New Doc Recounts Czech Republic’s 1998 Olympic Hockey Gold in Nagano
The Czech Republic fell just short of a medal in men’s ice hockey at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, losing out to Canada 6-4 in the bronze medal game.
But 20 years ago in Nagano, things turned out a little differently.
The 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano were the first games that the NHL allowed their players to participate in. The result featured the best hockey talent that the world had to offer at the time.
The Czech Republic had a number of those players, including the legendary Jaromír Jágr, Hall of Fame goaltender Dominik Hašek, Martin Ručinský, and defenseman Petr Svoboda, the first Czech to play 1000 games in the NHL.
And while the USA and Canada - who had previously faced off in the 1996 World Cup - were the heavy favorites to win, the Czech team stunned the world by beating both of them and then topping Russia in the gold medal final to become only the 7th country ever to win a gold medal in ice hockey, just five years after the nation had been founded.
The story of Czech team’s dramatic win at Nagano is recounted in The Nagano Tapes, the first entry in Five Rings Films, a new series of Olympic Channel documentaries produced by longtime Steven Spielberg collaborator Frank Marshall, who worked on the Indiana Jones movies and directed Arachnophobia and Congo.
To direct The Nagano Tapes, Marshall recruited upcoming Czech filmmaker Ondřej Hudeček, whose short film Peacock (Furiant in Czech) won a Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2016.
“When a producer like Frank Marshall calls you to say he wants to make a film with you, and in particular about that event, you don’t say no,” Hudeček stated in a press release.
The Czech Republic's success at the 1998 Olympics was a memorable event in the life of every Czech citizen.
“Most people remember where they were at the time of Nagano,” Hudeček said. “We are better able to recall moments that were highly emotional for us. I was ten and was at my grandparents on the Sunday morning. I woke up a bit late for the match and missed a few minutes. I was annoyed.”
Still, the director wanted to ensure that he could do justice to this story.
“I did have doubts for a while as to whether I was the right person. We filmed thirty interviews and selected from 600 hours of footage. I would have liked more time to explain certain details.”
The documentary premiered to an audience of Czech Olympic athletes in PyeongChang before this year’s games. Now, you can watch the full 73-minute documentary, for free, at the official Olympic Channel website.
At the Olympic Channel site, you can also relive the 1998 Olympics and watch the climactic Czech victories in full.
Lead photo: Petr Svoboda celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against Russia; screengrab from The Nagano Tapes via Olympic Channel