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Historical Team Records in Olympic Hockey

Olympic Hockey has really only been a legitimately contested sport since 1980. Before that seminal year, the Winter Olympics was rarely able to field a full slate of competitive teams. Boycotts were common, and the US even sent two teams one year. The leading teams from 1980-1994, ranked by Pythagorean winning percentage are:

Team W L T GF GA Pyth%
USSR 35 7 0 254 80 0.910
Czech 24 14 0 173 97 0.761
Slovakia 3 1 2 28 17 0.731
Finland 22 13 5 171 104 0.730
Sweden 23 7 12 171 111 0.704
Canada 23 14 3 151 100 0.695
USA 17 9 8 140 111 0.614
Switzerland 5 8 0 45 50 0.448
Germany 16 18 1 115 130 0.439
Italy 5 14 0 61 100 0.271
Poland 5 18 1 56 121 0.176
Romania 1 3 1 13 29 0.167
Austria 3 14 1 46 104 0.164
Netherlands 1 3 1 16 43 0.122
Norway 3 24 3 69 187 0.120
France 4 16 1 45 122 0.120
Yugoslavia 1 4 0 8 37 0.045
Japan 0 4 1 7 36 0.036

The various Russian entries - either as the USSR, Russia or "Team Unified" - are all counted together under USSR. West Germany and unified Germany are also one entry, and Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic are one unit, with Slovakia separate. World hockey, as it has been for decades, was dominated by the top six - Canada, the US, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czechs - with Slovakia a potential entrant to a top seven. Switzerland and Germany have been consistently better than the other weaker nations, but they could not consistently challenge for top six status.

In 1998, the Olympics were fully professionalized, and each country sent the best possible team it could put together. The results over the last three Olympics:

Team W L T GF GA Pyth%
Sweden 11 5 0 60 35 0.746
Finland 12 6 0 61 37 0.731
Canada 11 6 1 56 34 0.731
Russia 13 6 1 70 44 0.717
CzechRepublic 10 7 1 54 34 0.716
UnitedStates 6 8 2 51 41 0.607
Slovakia 7 5 2 45 37 0.597
Switzerland 4 3 3 23 28 0.403
Ukraine 2 2 0 11 14 0.382
Latvia 2 5 2 31 43 0.342
Japan 1 2 1 9 13 0.324
Austria 1 5 2 20 29 0.322
France 2 5 1 17 26 0.299
Germany 6 8 2 33 53 0.279
Belarus 5 10 1 37 65 0.245
Italy 1 6 2 21 39 0.225
Kazakhstan 3 8 1 30 56 0.223

As you can see, there's very little daylight between the top five teams, while the US and Slovakia trail slightly and are followed by a big gap down to the next tier of teams. If we look at just the games played between the top seven teams over the last three Olympics and the last two World Cups - the five world tournaments since the breakup of the Eastern Bloc countries - we get the following standings:

W L GF GA Pyth%
Canada 15 8 69 58 0.586
USA 10 12 74 63 0.580
Sweden 9 6 45 42 0.534
Russia 11 11 65 63 0.516
Finland 9 10 51 57 0.445
Czech 6 12 42 49 0.424
Slovakia 3 8 24 44 0.229

Slovakia has been outclassed several times, but otherwise, the gap from 1st to 6th is minuscule. Indeed, each of these six teams have been in the finals of at least one of these five tournaments and is potentially a threat to win any given tournament.