Nagano, Japan narrowly edged out Salt Lake City, Utah to host the 1998 Winter Olympics.
The Games would be memorable for many reasons, including Ross Rebagliati's snowboarding gold medal/marijuana scandal, 15 year old Tara Lipinksi's figure skating championship, Norwegian's cross country skier Bjorn Daehli earning his record 8th career gold medal and 12th overall, and Kenya's Phillip Boit competing in cross country skiing.
Though the biggest games were played on top of swimming pool, the hockey tournaments were perhaps the most memorable events of the Olympics. For the first time ever all players from the National Hockey League were permitted to play in the Olympics, truly making the Olympics a best on best competition. Also for the first time, women's hockey was introduced as a full Olympic medal sport.
Canada and the United States entered the tournament as favourites, if only because of their epic showdown two years earlier at the World Cup of Hockey in 1996. But both teams would end their tournaments in disappointment, while European teams rose to elation.
Backed by the goaltending of the great Dominik Hasek and the presence of superstar Jaromir Jagr, Czech Republic would win the gold medal. They upset Canada in the semi-finals in a shootout. Wayne Gretzky, hockey's greatest scorer, sat on the bench as he was not selected to be one of Canada's shooters.
Drowning in their own disappointment, Canada played lacklustre hockey in the bronze medal game, allowing Finland, with co-leading scorers Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu, to steal the medal. In Canada, where the attitude is gold or nothing, it did not seem to matter.
The Russians would take silver. Sweden would finish 5th and the Americans unthinkably placed 6th. Their lasting legacy of the Nagano Olympics was a trashed hotel room courtesy of a few unnamed players.
The American ladies did their country proud, upsetting the Canadians in the first ever women's Olympic hockey tournament.
The two countries, the only two powers in women's hockey to this day, faced off in a pre-Olympic tournament which saw Canada narrowly edged out USA 7 games to 6. The Americans had come a long way since the start of the decade, when Canada would defeat the Americans with ease. But since there was so little competition in the world, the two nations continued to practice against each other, quickly evening the level of play. But Canada always won the most important games, as in the World Championships.
That would change in Nagao. US goalie Sarah Teuting played the game of her life, stymieing the Canadian attack time and again, as the Americans captured the first ever Olympic gold medal in women's ice hockey by a score of 3-1.