This ‘n’ that from the gondola
by Andrew Podnieks|01 JAN 2024
Jiri Kulich is playing in his fifth junior-level, IIHF event--that's a lot, but not the record.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Chris Tanouye
~If it feels to you like the games this year are longer, you are right. In 2014, the average World Junior Championship game was 2 hours, 20 minutes. In 2019, it was 2:29, and this year through 20 games of the preliminary round, it’s 2:37. 

If you remove the overtime/shootouts from the equation, the numbers are very similar—2:16 in 2014; 2:28 in 2019, and 2:35 this year.

There are several contributing factors. Intermissions have gone from 15 minutes to 17 and now 18. Video review seems to now occur at least a couple of times a game. And then there’s the glass, which is about the same height now in many arenas as it was 75 years ago. But players shoot harder and deflect/block/tip more shots, meaning many more pucks go out of play than used to be the case.

~The two venues for this year’s World Juniors have an odd thing in common. Scandinavium has an official capacity of 12,044 and Frolundaborg 6,044. It is not coincidence that both numbers end in 44. That represents the year the Frolunda hockey club was established. 

However, with media tribunes in Scandinavium, the tournament capacity has been reduced to 11,512. That’s a shame because a crowd of 12,044 would have eclipsed the record for a World Junior game in Sweden. The current mark is 12,023 set at the Sweden-Finland gold-medal game in Malmo in 2014.

~There have been 47 World Junior tournaments played. That means 141 medals have been handed out since 1977. The Big Six have won ALL medals with but three exceptions—Slovakia, bronze in 1999 and 2015, and Switzerland, bronze in 1998.

~When Czechia added Jiri Kulich to its roster, it meant he would play in his fifth junior-level event (U18 and U20 combined). But that isn’t particularly close to the record. Incredibly, four players have played in SEVEN junior events, all with the combination of three U18s and four U20s—Michael Frolik (CZE), Nico Gross (SUI), Andrei Kostitsyn (BLR), and Konstantin Zakharov (BLR)

~Between 1977 and 1995, the World Juniors featured eight teams, and from 1996 to today it’s 10. That means there have been a total of 442 teams, which means 442 coaching opportunities (okay, 443—recall that in 2017, Finland changed coaches mid-tournament!). 

Yet of all those coaches over nearly half a century, only one—ONE!—was a former goalie in IIHF play. Jaromir Sindel coached the Czechs in 2010 after a lengthy and impressive career between the pipes—1978 World Juniors, four WM, the ’84 Canada Cup, and two Olympics (1984, 1988). 

~This is the first IIHF tournament which mandates the use of neckguards—and no one is complaining. “I think it's a good rule,” said Switzerland’s Jonas Taibel. “We all know what happened, so I'm glad everyone has to wear one now. You don't have to adjust. You don't even know you're wearing it.”

~When Sweden shut out Canada a few days ago, 2-0, it marked the first time Canada had been shut out in a World Juniors game since the gold-medal game in 2021, when the United States won, 2-0, a skein of 18 games. 

~It’s New Year’s Day, and on this day we have a three birthdays. Canada’s Matthew Savoie turns 20, and he has to share the cake with the Swedish Havelid twins, Mattias and Hugo, both of whom also turn 20.

Happy New Year!