As the under-20 hockey world gets ready to descend on Ottawa for the 2009 World U20 Championship, it is worth noting Canada’s pre-eminent place in this tournament. The success of Canada’s performance began in 1982 when Hockey Canada started to send an all-star team to the tournament instead of the previous year’s Memorial Cup winner. By making available the best juniors from around the country, the Canadian Hockey League developed a recipe for success. Hockey Canada called the idea the Program of Excellence, an apt moniker if ever there was one. Canada won gold that first year, and overall since 1982 (27 tournaments) Canada has won gold 14 times, silver five times, and bronze three times. Some other Team Canada fast facts:
- Canada has hosted the World U20 Championship seven times, winning gold three times, silver three times, and bronze once. In other words, a hosting has to date guaranteed a medal for Canada. Ottawa will represent the fourth time in the last decade that Canada has played host.
- In five of the last six times Canada has hosted the event it set new attendance records, starting in 1986 when Hamilton and neighbouring towns attracted 154,172 fans through to 2006 when Vancouver drew a paid attendance 325,138. Given that many games this year will be played at Scotiabank Place, with a capacity over 19,000, it is a certainty (by ticket sales to date) Ottawa will establish another record crowd.
- Calgary’s Saddledome holds the record for the largest single-game attendance. On December 20, 1994, the Canada-Czech Republic game drew 19,465 fans, a record that might fall in Ottawa.
- Since 1982, a Canadian goalie has been named Directorate Award winner for that position an incredible 12 times. Although some have not gone on to distinguished NHL careers, many have, including Roberto Luongo (1999), Marc-André Fleury (2003), Jose Theodore (1996), and Carey Price (2007).
- The only man to coach a team to gold at the U20 and coach a Stanley Cup winning team is Mike Babcock. He led Canada to the title in 1997, and just this past spring took Detroit to the Cup as well. Mike Keenan is the only other coach to win the Stanley Cup and coach at the U20 level (1980).
- Canada has had a perfect record nine times in the 32 editions of the World U20 Championship. All other countries combined have had a spotless record only eleven times.
- Of the 7,159 total goals scored in U20 play, Canada has accounted for 1,068 or nearly 15 per cent of all goals, an average of more than five per game in 210 total games played by Canada since 1977.
- At 65 years of age, Pat Quinn is by far the oldest and most experienced coach to lead a Canadian team. The previous oldest was Brian Kilrea who was a mere 49 years old when he led Canada in 1984.
- Because of the NHL lockout in 2004-05, Patrice Bergeron holds a record that might never be equaled. He won a gold medal with Canada at the (senior) World Championship in 2004 before he won gold with Canada at the World U20 Championship a year later! He was a regular with Boston as an 18-year-old rookie and played in the senior worlds when the Bruins missed the playoffs. During the lockout, with nowhere to play, he joined the national junior team and won gold.
- Only six times has a 16-year-old represented Canada: Jay Bouwmeester, Sidney Crosby, Jason Spezza, Bill Campbell, Eric Lindros, and Wayne Gretzky. Gretzky’s appearance in 1978 was the most extraordinary performance by a 16-year-old in U20 history. He led the tournament in scoring with 17 points in just six games – nearly three points a game – playing with and against players who were mostly three years older than him.