The clock used at the 2006 Torino Olympic Winter Games started at zero and worked its way toward the 60 minute mark of the game. Tjarnqvist was nervously waiting for the final buzzer to sound.
And when it did, he leaped over the boards and joined his teammates in what looked like a mosh pit in Sweden’s end of the Palasport Olimpico arena.
The scoreboard of the gold medal game of the 2005 Winter Olympics read: Sweden 5, Finland 2.
Tjarnqvist was an Olympic champion.
“It is an amazing feeling,” he said before the Swedes piled into their dressing room for the celebrations which included pouring back some of the workingman’s champagne – with Go Canada Go – that was left over when defending gold medalist Canada was eliminated from the Olympic Games hockey competition.
The Swedes reined supreme in Italy because they survived the eight-game, 12-day march down the road to gold. And in the end, there were not many people who didn’t agree that the Swedes were the toast of Torino.
When Tjarnqvist has a chance to reflect on what happened in Torino he’ll realize the two weeks he spent in Italy were special for many reasons.
Making the Swedish National Team roster for a best-on-best competition like the Winter Games is an amazing feat, especially when you consider the depth of talent the Swedish management had to pick from.
Tjarnqvist can also take pride in that played regularly in the Olympic tournament and finished with two goals and three points in a gold medal performance.
“You need guys like him to win,” said Head Coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson. “You can’t win without guys like him.”
The Swedes didn’t have the best start to the tournament but once they came together as a team, they were hard to stop. They beat Switzerland 6-3 in the quarter-finals and then crushed the Czech Republic, the defending World Champion, in the semifinals.
Finland was the final opponent and the northern European neighbours went rush for rush in a thrilling final.
Wild forward Mikko Koivu was on the losing side of the ledger sheet in the gold medal final but the confidence he gained by being part of a tournament like the Olympic competition is immeasurable.
Koivu got to represent his country alongside his brother, Saku, who is the captain of the Montreal Canadiens. Saku left Finland for the NHL when Mikko was 12 and he was thrilled to suit up with his brother. The Olympic experience was made even more special because Jukka Koivu, was doing color commentary on Finnish national radio at the Winter Games.
The elder Koivu didn’t disagree that Saku is the better player at the moment but said his younger son is a keeper.
“He had it hard early on because he was always compared to Saku. Give Mikko four to five years.”
Another member of the Minnesota Wild, Marian Gaborik, also fared well while playing for Slovakia.
In the game against Russia, the score was locked at three when Gaborik scored twice in the last three minutes of play in regulation time on brilliant rushes for a 5-3 upset. He also scored Slovakia’s lone goal in a quarter-final loss to the Czech Republic, again on another amazing end to end rush.
“He is definitely the fastest guy in the NHL,” said Slovakia captain Pavol Demitra. “Maybe the fastest in the world.”
Tjarnqvist and Koivu aren’t the only members of the Wild who returned home with a medal.
Filip Kuba left the Torino Games with a bronze medal around his neck as a member of the Czech Republic national team.
And Brian Rolston was a big contributor for the United States. He had three goals and four points to help the USA advance to the quarterfinals.