With the IIHF World Junior Championship back in British Columbia for the
first time in 13 years and B.C. Hockey celebrating its 100th anniversary,
we asked the question … what are the best performances by B.C. natives in
World Juniors history?
NO. 10 – RYAN WALTER
Hometown: Burnaby, B.C.
Minor Hockey Association: Burnaby MHA
1978 IIHF World Junior Championship
Statistics: 6GP 5G 3A 8P
Result: bronze medal
The 1978 IIHF World Junior Championship marked the first time the
tournament was played on Canadian ice, and the first time Canada sent a
national team as its representative (in previous years – and from 1979-81 –
the Memorial Cup champions wore the Maple Leaf).
Walter, in the midst of a 125-point season with the Seattle Breakers, was
chosen to wear the ‘C’ and lead a team that included future NHLers like
Mike Gartner, Rick Vaive, Bobby Smith, Craig Hartsburg and a 16-year-old
Wayne Gretzky, who led the tournament in scoring.
The Burnaby product spread his offence across the tournament, scoring in
four of the six round-robin games, including the game-winner in the opener
against the United States. His biggest outburst came in a 6-5 loss to
Sweden, when he scored twice and added an assist.
What was it like to play in Montreal, at the fabled Forum?
“Playing in front of the Montreal crowd was an amazing experience. It was
like playing in the mecca of the hockey world, in front of fans that didn’t
hold [their emotions] back. I remember the seats at the rink were always
shiny. Lots of snow had fallen during the week prior to the tournament so
heading to the arena had a magical feel to it. Players needed to enjoy the
moment. They needed to know the outcome that they wanted, without
necessarily focusing on it. In these types of championships, you can’t look
too far ahead. If you do so, you tend to forget the process you need to go
through in order to get to that specific outcome.”
What did it mean to you to be selected as captain of that team?
“To be a captain of a short-tournament team is different is very much
different than being the captain of a team where you’re playing on it for a
whole season, or you’ve been on the team for three or four years. So, it
was interesting. Somebody had to be captain, and you could have picked four
or five of those players to be captain; it was a real honour for me.”
How have you seen the World Juniors evolve?
“I think the big change I’ve seen is the importance of it. I think it was
always a place to show off your skill, but now if you look back at the
World Juniors, you’re going to see that many of those players have long NHL
careers. It’s become a preview of some of the best players in the world.
It’s also heightened the importance of teams participating, but also
winning. When Sweden goes to the World Juniors, they’re not looking to
finish top three or four, they’re looking to win. Russia is looking to win,
Finland, and many other countries are expecting to win. And that’s
obviously true of Canada as well. And I love that, I love the compete
level. It’s not just the players on the ice, it’s the people in the country
that are also moving toward those expectations.”