NHL players participated in five Winter Olympic Games spanning from 1998 to 2014 prior to unfortunate circumstances keeping them out of action in 2018 and 2022. During that span, 28 Philadelphia Flyers who were active members of the team at the time of the respective games represented their countries on the most competitive world stage in the “best-on-best” format. They earned a total of 11 Olympic medals.
The contributions ranged from NHL superstars like Eric Lindros and Peter Forsberg as centerpieces for the most dominant hockey nations in the world to depth players like Michael Raffl taking on more prominent roles for nations with lesser-known hockey programs. John LeClair, Simon Gagne, and Kimmo Timonen each participated in two Olympics while active with the Flyers. Only Timonen finished with a medal in both appearances. The most memorable individual performances have come from notable North American personalities in the spotlight and one unlikely tournament MVP.
Clarke, Lindros in Spotlight
The Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan in 1998 occurred just months after the Flyers advanced to the Stanley Cup Final during the prime of Lindros, an awe-inspiring NHL star who many people expected to enter the ranks of the greatest players in the history of the game. The architect of the “Legion of Doom” Flyers in the mid-1990s was Philadelphia legend and Manitoba native Bobby Clarke.
Clarke became the general manager of Team Canada ahead of the first Olympics with NHL participation and built a roster with plenty of Flyers influence. Lindros wore the “C” as team captain instead of Wayne Gretzky, who seemed like the logical choice. Éric Desjardins and Rod Brind’Amour also made a roster that appeared to be as daunting on paper as any hockey team ever assembled.
The Canadians were a major disappointment in Nagano. Lindros finished tied for the team lead with five points in six games, but a stunning shootout loss to Dominik Hasek and the Czech Republic in the tournament’s semifinal game spoiled the memory for citizens of the birthplace of hockey. Lindros missed his shootout attempt while Gretzky never shot. The decision by coach Marc Crawford became a highly controversial moment in the history of international competition for Team Canada. They also missed a chance for an Olympic medal by falling flat in a consolation game for a fourth-place finish.
LeClair, Roenick Help Team USA Redemption Effort
Team USA entered the 1998 Winter Olympics with one of the most talented rosters in the tournament made up of the majority of key contributors from the team that won the gold medal at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. Like their North American counterparts, they proved to be a major disappointment. The Czechs dropped Team USA to a sixth-place finish in a 4-1 decision in the quarterfinals. Following the loss, the American players came to the international spotlight for the wrong reasons after rumors of reckless behavior in the Olympic village surfaced. The experience became an overall embarrassment for the United States.
LeClair and Jeremy Roenick, two Flyers and returning Olympians, helped lead a redemption effort in Salt Lake City in 2002. Team USA advanced to the gold medal game before ultimately falling to the high-powered Team Canada. LeClair scored six goals in six games using the same physical net-front presence that made him a staple in Philadelphia. Roenick added a goal and four assists in five games. Team USA honorably regathered the nation’s pride as the host country with a strong showing under legendary head coach Herb Brooks.
Niittymäki wins MVP for Team Finland
Antero Niittymäki didn’t make the original roster for Team Finland ahead of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. However, former Calgary Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff surprisingly elected to stay home to rest from a hip injury. The young Flyers netminder took full advantage and quickly enacted the narrative of a hot goaltender standing on his head to help the Finns to a silver medal.
Niittymäki outplayed Fredrik Norrena in the qualifying round and established himself as the starter with two shutouts in three games. He stopped all 30 shots he faced against Martin St. Louis, Jarome Iginla, Rick Nash, and a loaded Canadian team to establish the Finns as a darkhorse contender in Torino. His shutout against Team Russia in the semifinal game stretched his total to three for the tournament.
He finished with the best save percentage (SV%) in Torino among goaltenders with at least three appearances. Finland ultimately fell short to the Swedes in the gold medal game, but Niittymäki earned the nod as the tournament MVP.
Gold Medal Contributors
Four of the five gold medal teams in Olympic Games with NHL players featured at least one member of the Flyers. One of the most memorable, and perhaps unlikely, accomplishments came in the 1998 gold medal game. Petr Svoboda, who ultimately finished his four-year stint in Philadelphia with 10 goals, scored a third-period goal and cemented his legacy in Olympic history in a 1-0 win for the Czechs.
Gagne earned the nod for Team Canada in 2002 during his third NHL season. The 21-year-old joined a star-studded veteran roster and added one goal and three assists in six games. He also competed for Team Canada in 2006.
Forsberg dramatically helped Team Sweden to a gold medal in the 1994 Olympic Games and competed in 1998, 2006, and 2010. The smooth, crafty veteran notched six assists in six games at age 32 for Sweden’s gold medal team in 2006 while he was a member of the Flyers.
The Canadians won the gold medal in Vancouver in 2010 with the help of Flyers leaders Chris Pronger and Mike Richards. Pronger helped anchor an overwhelming blue line with Shea Weber, Drew Doughty, P.K. Subban, and Duncan Keith. He notched five assists in seven games. Richards added two goals and three assists in seven games, including a helper to Jonathan Toews in the gold medal game against the United States.
All Flyers Olympic Appearances
Sochi Winter Olympics 2014
- Austria- Michael Raffl
- Czech Republic- Jakub Voráček
- Finland (Bronze Medal)- Kimmo Timonen
- Slovakia- Andrej Meszaros
- Switzerland- Mark Streit
Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010
- Canada (Gold Medal)- Chris Pronger, Mike Richards
- Finland (Bronze Medal)- Kimmo Timonen
- Latvia- Oskars Bartulis
Torino Winter Olympics 2006
- Canada- Simon Gagne
- Finland (Silver Medal)- Antero Niittymäki
- Germany- Dennis Seidenburg
- Slovakia- Michael Handzus
- Sweden (Gold Medal)- Peter Forsberg
- United States- Robert Esche, Mike Knuble, Derian Hatcher
Salt Lake City Winter Olympics 2002
- Canada (Gold Medal)- Simon Gagne
- Czech Republic- Roman Čechmánek, Jiří Dopita
- Sweden- Kim Johnsson
- Ukraine- Ruslan Fedotenko
- United States (Silver Medal)- Jeremy Roenick, John LeClair
Nagano Winter Olympics 1998
- Canada- Eric Lindros, Rod Brind’Amour, Éric Desjardins
- Finland (Bronze Medal)- Janne Niinimma
- Czech Republic (Gold Medal)- Petr Svoboda
- United States- Joel Otto, John LeClair
Latest News & Highlights
Colin Newby is a freelance writer from Delaware County, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers. He is an encyclopedia of useless sports knowledge with an uncanny ability to rattle off Flyers goaltending stats from 2004 and every Stanley Cup winner during his lifetime. The depths of his knowledge stem from spending his entire life following the Flyers and the NHL, from fan favorites like the “Legion of Doom” and Claude Giroux to forgotten journeymen like Andy Delmore and Branko Radivojevič. He joined the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA) in 2022.
Colin also covers the Philadelphia Eagles and works for 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia.