Lights of all colours and all designs line the roofs and trees of houses down the street. While the temperature outside chills the night air with the light dusting of snow, it is the hot chocolate with a light dusting of whipped cream and cinnamon sprinkles that warms our hearts, as friends and family rejoice with the uprising of the Christmas tree.
We laugh, talk, sit quietly next to the fire while carolers outside delight our spirit with a soft yet bold sound of Christmas harmony. It is that time of year again across the country of Canada.
WORLD JUNIOR HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIP TIME!
That is right. The IIHF World Junior Hockey Champions begin on Boxing Day from the Czech Republic, where Team Canada will go for its fourth straight gold medal at the tournament that has now become a holiday tradition in the homes of many Canadians.
To celebrate this festive time, which doesn’t begin for another 17 days, TSC will be posting Top 10′s on just about everything that is World Junior Hockey.
Today, we will start with a look back at the past 10 World Junior Hockey Championships; the good, the bad and the great.
So grab that egg nog, turn down the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas CD and let us go back in time…
1997: “The drive for five has arrived! Canada, World Junior Hockey Champions for the fifth year in a row!” Canada defeated the Russians in the semi-final and then defeated the United States 2-0 in the gold medal game to win the fifth championship in a row, thanks to efforts from Brad Isbister and Boyd Devereaux. Marc Denis provided incredible goal-tending through out the tournament and posted a record of 5-0-2, with a GAA of just 1.86.
1998: Team Canada had a year to forget in 1998. Led by Josh Holden, and with the likes of Vincent Lecavalier and Alex Tanguay, Canada finished in eighth spot in the tournament, including a 6-3 embarrassment at the hands of Kazakhstan. Canada went 2-5 in the tournament and was outscored 13-18 in seven games.
1999: During this winter, Team Canada rebounded from a disappointing 8th place finish the year before to lose in the gold medal game to the Russians. A six-spot improvement from the year before, Canada struggled at times in Winnipeg and their luck finally ran out against a much stronger Russian team. Artem Chubarov scored the game-winner just mere minutes into overtime, after Roberto Luongo saved the day for Canada. Luongo was bombarded with shots from start to finish and did what he does best and that is give his team a chance to win.
2000: Team Canada took home the bronze medal in 2000, defeating the U.S.A. 4-3 in a shootout. Led offensively by Jamie Lundmark and the coming-out party of Dany Heatley, while 16-year-olds Jason Spezza and Jay Bouwmeester announced their presence in Canadian hockey, Canada was defeated by the Russians in the semi-final and came back from a 2-0 deficit against the States to earn the bronze.
2001: Maybe one of the more bewildering tournaments in recent memory, Canada came away with bronze yet again, defeating Sweden 2-1 in overtime. Canada lost in the semi final to a Finland team that owed everything they had to their goalie, Ari Ahonen. Even with a line-up that looked exactly like the team Canada sent in 2000, the Canadians were unable to win the crucial games, yet continued their streak of medals at three in a row.
2002: In a year that Hockey Canada tried to rebound from previous disappointments, Team Canada came mere inches away from tying the gold medal game against Russia, but lost 5-4 in a heart-breaker. Twice in the gold medal game in Prague, Czech Republic, Canada held a two-goal lead and twice it was foiled by a rejuvenated Russian team. Even with the likes of Jason Spezza and Brad Boyes, Canada couldn’t get it done in the third period against a dry, boring, yet effective Russian defence.
2003: Back on home ice in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada tried to end its streak of not winning gold – by now it was at six years – but was again defeated by the Russians in front of one of the loudest crowds in World Junior Hockey history. Canada took a 2-1 lead into the third period, but sat back on their heels and the price they paid for that was more than they hoped, as a high powered offensive attack led by Igor Grigorenko and one Alexander Ovechkin was simply too much for the Canadians in the third period.
2004: The tournament of 2004 may be the biggest disappointment for Canadians at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Up 3-1 to begin the third period, Team Canada collapsed in the final 20 as the U.S.A. tallied for three goals before the third period was even 10 minutes old to take a 4-3 lead. The one goal that proved more disappointing was a Marc Andre Fleury mix-up, as the Pittsburgh Penguins No. 1 overall pick from the summer before went to clear the puck from in front of his net. The puck hit Josh Jorges in the back and rolled behind Fleury into the Canadian net. Canada was unable to regroup and the U.S.A. won their first gold medal in tournament history.
2005: Team Canada had no trouble in 2005 at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Led by the trio of Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron and Corey Perry and a band of relentless warriors with Brent Sutter at the helm, Canada walked all over the competition in Grand Forks, North Dakota to win gold for the first time since 1997. Canada scored 46 goals and allowed only seven, including a 6-1 thrashing on the Russians, led by Alexander Ovechkin. Physically, mentally and emotionally, Canada looked like giants compared to the rest of their competition and restored a winning feeling back into Canadian hockey.
2006: With the snowy mountains of Vancouver as the backdrop, Canada won its second gold medal in a row, again defeating the Russians with a 5-0 demolition at General Motors Place. Led by Steve Downie and Penticton, B.C.’s Justin Pogge, Canada defeated Finland twice, the U.S.A. and Russia to give every Canadian fan in the city something to go crazy about. The U.S.A. was defeated 4-2 in the bronze medal game, which gave the Canadian fans even more the cheer about on the ride home that night.
2007: Many wondered if Canada was going to be able to win on European ice. Led by Craig Hartsburg, Canada silenced the critics – despite some close calls – and took home its third straight gold medal over the Russians. Canada just squeaked into the championship game, as the eventual gold medal winners faced the U.S.A. in the semi finals. Canada won the game 2-1 in a thrilling seven-round shootout that saw Jonathan Toews score three times with three different moves, while Williams Lake’s Carey Price emerged as the hero, stopping Peter Mueller and Patrick Kane en route to a birth in the gold medal game. The rest, as you would say, is history.
Feeling the anticipation already? We thought you might.
Filed under: Cam T, NHL Tagged: | , Alexander Ovechkin, Brent Sutter, Carey Price, Corey Perry, Dany Heatley, Halifax, Hockey Canada, IIHF, Jason Spezza, Jonathan Toews, Marc-Andre Fleury, Patrice Bergeron, Patrick Kane, Roberto Luongo, Sidney Crosby, Team Canada, Vancouver, World Junior Hockey Championships