OTTAWA – There's nothing a Canadian hockey coach values more than a solid, consistent effort. And by that measure, this year's host nation has historically done an outstanding job when it comes to competing on home ice in the one game that really counts.
Since the inaugural 1976 Canada Cup, with just one exception, Canada has participated in the final, deciding game in every major international tournament it has hosted (including the IIHF World Junior Championship, IIHF World Championship, Canada Cup, World Cup, and World Women's Championship). This does not include tournaments that featured a round-robin format where no gold medal game or final(s) was held, such as the 1986, 1991, and 1995 World Juniors, or the 1988 Olympics.
Is it the smaller rink? The frenzied Canadian fans? The heightened sense of national pride? The comforts of friends, family and home cooking? Whatever the cause, Hockey Canada isn't complaining.
To date, Canada's overall record in home-ice finals is a remarkable 11 wins and five losses. The Canadians shone in their last home-ice World Junior gold medal game, blanking Russia 5-0 in Vancouver in 2006.
The lone case where Canada missed out was the 1978 IIHF World Junior Championship in Montreal, whose format was anomalous for the era in that it featured a gold medal game instead of a pure round-robin. After an initial three-game round-robin, the top four teams (Canada, Czechoslovakia, Soviet Union, Sweden) played another round-robin, and the top two in that group made the final. It wound up with the Soviets defeating Sweden 5-2 for top spot, while the Canadian squad headlined by Wayne Gretzky, Mike Gartner, and Bobby Smith (among other future star NHLers) settled for bronze.
These stats ought to buoy the spirits of Canadian fans heading into Monday's gold medal clash with Sweden. Of course, the game will be determined on that night between the boards, but it's always nice to have history on your side.
Check out the chronological record. The location of the deciding game is in parentheses.
1976 Canada Cup (Montreal): Canada 5, Czechoslovakia 4 (OT)
1978 IIHF World Junior Championship (Montreal): Soviet Union 5, Sweden 2
1981 Canada Cup (Montreal): Soviet Union 8, Canada 1
1984 Canada Cup (Edmonton): Canada 6, Sweden 5
1987 Canada Cup (Hamilton): Canada 6, Soviet Union 5
1990 IIHF World Women's Championship (Ottawa): Canada 5, USA 2 (OT)
1991 Canada Cup (Hamilton): Canada 4, USA 2
1996 World Cup (Montreal): USA 5, Canada 2
1997 IIHF World Women's Championship (Kitchener): Canada 4, USA 3 (OT)
1999 IIHF World Junior Championship (Winnipeg): Russia 3, Canada 2 (OT)
2000 IIHF World Women's Championship (Mississauga): Canada 3, USA 2 (OT)
2003 IIHF World Junior Championship (Halifax): Russia 3, Canada 2
2004 IIHF World Women's Championship (Halifax): Canada 2, USA 0
2004 World Cup (Toronto): Canada 3, Finland 2
2006 IIHF World Junior Championship (Vancouver): Canada 5, Russia 0
2007 IIHF World Women's Championship (Winnipeg): Canada 5, USA 1
2008 IIHF World Championship (Quebec City): Russia 5, Canada 4 (OT)