Worlds gold leads to Stanley

Winning experience at IIHF showcase pays off for NHL clubs

04.06.2012
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Detroit assistant captains Johan Franzén and Henrik Zetterberg were two of seven previous World Championship gold medalists on the Cup-winning Red Wings roster in 2008. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images

At first glance, it might not seem like winning an IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship and capturing the Stanley Cup go hand in hand.

After all, the playoffs in North America’s top pro league are scheduled to overlap with the World Championship in the spring. So players whose NHL teams make the Stanley Cup final almost certainly won’t get to represent their countries that year at the Worlds.

In fact, there’s only one case where a player has won Worlds gold and the Cup in the same year. Suiting up for Canada at the tournament in Norway, Connie Broden earned a world title with the Whitby Dunlops in 1958 – before earning the Cup with the Montreal Canadiens later that spring.

However, statistics reveal that nowadays, having players on your NHL roster who have won at least one World Championship is virtually a prerequisite for sipping champagne from Lord Stanley’s mug.

In fact, the last time an NHL team won the Stanley Cup without any past IIHF World Championship gold medallists was 1993, when Montreal defeated the Los Angeles Kings.

In the 17 NHL playoffs that have been contested to completion since then, the average number of players who have previously won IIHF World Championships on the victorious roster each year has been 3.88. And these players usually fulfil important roles with the Cup champions.

There have been 66 such instances in total. Nineteen of the 25 members of the IIHF’s Triple Gold Club (winner of Olympic gold, World Championship gold, and the Stanley Cup) are included.

During the aforementioned span, the Detroit Red Wings are the NHL club that has benefited the most from golden World Championship experiences. They had seven Worlds winners on board for their Cup runs in 1997 and 2008. At the low end, in 1995 the New Jersey Devils only had one Worlds champ (Tommy Albelin), and likewise in 2010 for the Chicago Blackhawks (Jonathan Toews).

It’s not hard to see why World Championship experience pays off for Cup-winning clubs. Granted, the two tournaments are quite different in terms of their duration, style, and so on. Yet they both involve performing under pressure on a big stage against top-flight opposition, often in front of tough crowds.

Especially since 1992, when the IIHF adopted the playoff system, the tournament has given participants a great chance to hone a winning mindset. In order to top the podium, a national team must win three straight elimination games – the NHL equivalent of three Game Sevens. If you can survive that pressure cooker, surely the sky is the limit with your pro club.

Here is a list of past World Championship winners who played for the Stanley Cup champions in the years going back to 1993. (Only World Championships won before the Cup in question are listed next to each player’s name.) We start off with the Los Angeles and New Jersey players who have an opportunity to parlay their Worlds-winning past into a Cup title this season.

2012, Los Angeles Kings: Willie Mitchell (CAN, 2004), Justin Williams (CAN, 2004, 2007)

2012, New Jersey Devils: Ilya Kovalchuk (RUS, 2008, 2009), Petr Sykora (CZE, 1999, 2005), Anton Volchenkov (RUS, 2009), Marek Zidlicky (CZE, 2005)

2011, Boston Bruins: Patrice Bergeron (CAN, 2004), Tomas Kaberle (CZE, 2005), Mark Recchi (CAN, 1997)

2010, Chicago Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews (CAN, 2007)

2009, Pittsburgh Penguins: Matt Cooke (CAN, 2004), Miroslav Satan (SVK, 2002), Jordan Staal (CAN, 2007), Petr Sykora (CZE, 1999, 2005)

2008, Detroit Red Wings: Johan Franzén (SWE, 2006), Niklas Kronwall (SWE, 2006), Nicklas Lidström (SWE, 1991), Kirk Maltby (CAN, 2003), Kris Draper (CAN, 2003), Mikael Samuelsson (SWE, 2006), Henrik Zetterberg (SWE, 2006)

2007, Anaheim Ducks: Jean-Sébastien Giguère (CAN, 2004), Rob Niedermayer (CAN, 2004), Scott Niedermayer (CAN, 2004), Chris Pronger (CAN, 1997)

2006, Carolina Hurricanes: Rod Brind’Amour (CAN, 1994), Mark Recchi (CAN, 1997), Josef Vasicek (CZE, 2005), Justin Williams (CAN, 2004)

2005: No Stanley Cup winner due to NHL lockout

2004, Tampa Bay Lightning: Pavel Kubina (CZE, 1999, 2001), Fredrik Modin (SWE, 1998), Darryl Sydor (CAN, 1994)

2003, New Jersey Devils: Tommy Albelin (SWE, 1987), Jeff Friesen (CAN, 1997)

2002, Detroit Red Wings: Steve Duchesne (CAN, 1994), Sergei Fyodorov (USSR, 1989, 1990), Igor Larionov (USSR, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1989), Nicklas Lidström (SWE, 1991), Luc Robitaille (CAN, 1994), Brendan Shanahan (CAN, 1994)

2001, Colorado Avalanche: Rob Blake (CAN, 1994, 1997), Peter Forsberg (SWE, 1992, 1998), Joe Sakic (CAN, 1994)

2000, New Jersey Devils: Jason Arnott (CAN, 1994), Vladimir Malakhov (USSR, 1990), Alexander Mogilny (USSR, 1989), Sergei Nemchinov (USSR, 1989, 1990), Petr Sykora (CZE, 1999)

1999, Dallas Stars: Jere Lehtinen (FIN, 1995), Darryl Sydor (CAN, 1994), Pat Verbeek (CAN, 1994)

1998, Detroit Red Wings: Sergei Fyodorov (USSR, 1989, 1990), Vyacheslav Fetisov (USSR, 1978, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1989, 1990), Vladimir Konstantinov (USSR, 1986, 1989, 1990), Igor Larionov (USSR, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1989), Nicklas Lidström (SWE, 1991), Brendan Shanahan (CAN, 1994)

1997, Detroit Red Wings: Sergei Fyodorov (USSR, 1989, 1990), Vyacheslav Fetisov (USSR, 1978, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1989, 1990), Vladimir Konstantinov (USSR, 1986, 1989, 1990), Igor Larionov (USSR, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1989), Nicklas Lidström (SWE, 1991), Tomas Sandström (SWE, 1987), Brendan Shanahan (CAN, 1994)

1996, Colorado Avalanche: Peter Forsberg (SWE, 1992, 1998), Alexei Gusarov (USSR, 1986, 1989, 1990), Valeri Kamenski (USSR, 1986, 1989, 1990), Mike Ricci (CAN, 1994), Joe Sakic (CAN, 1994)

1995, New Jersey Devils: Tommy Albelin (SWE, 1987)

1994, New York Rangers: Alexander Karpovtsev (RUS, 1993), Sergei Nemchinov (USSR, 1989, 1990)

1993, Montreal Canadiens: None

LUCAS AYKROYD

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