Canada's ERIC LINDROS (88) upends VYACHESLAV BUTSAYEV (22) of the Unified Team at the 1992 Winter Olympic Games in Albertville, France. The fall of the Berlin Wall in November of 1989 touched off a series of events that resulted in great upheaval for the world of international hockey that contiuned well into the 1990s.
The SOVIET UNION having ceased to exist in December of 1991, it was the so-called “Unified Team” that competed under the International Olympic Committee’s traditional banner, a white flag bearing the five multi-colored Olympic rings, at the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France.
The Unified Team was a joint venture that represented six of the former fifteen Soviet republics — Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
Officially, the Unified Team competed at the Olympics under the country code EUN, which was derived from the French term, EQUIPPE UNIFIEE. Not surprisingly, the Soviet Union’s stand-in fielded a formidable ice hockey contingent which captured the set of gold medals in the French Alps in convincing fashion.
All but two of the Unified Team’s champion pucksters were Russians; CSKA Moscow blueliner ALEXEI ZHITNIK of Ukraine and Dynamo Moscow defenseman DARIUS KASPARAITIS of Lithuania were the lone exceptions. Both players would later declare and compete internationally for Russia.
Russia immediately took the USSR’s place at the IIHF World Championships in the spring of 1992 a few months following the Albertville Games.
The rest of the old hockey-playing Soviet republics — Belarus, Estonia, Latvia (which had declared independence from the disintegrating USSR in the spring of 1991), Lithuania (the first to declare independence in the spring of 1990), Kazakhstan and Ukraine — contested a qualifying tournament staged by the International Ice Hockey Federation in the fall of 1992 to determine entry level at the World Championships.
Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Ukraine all earned the right to begin play at the C Pool for the 1993 edition of the IIHF’s annual event.
The recently resurrected country of RUSSIA made its first appearance at the Olympics with the Winter Games held at Lillehammer in 1994.
Two brand new nations in the CZECH REPUBLIC and SLOVAKIA — the two entities that had comprised the one-time international ice hockey power from the former Czechoslovakia — also made their Olympic debuts in Norway that year.
The Czech Republic, like Russia, had immediately transitioned to the A Pool at the 1992 IIHF World Championships.
Slovakia, however, would not begin competition at the C Pool of the IIHF World Championships until the spring of 1994. Thus, with the Winter Olympic Games at Lillehammer, the Slovaks skated for the very first time at a major international ice hockey tournament.