The 2006 Olympics were held in Turin, Italy, or as the Italians call it, Torino, Italy. At a population of 1.7 million residents it was the largest city ever selected to host a Winter Olympics, although Vancouver will surpass that mark in 2010.
Turin was a surprise winner, as Sion, Switzerland was the favored choice. Helsinki, Finland, Poprad-Tatry, Slovakia, Zakopane, Poland, and Klagenfurt, Austria were also in the running.
The hockey tournament, with games played at the Torino Palasport Olimpico and the Torino Esposizioni, will forever be remembered for their Scandinavian dominance.
Eternal rivals Sweden and Finland faced off in the gold medal game, with Sweden emerging over the Finns by a score of 3-2.
Sweden was not a surprise winner by any means. They had a strong core of players who had underachieved in big tournaments for years. The difference this time around was the strong goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist, as well as the maturing of new stars like Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall and the Sedin twins. Of course this victory will always create warm memories of Mats Sundin, Peter Forsberg, Daniel Alfredsson and Nicklas Lidstrom wearing the blue and gold Tre Kronor jerseys.
No one really expected Finland to be in the gold medal game, but they were thanks largely to the incredibly hot goaltending of Antero Niittymaki. "Niitty" had never proven himself in the NHL, and has continued to struggle to find his game, but he got hot at the right time and led Finland to the gold medal game thanks to a 1.34 GAA and .951 save percentage.
Niittymaki was helped out by the tournament's two leading scorers - Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne. Olli Jokinen, Ville Peltonen and Jere Lehtinen also finished in the top ten.
The Czech Republic bumped Russia 3-0 to win the bronze medal.
It certainly was not a tournament to remember for the North American teams. Canada unthinkably finished in seventh place. Meanwhile the Americans finished even worse, in eight place. To say the tournament was a complete disaster for both North American squads is no understatement. Canada was shut out three times.
Just prior to the tournament Canada was distracted as Wayne Gretzky's wife Janet Jones and friend/assistant coach Rick Tocchet were accused of being a part of an illegal gambling ring. Jones was cleared of any wrong doing, while Tocchet plead guilty to conspiracy and promoting gambling. The gambling ring did not involve hockey in any way. In fact, for all the hullabaloo that this story created, it was really a big non-story; ultimately "Operation Slap Shot" was a story of a corrupt cop who set up the gambling ring and lured in some hockey celebrities. But the damage was done, as the media hounded Team Canada for their reaction as team director Wayne Gretzky was involved in a serious controversy for perhaps the first time in his life.
Gretzky was also criticized for his player selections, bringing the controversial Todd Bertuzzi over young superstars Sidney Crosby and Eric Staal. In addition to Bertuzzi's poor play, the filing of a law suit against him by Steve Moore while at the Olympics contributed to the team's distractions. Smaller controversies swirled around the inclusion of Dany Heatley and Shane Doan.
Gretzky's golden touch with Team Canada came an abrupt end.
Easily the biggest story of the women's Olympic hockey tournament was the fact that the Americans would not make it to the gold medal game.
Women's hockey at the elite level had always been a two-country showdown, with Canada and USA jockeying in epic battles for bragging rights. But the Americans ran into a hot goalie in Kim Martin as Sweden upset USA in what is now known as the "Mirakel." Martin stoned the Americans time and time again in regulation time, then in overtime and then in the dreaded shootout. The Americans, who controversially cut their greatest player, Cammi Granato, before the tournament, were unable to score. They had to settle for a bronze medal victory over Finland.
Sweden, who also got great efforts from Maria Rooth and Erika Holst, could not perform another Mirakel against Canada in the gold medal game. Canada won the game 4-1.
Regardless, the hockey community in Sweden were celebrating incredible performances by their men's and women's hockey teams.