7 Best Underdog Stories in Hockey History
They are the teams that people just can't help cheering for. Teams that no one expects to win but somehow, inexplicably they do. Sometimes they go on to win whatever championship they are fighting for, sometimes they fall short of the ultimate goal. No matter the result, most of the teams are looked back on with fondness.
These teams can come from the NHL, college, junior, international competition or any other sort of hockey competition. I will look at seven underdog stories. Some recent, some more historic, but they all have their place in history.
Let's get started.
2006 Edmonton Oilers Stanley Cup Run
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When the Edmonton Oilers finished eighth in the Western Conference, no one expected them to make a run to the Stanley Cup Final, especially considering their first-round opponent was the powerhouse Detroit Red Wings.
The Red Wings were the President Trophy winners for that season and no one gave the Oilers a chance. Edmonton shocked the hockey world by vanquishing the Wings in six games.
They faced the No. 5 Sharks in the Conference semifinals and took them out in six games as well.
In the Conference finals, the Oilers faced off against the No. 6 Anaheim Ducks. The Oilers were able to take them out in five games and earned their first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1990.
Unfortunately, the Oilers luck ran out in the Cup final, as they ran into the Carolina Hurricanes and lost in the seventh game.
2003 Anaheim Ducks Stanley Cup Final Run
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The 2003 Anaheim Mighty Ducks share pretty much the same story as the 2006 Oilers.
Entering the playoffs as the seventh seed, the Ducks faced off against the No. 2 Detroit Red Wings. Anaheim shockingly swept the Wings in the four games. Following that, they took out the Dallas Stars, the No. 1 team in the Western Conference in six games.
Anaheim continued its dominance in the Western finals as they once again swept a series, this time against the No. 6 Minnesota Wild. Then they ran into the brick wall that was Martin Brodeur and lost in seven games.
The NHL acknowledged the Ducks great run by awarding Jean-Sebastien Giguere the Conn Smythe Trophy.
1966 Michigan State Spartans NCAA Championship
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Alright, seeing that I wasn't born for another 23 years following this story, I will do the best I can to convey it.
The Michigan State Spartans were ranked sixth entering the WCHA playoffs. They managed to win the WCHA championship, defeating the defending national champions, Michigan Tech, to qualify for the NCAA playoffs. They defeated Boston University in the semifinals en route to capturing the NCAA championship by defeating Clarkson 6-1 in the finals.
To this date, Michigan's win total and winning percentage remain the least for any NCAA champion.
2002 Belarus Olympic Team
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Okay, so the 2002 Belarusian Olympic hockey team didn't go on to win anything at the 2002 Winter Olympics, but they gave the hockey world one of the biggest hockey upsets in that tournament.
With three minutes left in the quarterfinal, defenseman Vladimir Kopat took a shot at Swedish goaltender Tommy Salo. The shot bounced off Salo's mask and into the back of the net. That goal got Belarus into the semifinals and an assured shot at a medal.
They lost to Canada and then Russia, leaving them with no hardware but with the pride they got from beating a hockey powerhouse.
2002 Canadian Olympic Team
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Yeah, I know, how can you call a Canadian Olympic team an underdog, especially one that boasted such players as Martin Brodeur, Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Rob Blake and many other great players? Maybe the 2002 edition isn't a true underdog story, but they entered the 2002 Olympics with a lot of pressure on them. After all, a Canadian Olympic team had not won a gold medal in 50 years.
After the disaster that happened in Nagano in 1998, Canada would not have accepted anything else than gold.
The run for gold didn't start off well as they lost 5-2 to Sweden, barely beating Germany and earning a draw against the Czech Republic.
They then took out Finland in the quarterfinals and Belarus in the semifinals. They then beat the United States to take home the gold medal.
1972 Canadian Summit Series Team
"Here's a shot. Henderson makes a wild stab for it and falls. Here's another shot right in front. They score! Henderson has scored for Canada!"—Foster Hewitt
Some might say that is the most memorable call in all of hockey history.
Going into the 1972 Summit Series, the Canadians were widely thought to be the better team and were expected to sweep the series. That is not how it happened as most of us know.
After five out of eight games, the Canadians had one win, three losses and one tie. They needed to win each of the final three games to win the series.
Paul Henderson ended up scoring the winning goal in each of the remaining games, capping it off with the goal you see in the video.
1980 "Miracle on Ice"
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There is really no better way to determine whether something is an underdog story than when the commentator says these words as the game ends.
"Do you believe in miracles? YES!"