It was the biggest international hockey victory for the U.S. since the near-miraculous gold medal at the 1980 Winter Olympic. Since that stunning upset the American team didn’t earn a medal in the Olympics or World Championships, until finally coming up with a bronze at the 1996 World Championships.
In 1996 the Canada Cup tournament name was changed to the World Cup of Hockey, and the tournament was expanded to 8 teams. In addition to U.S. and Canada, teams from the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Russia, Slovakia, and Sweden participated. Because the tournament is held in the late summer, many stars from the NHL are able to participate, unlike other major international hockey competitions.
The U.S. triumph was no fluke. The team was unbeaten in round-robin play, including a 5-3 win over Canada and a 5-2 win over the Russian team. In the semifinals, U.S. beat Russia again 5-2, while Canada clawed past Sweden, 3-2, in double-overtime. In the finals series the two neighboring rivals split the first two games, Canada winning the first in overtime, 4-3, and the United States claiming the second, 5-2.
Victory seemed to be in Canada’s grasp late in the rubber game, as the Canadians held a 2-1 lead with less than 4 minutes left in the contest. Then U.S. star Brett Hull knocked in his second goal of the game, deflecting the puck in off his raised stick. After reviewing replays to see if Hull’s stick was at a legal height, referees allowed the goal to stand.
Less than a minute later, Tony Amonte broke the tie with a goal over the Canadian goalie’s pad to give U.S the lead for good. Amonte’s goal was also controversial, as Canadian players protested that Amonte had illegally kicked the puck in. The American team added 2 more goals to finish the scoring after Canada, in a desperate move, pulled out their goalie. And then the cup went to team USA!!!