International Ice Hockey Federation

Premiere in St. Petersburg

Premiere in St. Petersburg

A look back at Worlds on Russian soil: 2000

Published 28.04.2016 19:27 GMT+3 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Premiere in St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg, Russia is gearing up to host its second Worlds after debuting in 2000, a World Championship that didn’t end up well for the Russian team that had to publicly apologize at this press conference. Photo: IIHF Archive
When the 2000 World Championship took place in St. Petersburg, Russia, it wasn’t just the first big international hockey tournament of the new millennium.

It turned out to be unforgettable in almost every way. Let’s take a look back at some events that made these Worlds so historic and crazy in the beautiful city of five million that will co-host the 2016 Worlds with Moscow.

St. Petersburg debuts as Worlds host

This was Russia’s fifth opportunity to host the Worlds, but the 1957, 1973, 1979, and 1986 tournaments all took place in Moscow. St. Petersburg had only had one previous IIHF event, the 1983 World Juniors, which the Soviet Union won in what was then called Leningrad.

It was time to rectify this omission. St. Petersburg, whose famous hockey sons include star defencemen Alexei Kasatonov and Alexei Gusarov, was thrilled to be the sole host city.

The Russians went all out to welcome the world’s 16 top nations, building a new $60-million US arena called the Ice Palace. In the city that nurtured great writers like Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Alexander Pushkin, Russian fans were eager to see another glowing chapter written in their country’s illustrious hockey history.

However, the opening 8-1 victory over France in front of Russian president and St. Petersburg native Vladimir Putin proved to be the highlight for the home team. That was not the plan.

Russians fall apart at home

Russia was heavily favoured to win the gold medal with their all-star squad, featuring 14 NHLers. Captain Pavel Bure, Alexei Yashin, Sergei Gonchar, and Alexei Zhamnov were just some of the big names. However, a 3-0 loss to the United States in Russia’s second game, which left the St. Petersburg crowd stunned and irate, kicked off an unbelievable tailspin. Russia lost four straight games, finishing with a meaningless 4-2 win over Sweden, and came 11th.

It was Russia’s worst finish ever at the Worlds. Never before or since has a Russian team played this badly throughout a senior IIHF men’s tournament. (Among the great hockey powers, arguably the only other case in modern history where the gap between expectations and performance was so great was Canada’s downfall at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy. The Canadians dropped 2-0 decisions to Switzerland, Finland, and Russia and finished seventh.)

This failure terminated the legendary Alexander Yakushev’s run behind the Russian bench, dating back to 1999. The coach and his players were forced to apologize to the public at a tournament-ending press conference.

Upsets, upsets, and more upsets

Three up-and-coming hockey countries were ecstatic to get their first wins ever over mighty Russia in 2000.

Thomas Ziegler scored the second-period winner as Switzerland shocked Russia 3-2. Aleksandrs Semjonovs scored twice and Arturs Irbe made 37 saves as the Latvians downed Russia 3-2. And Vladimir Tsyplakov scored the only goal in Belarus’s 1-0 victory over their “big brother.”

“I used to play for Russia, and this is one of the reasons this win was special for me today,” said Tsyplakov, an NHL veteran. (This was also Belarus netminder Andrei Mezin’s biggest win ever prior to his 4-3 win over Sweden in the 2002 Olympic quarter-finals.)

Yet Russia wasn’t the only elite nation that stumbled. Norway upset an undisciplined Canada 4-3, getting its first win ever over the motherland of hockey on Tore Vikingstad’s goal. With a 3-3 tie, Austria got its first World Championship point against Finland – the two nations first faced off in 1957. And after the Finns, the eventual bronze medallists, edged Sweden 2-1 in the quarter-finals, Tre Kronor’s seventh-place finish was its worst since 1937 (10th).

Czechs repeat as champs

This was the golden era of Czech hockey, which kicked off with the 1998 Olympic gold backstopped by Dominik Hasek’s brilliance. In St. Petersburg, the Czechs convincingly defended their world title from 1999, topping neighbouring Slovakia 5-3. It was the first time they’d earned back-to-back golds as an independent nation. (Czechoslovakia only did it once in the modern era, in 1976 and 1977.)

With goalie Roman Cechmanek, defenceman Michal Sykora, and forwards Jiri Dopita and Tomas Vlasak cracking the media all-star team, the Czechs were dominant in every zone. Under coach Josef Augusta, they only lost once, versus Finland (6-4). They’d win a third straight championship in 2001, rallying for a 3-2 overtime victory over Finland on David Moravec’s goal.

Slovaks finally crack the podium

ABBA’s “Waterloo” includes these lyrics: “I feel I like I win when when I lose.” That certainly applied to Slovakia in St. Petersburg. Would it have been great to win gold after outshooting the Czechs 33-15 in the final? Of course. Was taking home silver almost as marvellous for this hockey-crazed nation? Unquestionably. It was their first medal ever.

Slovakia had only been promoted to the elite division in 1996, and this victory made coach Jan Filc’s reputation. On the ice, the hero was crafty forward Miroslav Satan, who topped the scoring race with 10 goals. No forward had hit double digits in goals since Eric Lindros (1993, 11), and no one else would until Dany Heatley (2008, 12).

Best IIHF Hall of Fame class ever?

Wayne Gretzky (Canada). Jari Kurri (Finland). Boris Mikhailov (Russia). Peter Stastny (Slovakia).

Some would argue that each of these players is the best his nation has ever produced. And they were all inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2000.

Also getting the call was defenceman Tomas Jonsson, who, along with Mats Naslund and Hakan Loob, became one of the first three members of the Triple Gold Club when Sweden won the 1994 Olympics. German blueliner Udo Kiessling, who still holds the record for most World Championship games played (119), got in too. Longtime NHL Director of European Scouting and Finnish hockey icon Goran Stubb was inducted in the Builder category. Vsevolod Kukushkin, the dean of Russian hockey writers, received the Paul Loicq Award for outstanding contributions to the IIHF and international hockey.

International swan songs

The 2000 Worlds saw some well-known talents making their final appearances in international competition. For Russia, these included Triple Gold Club member Valeri Kamensky, as well as Oleg Petrov and Dmitri Mironov. Finland said farewell to five-time Stanley Cup champion Esa Tikkanen and goalie Ari Sulander, who played for the bronze medal team at the first “NHL Olympics” in 1998.

Two Canadian members of the Detroit Red Wings also bowed out. Defenceman Larry Murphy, who played for the victorious 1985 World Junior and 1987 Canada Cup teams, would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004. Martin Lapointe, who captained Canada to World Junior gold in 1993, made his one and only appearance at the Worlds.

Diligent Czech rearguard Frantisek Kucera left the IIHF stage with an Olympic gold (1998) and two world titles (1999, 2000).

Welcome to the Worlds, boys

St. Petersburg was the launching pad for more senior IIHF success for some familiar names. Take a trio of goalies.

Ilya Bryzgalov had a rough start, posting an .880 save percentage and 2.75 GAA in Russia’s worst Worlds ever. But the eccentric Togliatti native would retire as a three-time Olympian, and his career highlight was backstopping Russia to gold at the 2009 Worlds.

Switzerland’s Martin Gerber went on to stun Canada with a 2-0 shutout at the 2006 Olympics. He was also in net when the Swiss won silver at the 2013 Worlds, their first medal since 1953.

U.S. goalie Robert Esche, who famously blanked the Russians in this tournament with 44 saves, played at three more Worlds and the 2006 Olympics. In a funny twist, he joined the KHL after leaving the NHL and starred for SKA St. Petersburg.

How about forwards? This was the first senior IIHF outing for Canada’s Kris Draper, ultimately a four-time Stanley Cup winner, two-time World Junior champ, 2003 World Champion, and 2004 Selke Trophy and World Cup of Hockey winner. Czech forward Martin Havlat, who’d won the World Juniors earlier in 2000, claimed his lone senior gold here. Stalwarts like Sweden’s P-J Axelsson and Latvia’s Janis Sprukts also made their Worlds debuts.

A record-setting penalty parade

It wasn’t a glorious moment for either Sweden or Ukraine, but the two blue-and-yellow teams made history on May 2, 2000. In Sweden’s 7-2 round-robin win, Ukraine got 19 penalties, the single-game high in tournament history. With the Swedes taking 15 penalties themselves, the total of 34 for both teams was also a record, tied with the Canada-Czech Republic game on May 7, 1997.

"I felt the Ukrainians played dirty tonight, especially in the second period," Sweden’s Kristian Gahn groused afterwards.

IIHF enters new Internet era

Today, the Internet is as integrated into people’s lives as grocery stores, banks, and schools. But in 2000, it was an emerging technology. According to Internet World Stats, there were some 360 million Web users worldwide in 2000. Now, there are more than 3 billion.

It was in St. Petersburg that the IIHF first launched a dedicated event web site for the World Championship, including game recaps, tournament news, feature stories, columns, and more. The growth since then has been enormous.

During the 2015 IIHF World Championship in the Czech Republic, an average of 402,014 fans from over 200 countries visited the official IIHF web site each day. There were close to 50 million page views during that tournament.

From the original 2000 team of writers, Lucas Aykroyd and John Sanful continue to contribute to the IIHF’s coverage to this day. Peter Westermark made his long-awaited comeback in 2014 in Belarus.

 

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