The Czech Republic won the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship three times in a row between 1999 and 2001.
Sometimes career-defining moments have larger implications to the hockey world and to IIHF history, and sometimes individual achievements help define that history. These milestones and memories form an important part of hockey’s rich international legacy.
Peter Stastny helps Slovakia rise to the top pool
Peter Stastny had one of the greatest hockey careers of all time. He was sensational with Czechoslovakia in international play, and after defecting to Quebec to play in the NHL he became the highest scoring player of the 1980s after only Wayne Gretzky. But with Perestroika in the early 1990s and the creation of a separate Czech Republic and Slovakia, the elder Stastny returned to his home country and helped Slovakia work its way up the IIHF ladder. The new nation qualified to play at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway and finished in a remarkable sixth place. Stastny led that team with five goals and nine points in eight games, the first time he represented his new country. A year later came the fantastic finale of his career. Just a couple of weeks after playing his last NHL game, Stastny, almost 39, once again suited up for the Slovak national team when the World Championship B-Pool was held in his hometown of Bratislava. Stastny had 16 points in six games to give the Slovaks a victory to earn promotion to the top division for 1996. He was the tournament’s top scorer, named its Best Forward, and was selected to the All-Star Team.
Hlavac scores historic first Worlds golden goal for Czechs
In 1998 and 1999 the IIHF implemented a best-of-two gold-medal game. In the event that each team won a game, the second game would immediately go to a sudden-death overtime for the gold medal. That’s what happened in 1999, a finals between the Czech Republic and Finland. The Czechs won the opener, 3-1, only to lose the next game, 4-0 after regulation time. Sudden death. Late in that extra period, Finland’s Toni Lydman had his shot from the point blocked. Roman Simicek got to it and threaded a great pass to a speeding Jan Hlavac. Hlavac went in on goal and backhanded a shot past Miikka Kiprusoff for the golden goal.
Czechs win three consecutive World Championships
The late 1990s and early 2000s were the golden years for Czech hockey. They won gold at the ’98 Olympics, of course, but they also won gold at the 2000 and 2001 World Juniors and gold at the 1999 and 2000 World Championships. At the 2001 Worlds, in Hanover, Germany, they were again dominant, advancing to the gold medal game after beating Slovakia and Sweden in the quarters and semis. In the finals, they played Finland, a team they beat in 1999 for their second ever gold (after 1996). But in 2001, the Finns scored the first two goals and were ahead after two periods. In the third, though, the Czechs stormed back to tie the game, sending it to overtime. David Moravec scored the game and gold-medal winner, giving the Czechs their third straight WM gold. Only Canada and the Soviet Union had ever achieved a “three-peat” previously, putting this Czech dynasty in exclusive company.
Hockey giants Canada host World Championship for first time
The IIHF’s Annual Congress in 2004 during that year’s World Championship was especially significant because that was when a vote to allocate the 2008 World Championship took place. The 2008 event was of great importance because it would celebrate the IIHF’s 100th anniversary. Canada was one of the aspirants, but it had to compete with bids from Sweden and Germany. Bob Nicholson, the president of Hockey Canada and the main figure behind Canada’s application, delivered the speech of his life. He was inspirational, well spoken, and straight to the point. After his speech, the German delegation came up to the podium and said simply: “We believe that Canada has earned the right to organize the 2008 World Championship. Germany withdraws its bid for 2008.” Moments later, Sweden also withdrew. There was no vote. Canada was unanimously declared host of the 72nd IIHF World Championship in the IIHF’s 100th year.
Scott Niedermayer joins Triple Gold Club with Worlds gold
Canada’s dramatic gold medal victory at the 2004 World Championship was doubly meaningful for defenceman Scott Niedermayer. Not only was he celebrating his first gold at the WM, but the win also made him the 14th member of the Triple Gold Club for winning the Worlds, Stanley Cup, and Olympic gold. The final TGC component was not easily accomplished, though. Canada trailed 3-1 early in the second period, but later in the period the Canadians drew closer thanks to a sensational pass by Niedermayer to Dany Heatley, who scored to make it 3-2. Scott’s brother, Rob, tied the game late in the second, and two more goals in the third assured Canada of the win.
Marek clutch in QF and SF shootouts
Jan Marek was one of the many unfortunate victims of the Yaroslavl plane crash in 2011, but the previous year he made hockey history by scoring the winning goal in the penalty-shot shootout in consecutive games for the Czechs, in the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the 2010 World Championship in Cologne, Germany. In the quarters against Finland in a 1-1 game, Marek beat Pekka Rinne by faking a shot and freezing the goalie, and then snapping the puck between Rinne’s pads. Against Sweden in the semi-finals, Marek scored on Jonas Gustavsson on a similar play, except instead of faking the shot before going five-hole he shot right away when he saw the opening. In the gold-medal game, the Czechs won in regulation over Russia, 2-1. No Marek heroics required a third time.
