Peter Forsberg and Corey Hirsch - the coolest move in international hockey history. Photo: Associated Press/Al Behrman
The goal, the stamp & Olympic gold
In Sweden, this is one of the most replayed sports highlights on television.
Peter Forsberg was only 20 years old when he pulled the most daring move on Canada’s goaltender Corey Hirsch in the Olympic gold medal game in Lillehammer in 1994. A classic sports moment which became immortalized on a stamp.
The 1994 gold medal game at the Olympics in Lillehammer came down to a shootout between Canada and Sweden. Canada had been to the final game two years earlier, at the 1992 Olympics, only to lose 3-1 to Russia, and it was seeking its first gold medal since 1952. Sweden had prior to Lillehammer never won Olympic hockey gold and last time they came close was in 1964, when they grabbed the silver.
After 60 minutes, the game stood at 2-2, and another ten minutes of overtime failed to break the tie. In the shootout, both teams scored twice on their first four of five shots, leaving the last shooter for each side to determine who would win Olympic gold.
First up was Peter Forsberg, the 20-year old “wunderkind” of Swedish hockey, who already at that tender age was considered as one of the best players in the world. Forsberg would the next season sign his first NHL contract, with the Quebec Nordiques.
What happened five seconds later became one of the most famous images in the history of international hockey and a defining moment in Swedish sports history.
Forsberg skated in on goalie Corey Hirsch, moved left to his forehand and then slid the puck to his backhand. With one hand on the stick and the goalie sliding toward Forsberg, the player calmly slid the puck into the open side of the net. It was the most daring, exciting shootout goal in Olympic history, and after Tommy Salo made a great save on Paul Kariya at the other end, Sweden had claimed its first ever Olympic gold.
Two photographers caught the goal from directly above Hirsch. Gary Hershorn (Reuters) clicked his shutter just as “Foppa” released the puck, and Al Behrman (Associated Press) did the same a split second later, after the puck had slid under Hirsch’s arm and was just inches from crossing the goal line.
Behrman’s shot became the “photo”. The Swedish Post took Hershorn’s shot to make the famous stamp of the historic goal.
But there is a slight difference in the philatelic representation of the play. Corey Hirsch is wearing number 11, not 1, and his sweater is blue, not red. When he was asked permission for his likeness to be used, Hirsch was so embarrassed by the goal that he declined, a decision he regretted a short time later. Forsberg, of course, had no trouble agreeing.
We look forward to welcoming the Swedish heroes to the 2018 IIHF WM in Denmark!
This article is part of a series of articles celebrating the biggest heroes, most memorable moments and important games in ice hockey history leading up to 2018 IIHF WM.
You can find the Top-100 Stories of the Century here.