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Road to World Cup

Sweden looking to get back on top

Won Olympic gold medal in 2006; began international play in 1920 @NHL

World Cup history (1996-present): Lost in semifinal in 1996, lost in quarterfinal in 2004

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

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

Olympic history (since 1998): Finished fifth in 1998, fifth in 2002, first in 2006, fifth in 2010, second in 2014

Olympic medal history (overall): Gold 2, silver 3, bronze 4

American movie distributor Raoul Le Mat brought hockey to Sweden in 1919. Le Mat, who played hockey in his youth, was impressed with the way Swedes played bandy (field hockey on ice) and thought their skills would translate well to hockey. Sweden entered a team in the 1920 Antwerp Olympics with Le Mat as its coach.

At the time, the only experienced Swedish hockey player was Nils Molander, who had played in Germany. The team Sweden sent to Antwerp consisted of Molander and 10 of the best bandy players in the country. Because the newcomers didn't have proper equipment, the United States team loaned them sticks as a token of respect for La Mat. Sweden did not perform badly, considering its players' inexperience, finishing fourth in the seven-team field behind Canada, the United States and Czechoslovakia.

After the 1920 Olympics, hockey started gaining a footing in Sweden. The IIHF awarded Sweden the opportunity to host the 1921 European Championship; the home team won by defeating Czechoslovakia, the only other country to enter. Still, that championship provided momentum for the growth of hockey in Sweden: The Swedish Ice Hockey Association was formed in 1922; one year later, hockey was admitted into the Royal Sports Union of Sweden.

Sweden's team is often called Tre Kronor (Three Crowns) after the country's coat of arms and the logo on its jerseys. The logo was used for the first time at the 1938 World Championship in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

Sweden's first hockey medal in major international competition, a silver, came at the 1928 St. Moritz Winter Olympics. It would be another 25 years before Sweden would win any kind of gold medal; that came at the 1953 World Championship in Basel and Zurich, Switzerland. Sweden went 4-0-0 to win the tournament; another victory was annulled and one game was canceled when Czechoslovakia suddenly withdrew from the tournament because of the illness and death of president Klement Gottwald, who had contracted pneumonia at the funeral of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

Entering the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, Sweden had medaled six times but was still chasing its first gold. The '94 team included Peter Forsberg, a future NHL star, as well as former NHL players such as Hakan Loob and Mats Naslund. Sweden trailed Canada 2-1 late in the third period of the gold medal game before Magnus Svensson scored the tying goal. The game went to a shootout and Forsberg's goal in the seventh round gave Sweden its first Olympic gold medal.

Forsberg's game-winner is one of the most famous goals in Olympic history. He came in on goaltender Corey Hirsch, moved to his left but kept the puck on his stick and put it into the net one-handed. The "Forsberg deke" goal was later commemorated by Sweden on a postage stamp.

The victory was also a milestone for Loob, Naslund and Tomas Jonsson, who became the first three members of the Triple Gold Club, having won the Stanley Cup and a World Championship gold medal to go along with an Olympic gold medal.

Since then, Sweden has been one of the world's hockey powers. It won gold again at the 2006 Torino Olympics and earned the silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Sweden also has 13 medals, including three golds, at the World Championship in the past 20 years.

Sweden came up empty at the World Cup of Hockey in 1996 and 2004. But with an all-NHL roster that includes goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, defensemen Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman, and forwards Nicklas Backstrom and captain Henrik Zetterberg, it's a top contender to win in 2016.

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