Stockholm sets World Championship hosting record
The first time the World Championships were played in Sweden, in 1949, Stockholm was selected as host city. When Canada withdrew from international competition at the last minute when it was supposed to host the Worlds in 1970, Stockholm, stepped in. And, when the IIHF considered an historic WM with co-hosts from different nations, Stockholm was front and centre. Indeed, the Swedish capital has hosted more World Championship games than any city in the world, 322 in all. And Sweden has hosted the World Championships more than any other country – eleven – even though it didn’t host for the first time until 1949. Prague has hosted 318 games and the Czechs have hosted ten tournaments, and both great cities have also hosted games during the World Cup. But for World Championship supremacy, Stockholm remains on top.
Kalyuzhny secures Belarus' first ever win against the USA
An independent Belarus didn’t start IIHF competition at the World Championship until 1994, but it methodically moved up from C to B and finally A Pool by 1998 and has remained on top every year with three exceptions (2002, 2004, 2019). But until 7 May 2015, it had never defeated the United States in a World Championship game. On that date, however, Kevin Lalande was excellent in goal for Belarus and captain Alexei Kalyuzhny provided much needed offense at the right time. Belarus broke open a scoreless game with three goals in the second, but the Americans got one back late in the period and had momentum entering the third. Kalyuzhny scored to make it 4-1, though, and when the Americans got that back he scored again to make it 5-2. That was the final score, and Belarus took the momentum from that win to advance to the quarter-finals for the second straight year.
43-year-old Jaromir Jagr scores his final international goal
Any time Prague hosts the World Championship it’s a special year, but it was even more so in 2015 because legendary forward Jaromir Jagr had made it known this would be his last tournament representing his country. He and the team stepped up before sold-out crowds at O2 Arena, and the home side advanced to the quarter-finals to play Finland. Of course, it was a fast and competitive game, and now that the team was in the playoffs each game could have been Jagr’s last. The Finns took a 2-1 lead early in the second, but Jagr tied it up midway through the period. The Czechs went ahead two minutes later on a Jan Kovar goal, but Suomi tied the game 3-3 early in the final period. Jagr again, however, scored, and the Czechs added an empty netter to win, 5-3, and advance to the semi-finals at the expense of Finland. Shockingly, the Czechs didn’t score again in the tournament, losing in the semis to Canada, 2-0, and then in the bronze-medal game, to the United States, 3-0. True to his word, the 43-year-old Jagr never played for the Czechs again, but the last goal he ever scored proved to be a game winner.
Sidney Crosby joins the Triple Gold Club
Sidney Crosby had accomplished almost everything a hockey player could hope to dream about, but prior to 2015 the one decoration missing from his lapel was a World Championship gold medal. He had won the Stanley Cup in 2009 (and would win again in 2016 and 2017), had won two Olympic gold (2010, 2014), would win the World Cup (2016), and had won World Junior gold (2005). In 2015, he joined Canada after his Penguins were eliminated from the playoffs and immediately assumed the captaincy. He then took the team on an incredible 10-0 run to win gold, a victory punctuated by a 6-1 beating of Russia in the gold-medal game. Crosby scored one of the goals and with the win became the 26th player to join the Triple Gold Club. He remains the only TGC member to achieve his status by captaining all victories.
France bids adieu to Huet, Meunier on home ice
Paris, France co-hosted the 2017 World Championship with Cologne, Germany. This marked the first time since 1951 that the IIHF played top-level games in the City of Lights, and the fan support was sensational. The hosts narrowly missed qualifying for the quarter-finals, but the tournament was extra special for two of its longest-serving stars—captain Laurent Meunier and goalie Cristobal Huet. Meunier wore the “C” for France for 13 straight seasons, 2005-2017, the last ten of those in the top pool. He played his first top-level Worlds in 1999, and by the time he retired had played 68 games at the highest level. Huet, who had been the first French goalie to play in the NHL, played 13 top-level World Championships between 1997 and 2017 and had played in the blue ice a team record 54 games in top-level WM play. After their final game of the preliminary round, a 4-1 win over Slovenia, the two were given a standing ovation as they left the ice. Gone, yes, but never forgotten.
During the 100-year anniversary of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship we bring you the top-100 moments in stories, photos and videos in 10 days. Check out more by clicking the chapters below: