Memorable moments for Canada's team
The holiday season has provided some great hockey over 35 years
By Evan Daum, Freelance
December 23, 2011 3:37 AM
Canada's Jordan Eberle, right, scores on Russia's goalie Vadim Zhelobnyuk in the final seconds of the third period during their semifinal game in 2009.
Photograph by: Blair Gable, Reuters, File, Freelance
When it comes to the world junior hockey tournament, Team Canada has run the gamut of ups and downs over the past 35 years.
From the high of capturing gold 15 times since the first tournament in 1977 to the low of being involved in one of the most infamous brawls in hockey history, Canadians have witnessed many memorable moments over the holiday season when the boys in red and white lace up their skates.
Canadian hockey fans have made watching the tournament a tradition, whether it's played on home soil or overseas.
While there are dozens of moments that will live forever in Canadian hockey lore, here are the top 10 involving the world junior tournament.
Canada finally strikes gold
The Soviet Union took the first four official world junior tournaments starting in 1977, as well as the preceding three non-IIHF sanctioned events, and the Swedes earned gold in 1981. Finally, in 1982, it was Canada's turn to top the podium.
While the majority of the tournament was played south of the border in Minnesota, Team Canada took advantage of a little home ice to start the tournament, playing their first three games in Winnipeg.
The Canadians would make the most of the time in the Manitoba capital, going 3-0-0, including a 7-0 win over the powerful Soviets.
When the scene shifted to Minnesota for the Canadians' final four games of the seven-game round-robin tournament, there was no stopping them.
In the tournament's early days, Canada was represented predominantly by the defending Memorial Cup Champs. But this time around, the first truly national team was sent to compete. The Canadians finished with a 6-0-1 record and future Buffalo Sabre Mike Moller led Canada in scoring with 14 points. The only blemish came in a 3-3 tie against runners-up Czechoslovakia in the tournament finale.
Punch-up in Piestany ends Canadians quest
A shot at gold in 1987 was still a possibility for Team Canada heading into their final game of the round-robin tournament. But medal hopes went out the window after their game against the Soviets ended in a bench-clearing brawl that would come to be known simply as the Punch-up in Piestany, in what's now Slovakia.
After going 4-1-1 over their first six games, Canada went into their tournament finale against the U.S.S.R. in the mix for gold.
Holding a 4-2 lead with just under 14 minutes to go in the second, Canada - who needed to beat the Soviets by at least five goals to keep their gold medal hopes alive - appeared to be still very much in the running. That is until Pavel Kostichkin's two-handed slash on Theoren Fleury sparked a bench-clearing brawl that won't soon be forgotten.
After the officials' attempts to bring the brawl under control failed, the lights in the Piestany arena were shut off with the hope that darkness would quell the fisticuffs. The fighting went on for another 20 minutes after the lights went out.
When the dust finally settled, the discipline that followed would spell the end of the tournament for the red and white.
Both Team Canada and the Soviets were disqualified, and while Finland went on to win their first gold medal, the 1987 tournament will be remembered for one of the most infamous brawls in hockey history.
Waite backstops Canada to gold in Moscow
It didn't take long for Team Canada to get their revenge against the U.S.S.R. after both teams had their gold-medal hopes dashed in Piestany. Canada bounced back in 1988 with a major statement on Soviet soil.
Jimmy Waite's unbelievable play between the pipes - one of the most dominant goaltending performances in world junior history -propelled the red and white to their third world junior gold.
Starting the tournament at 3-0-1, the Canadians went into their fifth game against the 4-0-0 Soviets looking to make a major statement in Moscow. Team Canada would do just that with a 3-2 win over a starstudded U.S.S.R. team that featured the tournament's leading scorer and future NHLer Alexander Mogilny.
The win would prove to be the difference for Canada, finishing with a 6-0-1 record, compared with the Soviets' 6-1-0 record, lifting Team Canada to one of their sweetest golds in tournament history by helping to erase the sour taste of Piestany.
Saskatchewan's soil goes golden
In their previous two tries on home soil, first in Montreal in 1978 and then in Hamilton in 1986, Team Canada had come up short of claiming gold, finishing with bronze and silver respectively.
The third time proved to be the charm, however, with Saskatchewan hosting the first win for Canada at home, and in the process the team's first back-to-back championships.
Coming off a gold in Finland a year earlier, the 1991 edition of the red and white faced high expectations to repeat and win the nation's first world junior championship on Canadian soil.
With a 4-1-1 record, Canada's seventh and final game of the tournament against the U.S.S.R., who sported an identical 4-1-1 record, amounted to the gold-medal game.
With first place on the line and the game deadlocked at 2-2 in the third period, it appeared their gold medal hopes would be dashed by the Soviets, as nothing but a win would clinch Canada's fifth world junior gold. That's when defenceman John Slaney's shot sailed into the Soviet goal to earn Canada gold for the first time on home soil.
The tournament was also one of the crowning junior moments for future NHL star Eric Lindros, who led the Canadians with 17 points to earn tournament MVP honours to go along with his second gold.
Iginla and Theodore power playoff gold
The 1996 edition of the world juniors marked the first time the tournament featured a playoff round. Regardless of the format change, Canada once again emerged as champions.
