In 2006 Sweden became the first nation to win both the Olympic and World Championship gold medal in ice hockey the same year. The 2006 IIHF World Championships were hosted in Riga, Latvia. The preliminary stages consisted of four groups from which the teams then were merged into two new groups. Sweden won the first group stage fairly easy against Switzerland, Ukraine and Italy. In the group stage number two, Sweden finished second behind Russia. The other teams in that group were Belarus, Slovakia, Switzerland and Ukraine.
The Swedish team in the IIHF World Championships 2006
Sweden had a lot of good players at home this time, some of them were a part of the team that won the Olympic gold in Torino. Kenny Jönsson, who played in Rögle in the Swedish second division(!) Is an example. His brother, Jörgen, was also involved in both tournaments and played a key role with his great two-way game. Johan Holmqvist made his best tournament ever in goal. Unlike this year (2016) the national team Three Crowns got some great reinforcements from the National Hockey League, even though it was “double year” with two tournaments in a short time. Half of Detroit “Blue” Wings wanted to play Sweden for another gold medal in 2006: Johan Franzén, Niklas Kronwall, Mikael Samuelsson and Henrik Zetterberg. Add names like Michael Nylander and Nicklas Bäckstrom, and you have a team that would be candidates for the gold even today, 10 years later!
Playoffs in the IIHF World Championship 2006
Sweden began the playoffs in the best possible way. Three Crowns crushed Team USA 6-0! Johan Holmqvist got his first shutout out of two in the playoffs and was later named the tournament’s best goalkeeper. The biggest challenge was waiting in the semifinals where opponent was the toughest possible: a star struck Canadian team with names like Sidney Crosby and Brendan Shanahan. Sweden got a good start of the game though. It seemed that everything that the Three Crown’s shot at went in every possible way, directly, via skates of Canadian defenders, and so on. Canada, however, stepped up their game after a while and things got intense. An odd event happened after Crosby scored the reducer for Canada. Mika Hannula then cross checked Crosby in the face after the goal. We Swedes are otherwise accustomed to the situation being the reverse. Hannula was sent off course and did not play more in the tournament. Theoretically, he is still suspended in a few internationals if he would make a comeback in Three Crowns 🙂 The semifinal became exciting towards the end, but Canada never came closer than 4-5. Sweden would play the World Cup final against the Czech Republic, which somewhat unexpectedly beat Finland 3-1. Sweden controlled the final from start to finish:
- After 14:31 in the first period, Jesper Mattsson scored 1-0 after nice pre-work from Kronwall. Kronwall was later named the tournament’s best defenseman.
- 37 seconds later, the same line-up scored 2-0 and the game was pretty much decided.
- At the beginning of the second period Michael “Nyllet” Nylander served Kronwall for 3-0.
- The same Nylander also assisted Jörgen Jönsson 4-0 at the end of the period.
Holmqvist got his second shutout in the playoffs of the Ice Hockey World Championships in 2006 and Sweden won the gold. It was the first Swedish World Championship gold medal since 1998. It would take seven years before the next gold medal, 2013, which is also Sweden’s latest. What made 2006 so special was that it was the same year as the Three Crowns won gold at the Winter Olympics in Torino. The World Championship team was a good mix of domestic players and seasoned professionals from the NHL. The squad was a perfect mix of players and coach Bengt-Åke Gustafsson made sure they became a “self-playing piano”.