Great Canada-Czech games beyond WJC
by Lucas Aykroyd|05 JAN 2023
Superstar Czech goalie Dominik Hasek stopped all five Canadian shooters, including Brendan Shanahan (#14) on the final attempt, in a shocking 2-1 semi-final shootout win at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
There’s lots of World Junior history at stake on Thursday. The Czechs will return to the medal podium for the first time since 2005’s bronze and may win their first gold medal since 2001. Canada could become the first team to win consecutive championships since the Canadian five-peat of 2005-09.

And of course, this is the first time Canada and Czechia have ever faced off in the IIHF World Junior Championship gold medal game.

Now, the Czechs and Canadians have had many hotly contested playoff games at the Olympics and IIHF World Championships, as well as the World Cup of Hockey (previously the Canada Cup from 1976 to 1991). The picture at the World Juniors is rather different.

Since the IIHF instituted the playoff system in 1996, Canada and Czechs have met twice in the quarter-finals and four times in the semi-finals. Canada has won every time, outscoring the Czechs 30-9.

Here’s how those scores break down:

7-1 (semi-final, 3 January 2004)
3-1 (semi-final, 2 January 2005)
5-3 (quarter-final, 2 January 2017)
7-2 (semi-final, 4 January 2018)
3-0 (quarter-final, 2 January 2021)
5-2 (semi-final, 19 August 2022)

Based on how strongly the Czechs have performed in Halifax, that pattern could change on Thursday. Still, the Canada-Czech rivalry has unquestionably peaked in senior international play.

So it’s appropriate for us to take a quick look back at four great games – defining moments – from the Olympics, Worlds, and Canada/World Cups that live in the hearts and minds of hockey fans from Victoria to Ostrava. May this rivalry continue to blossom at the World Juniors as well!

Sittler’s Sudden-Death Goal Ends a Classic

Canada 5, Czechoslovakia 4
1976 Canada Cup final, Game Two
Montreal, Canada

Credit where credit is due. It wasn’t only Czech talent that enabled Czechoslovakia to push arguably the greatest collection of Canadian talent ever – from Bobby Orr and Bobby Hull to Phil Esposito and Guy Lafleur – to overtime in the deciding game of the inaugural Canada Cup. From goalie Vladimir Dzurilla to the Stastny brothers, Slovak stars played a critical role.

However, future Czech national team coaches Josef Augusta and Vladimir Martinec’s power-play production spurred their squad to keep coming back in the game. Darryl Sittler finally outwitted Dzurilla for the sudden-death winning goal on Canada’s 39th shot of the game.
The Toronto Maple Leafs ace was at the peak of his powers, having set an NHL record with 10 points in a February game against Boston earlier that year. Here, Sittler took advantage of Dzurilla’s tendency to challenge aggressively, faking a shot before going wide to slide the puck in.

Hasek Stuns Canada in Semi-Final Shootout

1998 Olympic semi-final
Nagano, Japan

What do Theoren Fleury, Ray Bourque, Joe Nieuwendyk, Eric Lindros, and Brendan Shanahan all have in common? Each failed to score on legendary Czech goalie Dominik Hasek in the 1998 Olympic semi-final shootout.

Heading into the inaugural “NHL Olympics” (in other words, featuring full NHL participation), the Canadians – captained by Wayne Gretzky – were universally expected to bring home the gold medal. However, the Czechs, who had 12 non-NHL players, were up 1-0 in the semi-final thanks to Jiri Slegr’s goal and Hasek’s brilliance until Trevor Linden scored in tight with 1:03 remaining in regulation.
After overtime settled nothing, Hasek, the reigning NHL MVP, barred the door with his unorthodox style in the shootout, while Czech veteran Robert Reichel beat Canada’s Patrick Roy with a perfect shot. That was the winner. While Canadian coach Marc Crawford was widely panned for not giving Gretzky a chance to shoot, the Czechs marched on to make history with a 1-0 shutout versus Russia in the gold medal game.

Lecavalier Comes Through in Overtime

2004 World Cup of Hockey semi-final
Toronto, Canada

Unless you’re a Finnish fan who thrilled to Saku Koivu’s late 2-1 semi-final winner versus the U.S. in Saint Paul, Minnesota, this semi-final was probably the most exciting game at the 2004 World Cup.

It featured a classic goaltending duel between Tomas Vokoun and Roberto Luongo. With Canada and the Czechs deadlocked 2-2 in the last 10 minutes, Kris Draper and Patrik Elias traded goals six seconds apart. It was off to overtime.
Vincent Lecavalier had already had a wonderful 2004, capturing his first Stanley Cup in June with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The first overall pick in the 1998 NHL Draft lifted his nation’s spirits when he got two cracks at a rebound from Ryan Smyth’s long shot and put his second try high over Vokoun at 3:45. That put the Mario Lemieux-captained Canadians into the final, where they downed the Finns 3-2.

Jagr Joins Triple Gold Club 

2005 IIHF World Championship gold medal game
Vienna, Austria

There’s nowhere the Czechs would rather face Canada in an IIHF World Championship final than at the old Wiener Stadthalle. They boast a perfect 2-0 record there.

You could certainly argue that in pure hockey terms, Martin Prochazka’s winning goal with just 19 seconds left in regulation offered a more thrilling conclusion in 1996, a 4-2 Czech triumph.

However, in pure historical terms, Jaromir Jagr’s long-awaited entry into the Triple Gold Club in 2005 rules the day.

Following the year-long NHL lockout, the Canadian iced an Olympic-calibre roster with tournament MVP Joe Thornton, Rick Nash, and Dany Heatley up front and goalie Martin Brodeur in net, among others. But the Czechs had a boisterous crowd and the ability to put a defensive blanket over their opponents. Vaclav Prospal’s goal just 4:13 stood up as the winner, and Jagr recorded two assists. Canada’s dream of a Worlds three-peat was over.
Jagr had already earned two Stanley Cups as a man-child with the 1991 and 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins and that unforgettable ‘98 Olympic gold medal in Nagano. Now the five-time NHL scoring champ had added to his immortal stature in the international hockey pantheon.