Team Sweden capsule
Sun Media

Sun Prediction: 2nd

Life was not sweet for Team Sweden at the end of the 2002 Olympics.

Splashed across Stockholm's biggest daily newspaper with a head shot of each player, the team was accused of being quitters, embarrassing their country and choking on the gold medal everybody in Sweden so badly wanted them to put around their necks.

All this because the Swedes decided to pin their hopes on Tommy Salo who couldn't handle a Vladimir Kopat shot from centre in the quarter-final against Belarus. The shame has gone away, but the memories have not and Salo never recovered from that moment. It wasn't long before he was let go by the Edmonton Oilers and has disappeared off the NHL map.

"I was lucky," said Philadelphia Flyers centre Peter Forsberg of the 2002 Games, "I wasn't there."

No kidding. That moment is going to be held over the Swedes' heads as they arrive at these Olympics. The only way they can make anybody at home forget what happened is to bring home gold and many of them admit this might be their last chance.

The chances of Mats Sundin (Toronto), Marcus Naslund (Vancouver), Daniel Alfredsson (Ottawa), defenceman Nik Lidstrom (Detroit) and Forsberg all being on the 2010 Swedish team in Vancouver are slim and they know it.

"We're not getting any younger," said Forsberg. "We feel like we've got a good chance. We've got strong talent and we've got guys who have been there before."

Don't think for a second that winning gold isn't a big deal in Sweden.

"Our goal is the same as everybody else and winning gold would mean a lot to the people in Sweden," Alfredsson said. "Hockey is big in Sweden, but it's not big like it is in Canada. Hockey isn't as big anywhere as it is here, but people love the sport and they want us to have success. That's why they were so upset with our performance in 2002."

The Swedes think it will be different in 2006. One of the biggest reasons they're so comfortable is their goaltending. Henrik Lundqvist -- with some help from teammate Jaromir Jagr -- has stolen the show while the Leafs' Mikael Tellqvist will be the backup. With Lundqvist, Sweden should be able to count on having a guy who can make the big saves.

"He can steal games for you and that's what you need in a short tournament," said Alfredsson, who played with Lundqvist during the lockout in Goteborg, Sweden. "He's going to be excellent for us. He played so well for us last season and he has a chance to be one of the best goalies in the world.

"Look, nobody is blaming Salo for what happened in Salt Lake. We didn't play well and we shouldn't have put him in that situation."