From sightings of Wendel Clark and Bobby Orr to classic rock concerts and gourmet doughnuts, the vibe in and around the rinks at World Juniors in Canada is always special. It’s no wonder we’re all looking forward to the 2022 tournament in Edmonton and Red Deer with the hope that fans will pack the arenas again to cheer on the best U20 talent.
I’ve been fortunate enough to cover the World Juniors 13 times (2006, 2009, 2010, 2012-21), including eight tournaments in Canada. And whether you’re writing about it as a journalist, painting your face and brandishing flags in the arena as a fan, or watching every game religiously at home with millions of other fans, it is always an absolute highlight of the holiday season. I’ve accumulated a trove of fun memories beyond the on-ice heroics.
No country embraces this tournament more than Canada, and while the motherland of hockey unites behind its World Junior team every year, tribal attachments to NHL teams can still bubble over.
During an intermission at my first in-person World Juniors, the 2006 tournament in my native Vancouver, Wendel Clark got interviewed over the PA at the Pacific Coliseum. The hard-hitting, mustachioed winger scored Canada’s gold medal-clinching 2-2 equalizer against Czechoslovakia at the 1985 World Juniors in Helsinki.
Also at the Coliseum in 2006, I was thrilled to land a spontaneous interview with Bobby Orr. Then 57, Orr, arguably the greatest NHL defenceman in history, was in Vancouver as a player agent, repping the likes of Canada’s Marc Staal and the USA’s Jack Skille. I spotted him passing through the media room one morning and the Boston Bruins legend kindly chatted for a few minutes.
“I played at 185 pounds, and I was a good-sized player back then,” Orr said. “Of course, every team had one big guy, like a Moose Vasko. But now, these players are all so big. Back then, the big guys weren’t that mobile, not necessarily great skaters, and they couldn’t catch you. Today, they’re all big and they can catch you! It’s amazing, the size of the kids.”
In 2009 in Ottawa, I got offered complimentary tickets to a semi-final whose opponents were yet to be determined. I didn’t need them, as I’d be at both semi-finals in any case, so I passed them on to a high school buddy of mine who resides in the National Capital Region.
At the 2010 World Juniors, the temperatures in Regina, Saskatchewan were amazing in a different way. Having grown up amid the coastal temperate rainforest of British Columbia’s west coast, I’d never experienced -32 Celsius before. That’s where the thermometer dropped on December 31, 2009 while Vladimir Tarasenko led Russia to a 5-2 win over the Czech Republic with a two-goal performance.
When Calgary co-hosted the 2012 World Juniors with Edmonton, I challenged my stomach under two very different circumstances in Cowtown.
I picked up a box of World Junior-themed doughnuts, adorned with hockey sticks and red maple leafs, from Jelly Modern Doughnuts for my post-game snack.
From the jubilant fan zones in Montreal and Toronto in 2015 and 2017 to the magic of watching 2019 World Junior hockey in Victoria on the same soil where I caught my first WHL game with the Grant Fuhr-era Victoria Cougars in 1981, I could tell stories all day.