International Ice Hockey Federation

Thirteen is the magic number

Thirteen is the magic number

Will Naslund’s WJC goals record stand?

Published 29.12.2015 12:36 GMT+2 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Thirteen is the magic number
No one has come close to beating Swedish star Markus Naslund's 1993 record for most goals in one World Junior tournament. Photo: IIHF Archive
When Markus Naslund set the record for most goals (13) at one World Juniors, Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” was topping the charts worldwide.

However, the retired Swedish star doesn’t start singing that song when he thinks about his 1993 goal-scoring spree as a 19-year-old. He made that clear when he appeared at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena on December 7 with Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison as the Canucks commemorated the famous West Coast Express line of the early 2000’s.

“I don’t know if it means a whole lot,” Naslund said. “It was a fun memory playing in the World Junior tournament. But that particular tournament, we lost the gold medal, and that’s what I remember the most. We lost 5-4 to Canada. In my mind, we were the best team in the tournament.”

Finishing second was a particularly bitter pill for the high-flying Swedes, favoured to win gold on home ice in Gavle in '93. They had a 53-15 goal differential, compared to 37-17 for Canada, which claimed its first of five straight titles. Close-but-not-quite was the rule under then-Swedish U20 head coach Tommy Tomth. He led Sweden to three straight silvers (1992-94) and added a bronze (1995).

“That’s been the story of my life, always winning the silver!” Naslund said with a rueful chuckle. The eight-year Vancouver captain and three-time First Team NHL All-Star also wound up with a silver (1993) and two bronzes (1999, 2002) from the IIHF World Championships. He did not play at the 2006 Olympics, where Sweden won gold in Turin, due to a groin injury.

Back in 1993, the Ornskoldsvik-born left wing with the stellar wrist shot was named captain at his second World Juniors. He suited up with two well-known players from his northern hometown of 55,000. They were on fire from Day One.

“It was a great line, playing with Peter Forsberg and Niklas Sundstrom, who came from the same small town,” Naslund recalled. “Putting us together...I mean, I played with Peter for a few years before that, too, but we had a similar chemistry as Todd, Brendan, and myself.”

Forsberg, who later became an IIHF Triple Gold Club member, still holds the single-tournament points record from ‘93 (31). The legendary centre’s grit and playmaking helped Naslund light the red light at an unprecedented pace. The Swedes walloped newly promoted Japan 20-1 – another tournament record – and Naslund scored five times.

The big question is, will anyone ever beat Naslund’s goal-scoring record? No other sniper has even gotten into double digits since he pulled it off.

The closest recently was Max Friberg, who scored nine times in Sweden’s 2012 gold medal run. At the 2015 tournament, three Canadians (Max Domi, Curtis Lazar and Sam Reinhart) and one American (Dylan Larkin) tied for the lead with just five goals apiece.

Naslund is sceptical about seeing his record topped in an era when team defence and goaltending have reached new heights: “It was a totally different game back then, and that makes it that much more difficult to break a record like that.”

The 43-year-old is currently developing a ski resort in Sweden with a business partner. It’s a long way from what he was doing in 1993. But his record lives on, in all its glory and wistfulness, kind of like an old Whitney Houston song.


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