Host City: Nagano, Japan
Venue(s): Aqua Wing Arena, Nagano; Big Hat, Nagano
Date Started: February 7, 1998
Date Finished: February 22, 1998
Format: Round-robin pools, followed by classification rounds, and single-elimination matches. Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden, and United States directly qualified for preliminary round.
The 1998 Winter Olympics saw the NHL competing at the highest level for the first time ever. The league closed down its play for 2½ weeks to allow all their players to compete at the Olympics. The IIHF seeded the six best teams in the world – Canada, USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Republic – into a final medal round. Eight other teams competed in two preliminary pools, with the winners of those pools advancing to the final pools of four teams each. Those medal pools were really only for seeding purposes as all of the teams advanced to the quarter-finals of a single-elimination tournament.
The story of the tournament was the goalie for the Czech Republic, Dominik Hašek, who played for the Buffalo Sabres in the NHL. In the quarters, Hašek recorded 38 saves as the Czechs defeated the United States, 4-1. The semis against Canada came down to a shoot-out, after a 1-1 tie, but Hašek stopped all five Canadian shots. The final matched Russia against the Czech Republic, and Hašek again dominated with a shut-out, the Czech Republic winning 1-0.