Heading into the tournament in Massachusetts, Canada was riding high after capturing three consecutive gold medals - the longest stretch since the Soviets won the first four world junior tournaments.
Things got off to a smooth start for the Canadians, who won their four round-robin games by a combined score of 19-4, and in the process earned a bye into the semifinals thanks to their first place finish atop group A.
In the semis, Canada met an old foe with a new name - Russia. Despite a 2-1-1 round-robin record, the Canadians faced the toughest test of the tournament with the Russians.
But with the likes of Kamloops Blazers superstar Jarome Iginla and Hull Olympiques netminder Jose Theodore, Canada notched a 4-3 semifinal win.
Iginla and Theodore, who were both named tournament all-stars, weren't denied in the gold-medal game, skating away with a 4-1 win over Sweden to claim Canada's fourth gold in a row.
Canada climbs back to gold
It was a win seven years in the making for Team Canada.
The 2005 tournament in Grand Forks, N.D., was memorable not only for Canada striking gold for the first time since 1997, but also for the flock of Canadians who made the trek south to witness it.
After winning five straight gold medals between 1993 and 1997, it seemed Canada had no equal when it came to world junior hockey. But following seven straight years without gold, Canadians wondered when they'd once again triumph.
Three consecutive years of silver meant that Canada had hardly fallen off the face of the hockey world, but in Grand Forks nothing but gold would suffice.
Backed by thousands of Canadians, especially those who made the trek south from Winnipeg, Canada went a perfect 4-0-0 to finish first in group B and claim a spot in the semifinals. There the Canadians met the Czech Republic and with a 3-1 win earned their fourth straight appearance in the gold-medal game where they met the Russians for the fourth time in five years.
Backed by a crowd clad in red and white, Ryan Getzlaf scored in less than a minute. It would prove to be just the beginning for the Canadians, as they rolled to a 5-1 win and a gold medal many years in the making.
Toews trio sinks Stars and Stripes
Gold never comes easy, or without its fair share of drama - just ask Jonathan Toews.
Little did the University of North Dakota star know, but after the 2007 tournament in Sweden, he would go down as Canada's greatest shootout performer.
Thanks to a 4-0-0 record through round-robin play, Canada once again looked prime for gold after winning the previous two tournaments. But a date with the U.S. in the semifinals nearly derailed Canada's quest for their third-straight title.
After trading power-play goals during regulation, including defenceman Luc Bourdon's equalizer for the Canadians with less than eight minutes to go in the third, overtime solved nothing.
A shootout would be the only solution between Canada and the U.S., and when it came down to it, Toews proved to be too much for American netminder Jeff Frazee to handle, scoring three times in a thrilling seven-round shootout to give Canada the 2-1 win.
Toews and company used the momentum from that heart-stopping semifinal win to eventually claim gold with a 4-2 win over the Russians.
Eberle electrifies the nation's capital
Nearly half-a-million Canadians watched in person, and millions more tuned in from coast to coast for the 2009 tournament in Ottawa that made Jordan Eberle a household name.
In his first world junior tournament, the Regina Pat stole the show in Canada's semifinal matchup against Russia.
Down 5-4 late in the third period, it appeared Canada was on their way to a loss in front of a raucous, sold-out crowd at Scotiabank Place - that is before Eberle scored his second goal of the game with only five seconds to go in regulation, sending the game to overtime.
With the game on his stick in the shootout, Eberle didn't disappoint, netting the 6-5 winner by beating Russian goalie Vadim Zhelobnyuk.
Eberle's heroics paved the way for Canada's fifth consecutive gold when the red and white downed Sweden 5-1.
Second time not a charm in Saskatoon
If Eberle hadn't already cemented his place in world junior lore after his heroics in Ottawa, he certainly did so after a repeat performance in Saskatoon in 2010.
The Canadians were once again one of the favourites heading into the tournament, looking to capture an unprecedented sixth consecutive gold medal and their second in Saskatoon after accomplishing the feat in 1991. Thanks to a relatively pedestrian 6-1 win over the Swiss in the semifinals, Canada had a date with the Americans in the gold-medal game.
Down 5-3 with less than five minutes to play, it seemed Canada found its hopes all but gone - that is, before Eberle got up to his old tricks. With 2: 49 to go, Eberle cut the lead to one with a power-play goal and then only 1: 04 later, the future Edmonton Oiler beat American goalie Jack Campbell to even the score at 5-5.
With Eberle and fate seemingly on their side, Team Canada headed to overtime riding high. But despite the third-period comeback, John Carlson's shot past Canadian goalie Martin Jones in overtime gave the U.S. their second world junior gold.
Canadians give up gold
Following their failed comeback in the gold-medal game a year earlier, Team Canada came out intent on getting back at the Americans on their home soil in Buffalo in 2011 and would get their shot in the semis.
It was all Canada in the semifinal game against the hosts, as the red and white skated to a 4-0 lead before the stars and stripes found the back of the net once in the third to make it a 4-1 final.
Canada managed to build a comfortable 3-0 lead in the final against the Russians as well, but this time the result would be far different.
Five unanswered third-period goals from Russia proved to be Canada's downfall in one of the most memorable collapses in world junior history.
The red and white will have to wait at least one more year to get back on top of the podium.
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