Nagano 1998

Olympic Channel announces ‘The Nagano Tapes’ film

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The Czech Republic’s historic upset in the 1998 Olympic hockey tournament — the first with NHL players — is the subject of the first film of the Olympic Channel Five Rings Films series.

“The Nagano Tapes” will premiere worldwide on Feb. 28 on Olympicchannel.com and its mobile apps, plus on NBCSN.

Directed by Czech Sundance award winner Ondřej Hudeček, it includes never-before-seen footage and exclusive interviews with Olympians Dominik Hašek, Jaromir JagrEric Lindros and Brett Hull.

The Czechs, behind Hašek’s dominant goaltending, upset Canada in the semifinals and Russia in the final.

“Many people in the Czech Republic treasure this story like a scripture,” Hudeček said in a press release. “To me personally, it brings back the memories of a 10-year-old kid inspired to see the world around him as a much smaller place, and I wanted to weave all of these threads into a film that could be relevant and fun to watch for everyone — not just hockey fans.”

Future Five Rings Films subjects include iconic Cuban boxer Teofilo Stevenson, a three-time Olympic gold medallist who famously turned down $5 million to fight Muhammad Ali. “La Lucha” is directed by Peter Berg of “Friday Night Lights” fame.

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Dominik Hasek’s favorite Buffalo memory — Olympic homecoming

Dominik Hasek
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Of Dominik Hasek‘s decorated hockey career in Buffalo, he remembers one moment above the rest.

“There is one situation I will never forget in my life, when we won in the Olympics in 1998 with the Czech national team [in Nagano],” Hasek told media in Buffalo on Tuesday, hours before his No. 39 jersey number would be retired. “We came here back to Buffalo. I knew that people were maybe cheering for us, but this was something I would never, ever expect, to come to the airport and there were thousands of people waiting for me and [Czech and Buffalo Sabres teammate] Richard Smehlik. There were people in our neighborhood when I was coming home. Then the special evening the next day with Toronto Maple Leafs when they sang the Czech national anthem.”

Hasek’s memory is spot on. The reception in Buffalo following the 1998 gold medal was surpassed perhaps only in Prague, where Hasek estimated between 100,000 and 300,000 people celebrated in the streets.

“It probably was the biggest event since 1989 during the Revolution,” Hasek told the Buffalo News in 1998.

The Czech national anthem joined the traditional Canadian and U.S. anthems before the Sabres’ first home game after the Olympics against the Maple Leafs.

Hasek deserved all the praise. He put up one of the most dominating goalie performances in hockey history in Nagano. He reportedly stopped 149 of 155 shots in six games for a .961 save percentage. The best save percentage for any goalie over an NHL season is .941.

Hasek held the U.S. to one goal in the quarterfinals, Canada to one goal in the semifinals and blanked Russia in the final. In the semis, he stopped all five Canadian shootout attempts, from All-Stars Theoren Fleury, Ray Bourque, Joe Nieuwendyk, Eric Lindros and Brendan Shanahan.

Hasek made his Olympic debut for Czechoslovakia in 1988 and also played in the 2002 and 2006 Olympics for the Czechs, winning bronze in 2006 despite barely playing due to injury.

Peter Forsberg and the Olympics

Friday the 13th in Olympic history

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Friday the 13th fell during the Olympics three times in the last 60 years. Each occurrence brought with it eerie (even scary) headlines. Let’s go back in time:

1976 Winter Olympics — Innsbruck Austria — Friday, Feb. 13

American Dorothy Hamill, 19, took the ice with a four-leaf clover pinned to her dress for the women’s free skate*. Before Hamill began her program, she looked into the crowd at the Olympiahalle and saw a sign.

“Which of the West? Dorothy!” it read. Hamill, thinking she was being called a witch, began to cry before she realized the sign was meant as a positive. It was asking which figure skater, Hamill or the Netherlands’ Dianne de Leeuw, could beat East German Christine Errath.

Both did. Hamill won the free skate, as she did the short program, to take gold. De Leeuw got silver ahead of Errath.

1998 Winter Olympics — Nagano, Japan — Friday, Feb. 13

A few noteworthy events took place on the first Friday of the 1998 Winter Games.

Doubles teams of Gordy Sheer and Chris Thorpe and Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin won the first two luge medals in U.S. history, silver and bronze. You may remember Gus Johnson doing the exuberant play-by-play of sliding events that year.

In hockey, an anticipated U.S.-Sweden duel failed to live up to expectations. Peter Forsberg and the Swedes won 4-2, beginning a forgettable Olympics for the U.S. men.

But the scary Friday the 13th of headlines came in Alpine skiing’s downhill. In perhaps the most memorable video of the Games, Austrian Hermann Maier went airborne and crashed through netting. Somehow, he walked away from it, and, three days later, Maier won the super-G. Three days after that, the bricklayer from Flachau won the giant slalom.

2004 Summer Olympics — Athens, Greece — Friday, Aug. 13

On Friday the 13th, the citizens of Athens woke up to haunting news.

The country’s two most famous track and field athletes were in the hospital after a claimed motorcycle accident the previous day. It turned into a full-fledged controversy over skipping a drug test.

Konstantinos Kenteris, the 2000 Olympic champion in the 200 meters, and Katerina Thanou, the 2000 silver medalist in the 100, never competed in the Athens Olympics. A modern-day Greek tragedy, they called it. Kenteris had been the favorite to light the Olympic cauldron that night. Both were disgraced and engulfed in a doping scandal.

Later that night, gold-medal sailor Nikolaos Kaklamanakis had the honors of lighting the cauldron on the only opening ceremony ever staged on Friday the 13th.

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*according to USA Today