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From the Press Box: Home Ice Advantage

Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images

World Junior Championship. What a history.

My first ever memory was in 1982. I think, hold on, let me go check Wikipedia. After all I am getting old. Yup, 1982. In Minneapolis and in the USA for the first time. I will never forget the anthem after they won. All the boys were singing at the top of their lungs, no music, no recording, total impromptu, and maybe the best ever. Look it up on Youtube if you want to get some chills.

I’ll also never forget the 1999 tournament. Canada hosting after a disastrous 1998 tournament (no medal, after five golds in a row, piled on with a loss to Kazakhstan) back in Winnipeg. Canada tied it up mid third period to send it to overtime. Then, a future Vancouver Canuck favourite, Artem Chubarov, scored with a laser beam shot off a scramble in Canada’s end. Hometown loss. Unfathomable, especially considering our sense of home ice advantage.

The 2004 tournament is burned in my memory. Coming off back-to-back gold medal game losses, err I mean winning silver, both to Russia and one on home ice. Tie game and Marc-André Fleury decides he wants to become a puck mover. Result: Patrick O’Sullivan’s game winning goal off Braydon Coburn—third silver in a row.

The two five-golds-in-a-row runs are full of awesome memories. Both NHL lockouts helped all teams, but the rosters Canada put out in 1995 and 2005 were off the charts. Just about every single player on both rosters made the NHL, some have won Cups, scoring titles and major awards. It’s totally nuts how good those two teams were. We got very spoiled with those two runs and now we as a country tend to just expect gold. The reality is Russia, Finland, Sweden, USA—and to a lesser degree the Czech Republic—all produce very talented and hard working players. This has never been a tougher tournament to win.

Canada has only been out of the medals in two consecutive years once: in 1979 and 1980. Yes, it’s been a great run, but the hand wringing is still in full force going into the tournament this year.

And Canada has hosted 10 of the 38 Championships. Great, right? Well, kind of.

We have won a medal every time we hosted. Very good. But. It’s been four golds, four silvers and two bronzes. Pretty sweet really, but it means we lost FOUR times in the final on home ice. It means we are only .500 on home ice in the final at this event. Pretty surprising when you have a hard look at it.

Even though Canada has won a ton, the last 10 tournaments have produced five different winners. Canada, Sweden, Russia, Finland and the USA.

The event started in an official way in 1977. In those 38 events since, the host teams have collectively won six gold medals, 11 silvers, six bronzes and, wait for it, they’ve been out of the medals 15 times. Home ice advantage, not so much.

So Canada is back as a host in Toronto and Montreal this year and then Montreal and Toronto in two years. Based on Canada’s host record, we should be guaranteed a medal in two of the next three years, but based on the overall host record, our chances of medaling are much lower.

I, for one, like the approach this year. Keeping the selection roster smaller, not making the final cuts until later—although as a publisher it makes producing a preview harder—and only inviting two goalies. Basically getting down to business right out of the gate. The team may be a little smaller than normal, but the skill level is top shelf, the goaltending should be rock solid and we are hosts.

Enjoy our preview section and our 12 days of World Juniors online. Our team put in some great work.

And, enjoy the tournament. Go Canada!

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