FINLAND had come to Calgary in 1988 with perhaps their strongest Olympic team yet. The Finns were featuring six former National Hockey League players including one-time New York Rangers All-Star defenseman REIJO RUOTSALAINEN. Ruotsalainen, 27, had hoisted the Stanley Cup with Wayne Gretzky and the empirical Edmonton Oilers just nine months earlier.
SWITZERLAND, in some respects, were just happy to have the opportunity to skate at the Olympic finals in Alberta. Even though the competition had been expanded to twelve teams eight years earlier, Switzerland’s appearance at the Calgary Games marked their ice hockey team’s first Winter Olympics since 1964. What’s more, the Swiss had lost all ten of their games at the 1987 IIHF World Championships A pool in Vienna the previous spring and had been immediately demoted right back down to the B pool for the following tournament.
If nothing else for the Swiss, events in Austria did foreshadow what lay ahead in Alberta for the Finns, however.
In the first of two meetings the spring of 1987 at Vienna, Finland unleashed a relentless 84-shot barrage upon Switzerland’s goal. Standing tall between the sticks, Swiss goaltender OLIVER ANKEN was undaunted, however. Although Finland ended up on top 3-2, it was Anken’s astonishing 81 saves that fashioned the all the attention and rightly so.
At Calgary the following winter, the Finns and Swiss faced off once again on the opening day of Group B play in the round-robin.
This time around, Switzerland scored twice thru PETER JAKS and JAKOB KOELLIKER within the game’s initial eight minutes and in spite of just five shots for the opening twenty minutes. For the whole of contest, actually, the Swiss would officially generate only fifteen efforts on the Finnish goal. The balance of the story is on the account of Switzerland’s goaltender, RICHARD BUCHER.
Finland did get one goal back roughly four minutes into the third period and applied furious pressure the rest of the way, but, in all, Bucher was able to block 32 pucks as Switzerland skated off 2-1 victors.
As a testament to the genuine quality of their squad in 1988, it was the Finns who ultimately went home with the set of silver medals for the ice hockey competition at Calgary.