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Celebrating the 1996 World Cup of Hockey

If you’re a Canadian you may want to click off the article. This Fall the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame will be inducting the 1996 World Cup of Hockey team. Other than the “Miracle on Ice” team they’re the next most important team in USA Hockey history in my estimation.

Nobody needs a recap of the series but the impact of it is everlasting. When Eric Lindros first joined the New York Rangers and became a teammate of Mike Richter, he mentioned the series and how impossible it was to score on the athletic netminder.

Brian Leetch was the captain. He was in the prime of his career. He was sixth in scoring during the tournament netting 7 points in 7 games – – a typical Leetch stat line for a tournament.

“Everybody went into that tournament with a belief in our lines and defensive pairings,” said Leetch. “We came together. We needed great performances and we got that.”

Brett Hull was the tournament high scorer with 11 points, John LeClair was second with 10. Keith Tkachuk had 5 goals in 7 games but had 44 PIMS. He played his role to perfection.

“We never felt overmatched by anybody else’s lineup. We had the best goalie in the tournament in Mike Richter.”

Canada was heavily favored in the best-of-three tournament. Wayne Gretzky, Steve Yzerman, Paul Coffey, Lindros, Mark Messier and Martin Brodeur were a part of this star-studded team.

One of the keys to the win was the strength of the Team USA blueline.

“Brian Leetch played unbelievable,” said the head coach at the time, Ron Wilson. “The two Hatcher’s as well. Schneider was the worst defenseman we had by comparison. We had such depth.”

The rest of the defense was comprised of Phil Housley, Chris Chelios, and Gary Suter. It’s fair to say it might take another decade for Team USA to field a group with that kind of talent. It was their time.

“It’s a nice feeling now. When you’re going through it you’re focused on the event,” Leetch added.

This game has had an impact on some of today’s stars who are getting ready to sharpen their skates for this year’s version of the tournament.

“Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, talked about watching this on television with their parents. For us it’s something we’re definitely proud of,” Leetch said with pride.

If Team USA wins this year’s tournament it won’t compare to the 1996 win. It can’t and it’s not even fair to try and connect those dots. This was a time in history where Flyers fans were rooting for a member of the New York Rangers (who grew up in Philadelphia) and it was unifying. LeClair, a member of the “Legion of Doom” line, was now getting cheered in New York.

Nothing beats a great world hockey tournament. It can really bring out everybody’s Nationalistic pride.

*Mathieu Schneider left.

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