Finland has hosted the IIHF World Junior Championship on six previous occasions. For Canada, it’s been both the best of times and the worst of times.
From 1974 to 1976, the World Juniors was an invitational event. The Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League represented Canada in 1974; in 1975 it
was a team of all-stars from the Western Hockey League. In 1976, Canada was represented by the Sherbrooke Castors, champions of the Quebec Major Junior
Hockey League a year earlier. The format was simple: a five-team round-robin tournament. Canada opened with a win over Finland. Two days later the country
suffered what is still its worst defeat ever, a 17-1 loss at the hands of Sweden in which it was outshot 79-14. Canada rebounded to beat the Czech
Republic, but it fell in its finale to the Soviet Union. The Canadians and the Czechs finished with identical 2-2 records, but Canada’s win in the
head-to-head match-up gave it the tiebreaker, and with it the silver medal.
The 1979 Memorial Cup champion Peterborough Petes, led by head coach Mike Keenan, represented Canada in 1980, strengthened by the addition of a handful of
players from the London Knights, Ottawa 67s and Oshawa Generals. While the skaters averaged five goals a game, the goaltenders struggled. Rick LaFerriere
posted a 3.25 goals-against average, and Terry Wright allowed five goals in his only start. Canada went 1-2 in group play and failed to qualify for the
medal round. The team defeated both the United States and Germany in consolation play to finish in fifth place.
Canada opened with five straight wins, outscoring Sweden, Poland, Germany, the U.S., and the Soviet Union 38-8. A 4-4 tie versus Finland set up essentially
a gold-medal showdown with the Czech Republic on New Year’s Day. Both teams sat at 5-0-1, but with its better goal differential (+30 versus +19) Canada
knew it needed only a tie to clinch its second gold medal. The teams exchanged first-period goals and played a scoreless second. The Czechs retook the lead
12:22 into the third but only 1:21 later, winger Wendel Clark, who had played the first 40 minutes as a defenceman, beat Dominik Hasek for what proved to
be the gold-medal-winning goal.
Led by tournament all-stars Dave Chyzowski (13 points) and Stéphane Fiset – also named Best Goaltender by the IIHF Directorate – Canada opened with a 3-0-1
mark, then took control of its own fate with a 6-4 win over the previously unbeaten Soviet Union. Versus Sweden, Canada went up 4-2 early in the third
before allowing three goals over a span of 1:36 and eventually losing 5-4. That loss, coupled with the Soviets’ win over the Czech Republic, meant Canada
would need help from Sweden to turn a locked-up silver into gold. On the last day of the tournament, Patrick Englund scored with one second left in
regulation, giving Sweden a 5-5 tie with the Soviets in Helsinki. Moments later Canada held off the Czechs, 2-1, in Turku to clinch a second straight gold
medal on Finnish ice.
Scoring did not come easy – or often: 13 goals in seven games. A pedestrian 2-2 preliminary round record left Canada in fourth place in Pool A and set up a
quarter-final clash with the winner of Group B, Russia. Tied 1-1 after regulation the teams played a 10-minute overtime. With a shootout looming, Eric
Brewer hit the post. On the ensuing rush, Maxim Afinogenov beat Mathieu Garon with 39 seconds left. Canada lost its first placement game, 3-0, to the
United States. A tournament that had been a struggle right from the start ended the next day with a 6-3 loss to Kazakhstan, relegating Canada to eighth
place and its worst finish ever at a World Juniors.
There was 16-year-old Sidney Crosby becoming the youngest player to ever score for Canada. There was Nigel Dawes and Anthony Stewart leading the tournament
in scoring, and Dion Phaneuf and Jeff Carter being named tournament all-stars. And there was Canada going 5-0 through the preliminary round and semifinals,
winning by a combined 32-5. Then there was the gold medal game – and a pair of did-those-just-happen bounces – against the United States. Two goals from
Dawes and one from Stewart had Canada up 3-1 after 40 minutes. Patrick O’Sullivan made it 3-2 early in the third, before a shot from Ryan Kesler went off
Marc-André Fleury’s stick, hung in the air, then fell over the goalie’s head and in to tie the game. With 5:13 left in regulation, O’Sullivan lost control
of the puck as he and Braydon Coburn drove to the Canadian net. Fleury’s attempt to clear the puck went off Coburn’s shoulder and in, giving the United
States its first gold medal at the World Juniors.