The 1991 Canada Cup was special for many reasons. Four years earlier, the legendary Canada Cup of 1987 produced some unforgettable moments, but it wasn’t as magical this time. Team Soviet was in disarray and didn’t make it past the group stage.
Team Canada had no trouble whatsoever in the tournament and even swept Team USA in the final. But many may remember it for a different reason. It was the first time Eric Lindros presented himself to the hockey world, and what a show it was.
Eric Lindros was just 18 years at the time and had just gone first overall in the NHL Draft. As well known, he was refusing to play for the Quebec Nordiques, but this was his big moment to show the world what a player he was.
Anticipations were high before. Everybody wondered if Lindros really was just as good as the rumors had said. It turned out Lindros was everything advertised and more.
Lindros scored three goals in the tournament, but it wasn’t his offensive play that caught the attention of the fans. It was his physical play. Lindros always played a strong game in his career, and despite playing with and against some of the best players in the world, at only 18, he didn’t hold back one bit.
He took Martin Rucinsky out of the tournament with a big hit during the tourney. But an even more memorable and classic moment happened in the game against Team Sweden.
Ulf Samuelsson was, at that moment, one of the NHL’s most hated players. He had a reputation for deliberately injuring players, and his reputation didn’t increase after a knee-to-knee hit on Cam Neely during the 1991 playoffs.
Samuelsson was known as ”Robocop” for his tough style on the ice, and every player not playing for Team Sweden wanted him to hurt during the Canada Cup.
So when Team Sweden and Team Canada played in the tournament, Lindros showed what he was made of. Lindros, and a reminder that he was just 18 at the time, absolutely destroyed Samuelsson with a breathtaking hit, and we can just imagine everyone in Canada flew up from their seats to find someone to high-five. An 18-year-old generational talent destroyed one of hockey’s biggest villains. We will never forget it.
See the hit in the video below, at the 7.49 mark: