Norway is the all time leader in winter Olympic medals. In the history of the games, they have won 263 medals; their nearest country in terms of overall medals in the USA with 193. No one would doubt that the Norwegians are not masters of winter games. But amazingly enough, they absolutely suck at ice hockey. I use the "american" euphamism "ice" hockey to underpin that Norway actually has ice. We are not talking about India here, and some form of other turban filled hockey with short curvy sticks on a green field. I'm talking about "ice" hockey. Why does Norway suck so badly? Well, in the next few minutes, I will try and get to the bottom of this.
First of all some history. Let us confirm that Norway is indeed awful at hockey. First of all, Norway has had a national hockey program since 1937. They have been to the IIHF World Championships 56 times in those years and their best finish is 4th. That was in 1951. They have never won a medal at the Olympics, their best finish being 8th! For goodness sakes, that is terrible.
Actually, while I'm at it, I should confirm that I'm talking about men's hockey. Women's hockey has not been around long enough to demonstrate Norway's suckiness - although they suck at women's hockey too. Finally, to confirm their ineptitude, their all-time win-loss record in international games is 333-563-106. That is a winning percentage below .300. I mean, other than the Clippers, who else sucks this much?
They have one players in the NHL. Ole-Kristian Tollefsen plays for the Flyers and he sucks. He has 10 points in 145 NHL career games. Even though he plays defense, that still is awful. Tollefsen is one of only five Norwegians to ever play in the NHL, the others being Bjørn Skaare, Anders Myrvold, Espen Knutsen, and Patrick Thoresen.
So I think we have established how much Norway shits the bed when it comes to hockey, but why? Here are a list of possible reasons:
1. Norway is not good at sports - FALSE
Ok, remember that Norway leads all countries in terms of Olympic Winter medals. On top of that, they have 134 medals in the summer Olympics, which puts them on par with Cuba. I mean, Norway has a long winter and they still win this many summer medals; not to mention the summer Olympics are much more competitive. So I think we can safely say that Norway is a country full of athletes; so why no hockey players?
2. Hockey is not popular in Scandanavia - FALSE
Are you kidding me? Their two neighbors, Finland and Sweden, are essentially 2 of the top 6 best hockey nations on earth (along with Canada, Russia, Czechslovakia, and USA). Sweden has won 8 medals in 20 Olympics and Finland have won 4 in 14 appearances. So clearly they DO play hockey in the Scandanavian countries. Both countries played their first international games in the 1920s and remember that Norway did play their first international over 70 years ago. So clearly they play the game up there.
3. They don't have the population - SEMI-TRUE
So Norway is a country of 5 Million. That is pretty low, so they may have an excuse there. However, that is basically the same as Finland and Slovakia, both countries that do much better than Norway in hockey. Moreover, Norway's other sports teams do ok with a small population. Taking soccer as the best measure of team excellence, Norway is currently ranked 32nd in the world, not bad, considering Canada is like 56th and everyone plays soccer. They have been as high as 2nd in the FIFA standings and made the World Cup 3 times. So they can play team sports, despite their smaller population size. No excuse there.
4. They are wimps - PROBABLY TRUE but not the reason for why they SUCK
Well there is a certain pride for North Americans to call European hockey as weak sissy pants. But Europeans are good at sports like rugby and soccer, both fairly intense sports. So as a general rule, it is probably not applicable across the board. But in hockey, it is true that europeans play more of a finesse game. But this style of play WORKS for Finland and Sweden, and even Switzerland. So even if we unjustly state that Norway is a wimpy country, it is not the reason for their ineptitude in hockey. And, if any norwegians are reading this, it is probably not true anyways.
5. They don't have the facilities - FALSE (probably)
I'm going to go out on a limb and state that Norway has plenty of ice to play hockey on. Never having been there, I cannot confirm this, but I think we can all agree that with the Artic circle in their back yard, they have ice on which to play hockey. In fact, as a socialist and highly taxed economy, they most likely have many state sponsored recreational areas. Given that Norway has had huge success in speed skating, there is no doubt that they have the infrastructure to succeed.
6. They cannot skate - FALSE
As witness to the number of speed skating medals they have won at the olympics, this is certainly not true. Norway has in fact the MOST medals ever in long track speed skating and the 2nd most gold medals. So they definitely can skate. Strangely enough, they have never won a short track speed skating medal - again, probably because all their skating surfaces are long track arenas.
6. They play other sports instead - TRUE!
There we have it. Norwegians love to ski. They love to skate. They are really good at both. But they simply do not play hockey. I mean, maybe we could go into a deep psycho analysis of how the Norwegians are bread to passive, individuals sports, and maybe that is true, but I don't know. All I know is that they suck at hockey yet are amazing athletes, and skaters. There is nothing preventing them from becoming decent at hockey, but something tells me that having 15 guys do cross country skiing to bring home 20 medals is a better distribution of ressources than trying to have those 15 guys play hockey and possibly bring home 1 medal.