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Road to World Cup

Team Canada out to continue dominance on world stage

Won World Cup in 2004, Olympic gold in 2010, 2014 and World Championship in 2015, 2016 @NHL

World Cup history (1996-present): Runner-up in 1996, first in 2004

Canada Cup history (1976-91): Finished first in 1976, second in 1981, first in 1984, first in 1987, first in 1991

World Championship history (2012-16): Finished fifth in 2012, fifth in 2013, fifth in 2014, first in 2015, first in 2016

Olympic history (since 1998): Finished fourth in 1998, first in 2002, seventh in 2006, first in 2010, first in 2014.

Olympic medal history (overall): Gold 9, silver 4, bronze 2

Although the exact narrative concerning the invention of hockey is unclear, there is no doubt it was invented in Canada. The rules for organized hockey were laid out in Montreal and advertisements for games first appeared in newspapers in 1875. From there, the game took hold as Canada's national sport.

In 1914, the Canada Amateur Hockey Association was formed to represent the interests of amateur players in an increasingly professionalized game. Six years later, the IIHF recognized CAHA as Canada's representative in international hockey and allowed Canada to send the best amateur team in the country to the 1920 Antwerp Olympics. Canada, represented by the Winnipeg Falcons, won the gold medal. Canada went on to win gold in all but one Olympics before World War II, and continued the practice of sending the best amateur club each time. The lone loss came in the 1936 Olympics, held in Germany, when Great Britain upset Canada 2-1 and went on to win the gold, leaving Canada with the silver medal.

Canada continued to dominate hockey in the early years after World War II, winning the gold medal at the 1948 St. Moritz Olympics and the 1952 Oslo Olympics, as well as four gold medals in five years from 1948-52 with amateur teams in the World Championship. But that dominance began to fade after the Soviet Union entered the World Championship for the first time in 1954 and defeated Canada for the championship, then won gold at the 1956 Cortina d'Ampezzo Olympics, with Canada finishing third.

The Soviet Union began to dominate international hockey and Canada was unable to use its professional players because IIHF rules at the time forbade pros from playing internationally. Canada did not participate in the Olympics or World Championship from 1970-76. Canada's professionals did face the Soviet Union for the first time at the 1972 Summit Series, when an all-NHL team won each of the last three games to take the series for Canada, 4-3-1. 

Canada returned to international hockey at the 1977 World Championship after a deal was brokered between the IIHF and Canadian hockey authorities. In exchange for Canada being able to use professional players in the World Championship, the IIHF sanctioned a tournament to be held every four years in North America between Canada, the United States and the top four other hockey teams in the world. The tournament was to be called the Canada Cup.

However, professional players were not allowed in the Winter Olympics until 1986, when the International Olympic Committee allowed pros to compete. But the NHL opted not to release all of its players to compete in the midseason event, so Canada's Olympic teams from 1988 through 1994 were comprised mostly of former NHL players and unsigned players. Canada did not medal at the 1980, 1984 and 1988 Olympics, but won back-to-back silvers in 1992 and 1994.

Video: CAN@USA: Doughty lasers slap shot to cut lead to one

In 1996, the Canada Cup was rebranded as the World Cup of Hockey. After winning the final three Canada Cups, Canada was defeated by the United States in the best-of-3 championship at the inaugural World Cup.

The NHL began allowing all of its players to take part in the Winter Olympics in 1998. Four years later, Canada ended a 50-year gold medal drought when a team led by Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic defeated the U.S. in the gold medal game at Salt Lake City. After a seventh-place finish at the 2006 Torino Olympics, Canada won gold in 2010 and 2014.

Canada comes into the World Cup of Hockey 2016 as the defending champion in the World Cup after winning in 2004, and has three gold medals in the past four Winter Olympics, and has won the World Championship in 2015 and 2016.

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