December 10, 2013 / 2:13 pm

“Triple Gold Cup” a Rare Feat for Hockey Players

If you’re a hockey fan, you may have heard of a distinct player list called the “Triple Gold Club.” This is a list of current and former NHL players that have won the Stanley Cup, an Olympic gold medal, and an IIHF World Championship, the three titles that are considered the most important in all of hockey.

It is very difficult to achieve, especially because the IIHF championships are played in May, when most of the top hockey players in the world are playing for the Stanley Cup with their professional teams instead of representing their countries for two or three weeks in Europe. In other words, the only way to play in this event is to miss the Stanley Cup playoffs or be eliminated early enough.

Because of this, many of today’s top NHL players and many of the greatest ones ever are not currently part of the Triple Gold Club, and perhaps never will be unless their teams fail to at least reach the second round of the playoffs. For that reason, this club is not of primary importance for most hockey players in North America, although it is a very rare feat.

Interestingly, current Chicago Blackhawk Jonathan Toews won an IIHF title in 2007 before he turned pro, being picked by Canada mainly because of his stellar play at the World Juniors earlier that year. Unless the Blackhawks spiral downward, he may never play in the IIHF tourney again.

The first entrants to this club were Tomas Jonnson, Mats Naslund, and Hakan Loob, all of Sweden’s Olympic gold team in 1994, the first year NHL players were permitted. Today, there are only 25 members. The most recent entrants to this club are Jonathan Toews in 2010 and Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins in 2011, both after Stanley Cup victories.

There are currently no Americans in the Triple Gold Club. The United States has never won an IIHF men’s title and has yet to win Olympic Gold in men’s hockey since 1980. In fact, Ken Morrow and Neal Broten are the only members of the “Miracle on Ice” team to have even won a Stanley Cup in their careers. It is not impossible that Patrick Kane or Dustin Brown could join the club if the U.S. were to win gold in Sochi, but the Blackhawks or Kings would probably need to miss the playoffs, too.

There are some players that are a Stanley Cup away from reaching this club. The Sedin brothers, Henrik and Daniel, have both won Olympic gold with Sweden in 2006 and an IIHF title in 2013 last summer. A title for the Vancouver Canucks would put them both in this club. Jarome Iginla, who set up Sidney Crosby’s “Golden Goal” in Vancouver and also won an IIHF title in 1997, still has yet to win the Cup after having been denied in a classic 7-game series in 2004, but he would join the club should Boston win it all this year.

Then, there are players that would need to win an IIHF title to join this club, and that would involve either missing the NHL playoffs or an early exit. For example, Crosby has won the Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold, but for him to join the Triple Gold Club in 2014, his Penguins would need to miss the playoffs, and that is unlikely for the foreseeable future. He declined a chance to join Canada after Pittsburgh was bounced from the 2012 playoffs, which is probably the right thing to do in terms of risking injury, anyway.

Still, it is not the worst thing in the world for an NHL star to never reach the Triple Gold Club; especially considering that playing in the IIHF tourney is much like playing in college basketball’s NIT. Generally, the Stanley Cup is first in prestige when it comes to hockey titles, followed by Olympic gold.  Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, and Stan Mikita never joined this club, although Orr and Mikita could never compete in the Olympics as NHL stars anyway, and Gretzky’s only Games appearance was in 1998.

Bottom line, the only reason the Triple Gold Club is relevant is because it is a very rare feat, although one that requires participating in basically a consolation event. If you’re an NHL star and never participate in the IIHF tourney, thus never having a shot at the Triple Gold Club, it might be because you’re doing something right.

-Adam Reinhart, @AdamReinhart1