, Switz.
1952 - Oslo, Norway
1956 - Cortina, Italy
1960 - Squaw Valley, USA
1964 - Innsbruck, Austria
1968 - Grenoble, France
1972 - Sapporo, Japan
1976 - Innsbruck, Austria
1980 - Lake Placid, USA
1984 - Sarajevo, Yugoslavia
1988 - Calgary, Canada
1992 - Albertville, France
1994 - Lillehammer, Norway
1998 - Nagano, Japan
2002 - Salt Lake City, USA
2006 - Torino, Italy

2010 - Vancouver, Canada

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