The Islanders rich championship history extends beyond the NHL and onto the world’s biggest sporting stage, the Olympics. The Islanders have been well-represented at past Winter Games and on podium, bringing Olympic medals back to Long Island.
Islanders captain John Tavares and Austrians Michael Grabner and Thomas Vanek look to write a new chapter of Islanders success at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Ahead of the trio’s first Olympic action Thursday, we’ve counted down the top-five most successful Islanders at the Winter Games!
5: Alexei Yashin - Bronze Medal - Team Russia - 2002:
Islanders’ center Alexei Yashin won the bronze in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City with Team Russia. This was Yashin’s second Olympics after winning the silver in the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan while with the Ottawa Senators. During the 2002 Olympics Yashin picked up one goal and one assist. The Sverdlovsky, Russia native spent five seasons with the Islanders and was named the 10th captain in Islanders history from 2005-2007. He’s still representing his country at the 2014 Sochi Games, serving as the General Manager of the Russian women’s ice hockey team.
4: Kenny Jonsson - Gold Medal - Team Sweden - 2006:
Islanders’ defenseman Kenny Jonsson won his second Olympic gold with Team Sweden at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy. Jonsson contributed four assists for the champion Swedes, picking up points against the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Latvia and USA. The Angelholm, Sweden native also won gold at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, before NHL players participated in the games. Jonsson spent nine seasons with the Islanders and served as the eighth captain in Islanders history during the 1999-2000 season. He was inducted into the Islanders Hall of Fame Feb. 11, 2012.
3: Michael Peca - Gold Medal - Team Canada - 2002:
Islanders’ center Michael Peca won the gold in the Salt Lake City Olympics with Team Canada in 2002. Peca notched two assists for his country in the semi-final against Belarus. Peca spent three seasons on Long Island and was named ninth captain in Islanders from 2001-2004, leading the Islanders to three straight playoff appearances.
2: Robert Reichel - Gold Medal - Team Czech Republic - 1998:
Islanders’ center Robert Reichel won gold with the Czech Republic at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Reichel contributed three goals for the Czechs, scoring against Finland and Russia. The Litviov, Czech Republic native also scored the game-deciding shootout goal against Canada propelling the Czechs into the gold medal game. Reichel spent three seasons with the Islanders from 1997-99 until being traded to the Phoenix Coyotes.
1: Ken Morrow - Gold Medal - Team USA - 1980:
Ken Morrow tops our list of most successful Islander Olympians. The defenseman proved to be a key component of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team, helping the Team USA beat the powerhouse Soviets en route to Olympic gold.
Morrow potted a goal and two assists for the Americans at the 1980 games, which were played upstate at Lake Placid. “Playing in front of our home fans was a huge advantage for us, especially since we were such a young team,” Morrow said. “We seemed to ignite the crowd and the country with our speed and tenacity and the crowd helped energize us. To pull off a monumental upset on home soil was beyond imaginable.”
Speed, tenacity and conditioning are what propelled the American college kids throughout the tournament. Morrow said the team engaged in newly developed training methods such as plyometrics and over-speed training.
“I was never in better shape than in 1980 with the Olympic team and that is what won us the gold medal,” Morrow said.
Just a few months after claiming hockey’s highest international prize, Morrow won the first of four Stanley Cups with the Islanders. The Flint, MI native became the first player to capture Olympic Gold and a Stanley Cup in the same season.