Saturday, May 8, 2010
Canada, represented by the Trail Smoke Eaters, won the 1961 World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland. They would not win another World Championship gold medal until this date 33 years later.
From 1962 to 1969 Canada would follow their gold medal with a silver in 1962 and then a trio of 4th places followed by a trio of bronze medals. They would again place 4th prior to withdrawing from international competition in 1970 over the rules regarding the use of professional players until returning in 1977, but still their gold medal drought continued, as this was now the time of the Soviet Union, who, between 1963 and their breakup in 1991, won 20 World Championships in 26 years, while Czechoslovakia captured four, leaving table scraps for everyone else.
From 1977 to 1993, Canada finished in seventh place once in 1992 (the only time since entering the World Championships in 1920 that they finished below fourth place and still their worst placing ever), fourth place six times, won four bronze medals (1978, 1982, 1983 and 1986) and earned three silver medals in 1985, 1989 and 1991 as the gold medal continued to elude the once dominant Canadians. From 1920 1961, Canada had won gold 19 times out of 25 tries.
In February of 1994, Canada came so close to winning gold at the Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, famously losing in the shootout to Peter Forsberg's famous effort.
Now just three months later in Milan, Italy, Canada arrived with a team of future All-Stars, knowing they could compete with anybody. During the tournament they were led in scoring by Paul Kariya (5 goals and 7 assists for 12 points in 8 games), Brendan Shanahan (4-3-7 in just 6 games), Joe Sakic (4-3-7) and team captain Luc Robitaille (3-4-7). Other members of the forward squad were Geoff Sanderson, Rod Brind'Amour, Steve Thomas, Jason Arnott, Nelson Emerson, Shayne Corson, Mike Ricci and Pat Verbeek.
Defensively, Rob Blake, Darryl Sydor, Yves Racine and Steve Duchesne patrolled the blueline, assisting Bill Ranford (6-0-0) and Stephane Fiset (2-0-0) in posting a stellar 1.25 goals against average while going undefeated.
Canada opened first round group play beating hosts Italy 4-1 and then beat Austria 6-1, narrowly edged Germany 3-2, blew out Great Britain 8-2 and knocked off rivals Russia 3-1 to claim the top spot in Group 1. Their reward was a mediocre Czech Republic, fourth in Group 2, whom they defeated in the quarterfinals 3-2 on a goal by Corson with just 2:34 left in the game.
They then shocked Sweden in the semifinals, thanks to a hat trick by Robitaille and four assists by Thomas, 6-0 to advance to face Finland (6-0-1), for the gold medal.
In a close fought game, the two teams played the first two periods evenly and scoreless. In the third period, Finland held a wide margin in shots and it eventually paid off when Esa Keskinen scored to put the Finns up 1-0. Finally, with less than five minutes to play, Brind'Amour scored on the power play to even the score at 1-1. The remainder of regulation and a ten minute overtime passed by scoreless, sending Canada into an all-to-familiar shootout with gold on the line.
The format called for each team to shoot five times and both Robitallie and Sakic scored for Canada, but Jari Kurri and Mikko Mäkelä countered for Finland, sending the shootout into a sudden death of it's own.
Robitaille was chosen to shoot again and skated in on Finnish goaltender Jarmo Myllys, but momentarily lost control of the puck. Fortunately for Canada, he regained possession and proceeded to brilliantly deke Myllys to score the go-ahead goal for the Canadians. When Ranford stopped Mika Nieminen on Finland's final try, Canada had finally won it's 20th World Championship gold medal after 33 years of waiting.
Today's featured jersey is a Reebok 1994 Team Canada Joe Sakic jersey as worn in the 1994 World Championships in Milan, Italy.
Sakic would play for Canada nine times during his career, winning gold at every level, including the World Juniors in 1988, the World Championships in 1994, the Olympics in 2002 and the World Cup in 2004. He would also add silver medals to his collection at the 1991 World Championships and the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.
This 1994 jersey sports large Reebok logos on the shoulders, but was manufactured by Tackla, using their distinctive dye-sublimation and drop shadowed block font for the numbers.
Today's video section features a great find, rare footage of the 1994 gold medal final of the World Championships between Canada and Finland. The first five rounds of the shootout are edited pretty tight, so don't blink. Following the game highlights are interviews with many of the players.
Dasherboard: The 2010 IIHF World Championships opened yesterday with a world record, and upset and a surprise.
The world record was the 77,803 fans who filled the Veltins Arena in the opening game of the tournament. The upset was #12 ranked Germany, who by all rights should be down in Division I this year, defeating the #5 ranked United States 2-1 just 21 seconds into overtime on a reviewed shot that went in off a skate. It was the first time Germany had defeated the United States at the World Championships since 1993.
The surprise came in the form of the gold jerseys worn unexpectedly by Germany for the occasion. They appear to have had a commemorative patch on the lower left hip, likely indicating these jerseys were a special one time only affair.