International Ice Hockey Federation

Hello, Helsinki!

Hello, Helsinki!

Finnish capital hosts WJC for sixth time

Published 22.11.2015 18:59 GMT+2 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Hello, Helsinki!
For many Finnish fans, the greatest moment in World Junior history was winning gold at home in Helsinki in 1998 where the World Juniors will be back in 37 days from now. Photo: Matthew Murnaghan / HHOF-IIHF Images
The IIHF World Junior Championship is more popular in Canada than anywhere else. But the tournament’s profile is growing in Europe, too.

When Helsinki, Finland hosts the 2016 edition, organizers hope they’ll beat the European attendance record of 144,268 set in Malmo, Sweden in 2014.

“Ice hockey is a competitive sport, and our goal is to get more than 150,000 spectators,” said tournament general secretary Timo Backman.

2016 will mark the record-setting sixth time the World Juniors have come to Helsinki since 1980. “It’s a big tournament, and people love the World Juniors over there almost the same as the Canadian people,” said Finnish NHL star Olli Jokinen, a four-time Olympian who won World Junior gold at home in 1998.

In this beautiful port city (population 617,000), hockey fever should heat up like a traditional Finnish sauna, especially as the host nation won World Junior gold in 2014. Hartwall Arena, the 13,349-capacity main venue, was recently upgraded with a new audio system and video screens, and it’s two kilometres away from Helsinki Ice Hall, the secondary arena.

Teams here have a rich legacy. Jokerit, currently competing in the KHL, produced Jari Kurri, Wayne Gretzky’s legendary right wing with the 1980s Edmonton Oilers. HIFK spawned Esa Tikkanen, the always-agitating talent who won five Stanley Cups with Edmonton and the New York Rangers.

Since Helsinki co-hosted the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship with Stockholm in 2012 and 2013, the 700 friendly tournament volunteers who’ll welcome visitors will bring plenty of experience. It’ll be a magical hockey celebration over Christmas.

Let’s review how previous World Juniors played out in Helsinki.

1980: The Peak of Soviet Domination

The Soviet Union captured gold for the fourth straight time since the IIHF officially sanctioned the tournament in 1977. Leading the way were tournament all-stars Vladimir Krutov and Igor Larionov.

Finland claimed silver, led by nifty defenceman Reijo Ruotsalainen, and Sweden took the bronze. Future Swedish NHLers Hakan Loob and Tomas Jonsson were also named all-stars. Years later, they’d rank alongside Larionov in the IIHF’s Triple Gold Club as winners of the Stanley Cup, Olympic gold, and IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

1985: Simpson’s Boys Strike Gold

WHL sniper Dan Hodgson captained Canada at the ‘85 World Juniors. Terry Simpson, his Prince Albert Raiders coach, was named Canada’s bench boss. But as Hodgson knows, the key to winning World Junior gold in Helsinki was that Simpson didn’t play favourites.

“I ran away with the WHL scoring title that year with 182 points, but he kept everyone on the same game plan, whether with speeches or meetings or meals,” said Hodgson. “It was the same in Finland.”

The roster also included top scorer Adam Creighton (12 points), Stephane Richer, and Claude Lemieux, and Canada posted five wins and two ties. One highlight was a 5-0 win over the Soviets, where Wendel Clark famously hammered defenceman Mikhail Tatarinov. Czechoslovakia, sparked by all-star forward Michal Pivonka’s nine goals, came second, and the Soviets were third.

This was Canada’s first-ever World Junior gold overseas.

1990: A Miraculous Turn of Events

At this tournament, co-hosted by Helsinki and Turku, Canada started with five straight wins. Coach Guy Charron’s squad rallied from a 3-0 deficit against the Soviets with Pavel Bure, prevailing 6-4.

But when the Canadians lost 5-4 to Sweden, their championship hopes dwindled. To win gold on the last day, Canada needed to defeat Czechoslovakia and have Sweden tie or beat the Soviets.

Robert Reichel, who led the tournament with 21 points, opened the scoring for Czechoslovakia on a Jaromir Jagr set-up. Yet Canada won 2-1 on goals by Mike Craig and Dwayne Norris. Miraculously, the Swedes, who trailed the Soviets 5-3, made it 5-5 with just one second left. The gold was Canada’s.

In his World Junior debut, Eric Lindros became just the second 16-year-old to represent Canada after Gretzky. Canada’s top scorer was Dave Chyzowski (9-4-13), who made the all-star team along with goalie Stephane Fiset.

1998: Finland’s Dream, Canada’s Nightmare

Finnish hockey fans still reminisce fondly about capturing their second World Junior gold on home ice. Niklas Hagman potted the 3-2 winner versus Canada in the Christmas Day opener. That set the tone. Finland went unbeaten, defeating Russia 2-1 in overtime for gold – with Hagman getting the winner again.

Canada’s tournament was memorable for all the wrong reasons. Maxim Afinogenov’s OT marker gave Russia a 2-1 quarter-final win over coach Real Paiement’s team. The Canadians then played placement games, losing 3-0 to the U.S. and 6-3 to lowly Kazakhstan. Eighth place was Canada’s worst finish ever. Still, players like Vincent Lecavalier and Roberto Luongo would have strong NHL careers.

The surprising Swiss, backstopped by goalie David Aebischer, claimed the bronze medal. Sando Rizzi potted the winning shootout goal in a 4-3 decision over the Czechs.

2004: The First American Gold

A stellar American squad with tournament MVP Zach Parise and Ryan Kesler defeated Canada 4-3 in the 2004 final in Helsinki, giving the U.S. its first World Junior gold ever. The winning goal was unforgettably flukey. Canadian netminder Marc-Andre Fleury unfortunately put a clearing attempt off teammate Braydon Coburn and into his own net. It was credited to Patrick O’Sullivan.

Canadian captain Dan Paille wouldn’t blame Fleury afterwards: “It wasn’t his fault. It was just a bad bounce.”

Thirteen Canadians on the invincible 2005 team that took gold in Grand Forks, North Dakota also played in Helsinki, such as Sidney Crosby and Ryan Getzlaf.

The hard-working Finns grabbed bronze, edging the Czechs 2-1.

A modified version of this story originally appeared in the official program of the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.


Back to Overview