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Calgary Flames at the Olympic Games

Flames' Ladislav Smid (L) grabs Flyers Jakub Voracek along the boards during NHL action in Calgary,...

Flames' Ladislav Smid (L) grabs Flyers Jakub Voracek along the boards during NHL action in Calgary, Alta. at the Scotiabank Saddledome between the Calgary Flames and the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday December 31, 2013. (Jim Wells/QMI Agency)

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:27 AM ET

For hockey fans across Canada, the reaction was — still is, actually — shock and disbelief.

The setting: Semifinal action at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan — the first five-ring circus to include NHLers.

The scenario: A shootout to break the stalemate between Team Canada and the Czech Republic, with the winner advancing to the gold-medal game.

The stunner: The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, was not among the five marksmen selected for Canada in the skills competition.

“Yeah, I remember him sitting on the bench during the shootout. It was crazy,” recalled Calgary Flames rearguard Ladislav Smid, who, as an aspiring puck prospect in the Czech Republic, was understandably cheering for the other guys.

“I mean, (Gretzky) is the best player ever ... I guess the coach probably went with his gut.”


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