There were countless memorable storylines from the men's and women's hockey tournaments at the 2022 Winter Olympics. Whether it was the ongoing rivalry between the United States and Canadian women's hockey teams or a teenage Slovak stealing the show against grown men, there was certainly no shortage of special moments.
Silver: United States
The United States took down Canada for gold in spectacular fashion at the PyeongChang Olympics in 2018, but Canada came back with a vengeance in Beijing, barreling through the competition with ease to reclaim its women's hockey title.
Canada was the best team of the tournament from the very start, and it wasn't really much of a debate. The Canadians outscored their opponents 57-10 (!) and outshot them 332-173 en route to winning their fifth gold medal in women's hockey since 2002.
Marie-Philip Poulin was a force throughout the Games for Canada, logging six goals and 17 total points and becoming the first Olympic hockey player ever — male or female — to score at least one goal in four gold medal games.
As good as Poulin was, though, this was the Olympics of Sarah Nurse. Not only did Nurse break the all-time record for points in an Olympic tournament with 18, but she also became the first Black woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal in hockey. Pretty eventful stretch for the 27-year-old.
Despite coming up just short in the gold medal game, the Americans put together a pretty stellar tournament as well, though they likely aren't thrilled with the end result.
The U.S. didn't outscore its adversaries to the degree the Canadians did, but it did out-possess its counterparts by an enormous margin. The Americans finished the tournament with an absolutely ridiculous 374-116 advantage in shots on goal while averaging 4.2 markers per game. Under most circumstances, those numbers would be more than enough to lock up a title. But this just ended up being Canada's year.
Hilary Knight was unsurprisingly the Americans' top scorer, leading her team in both goals (six) and points (10). But at 32 years old, it's fair to question if the University of Wisconsin product will return to the Olympics in 2026 to help the U.S. return to women's hockey supremacy.
Just about everybody predicted the U.S. and Canadian women's teams would meet for the gold again in Beijing, but with NHL players not participating in the games, the men's tournament was much harder to forecast.
The ROC was a popular pick to win gold with a roster stacked with KHL talent, but they ended up taking a silver medal home as the Finns earned their first-ever Olympic hockey title with a 2-1 win over the Russian athletes in the gold medal game.
Prior to Beijing, Finland had appeared in the men's gold medal game twice, but lost both times — once against the Soviet Union in 1988 and again to Sweden in 2006. However, 2022 ended up the Finns' lucky year. They went undefeated in their six games at this year's Olympics, and while they never appeared dominant, they were more than deserving of taking home the gold.
As great a story as the Finns were, though, no story from the men's tournament trumps that of the incredible run for Slovakia, let by 17-year-old wunderkind Juraj Slafkovsky.
Slafkovsky, likely to be an early first-round pick in the upcoming 2022 NHL Entry Draft, was the best player on Slovakia by a significant margin. He led all men's players competing in Beijing with seven goals and was voted the MVP of the tournament. And, the cherry on top, he led Slovakia to its first-ever hockey medal at the Olympics.
Again, he is just 17 years old and is still wearing braces.
"We believe in him," said Slovakia head coach Craig Ramsay after Slafkovsky's two-goal performance in the bronze medal game. "What we thought going into this tournament was, 'Could he just score a goal?' He did it in spades.
"It was quite a performance."