The International Ice Hockey Federation World Under 20 Championship (colloquially known as the World Junior Hockey Championship, usually abbreviated WJHC) is an annual event organized by the International Ice Hockey Federation for national under-20 ice hockey teams from around the world. It is traditionally held in late December, ending in the beginning of January.
The main tournament features the top ten ranked hockey nations in the world, comprising the 'Top Division', from which a world champion is crowned. There are also three lower pools—divisions I, II and III—that each play separate tournaments playing for the right to be promoted to a higher pool, or face relegation to a lower pool.
First held in 1977 (1974-1976 were not official tournaments) as a relatively obscure tournament, the WJHC's have grown in prestige, particularly in Canada, where the tournament ranks as one of the most important events on the sports calendar. Canada typically hosts the tournament every three to four years, consistently selling out Team Canada games, offering large profit guarantees to Hockey Canada. Canada is, however, scheduled to host at a more frequent rate, including three of the next four tournaments (Ottawa in 2009, Saskatchewan in 2010, and in Alberta in 2012). Buffalo, USA has been selected as the 2011 host. The tournament has been dominated by the teams from Russia/Soviet Union/CIS and Canada, together accounting for 27 of the 33 overall gold medals awarded. The Soviets won the inaugural four official tournaments, while the Canadians put together five straight championships between 1993 and 1997, and another five straight from 2004 to the most recent 2009. Canada leads the all-time gold medal count with 15, while the Soviets/Russians lead the all-time overall medal count with 27. Head-to-head matches between these two countries are always much-hyped.
The tournament offers one of the most prestigious stages for young hockey players, able to significantly boost a player's value for upcoming NHL Entry Drafts.
Punch-up in PiestanyEdit
One of the most infamous incidents in WJHC history occurred in 1987 in Piestany, Czechoslovakia, where a bench-clearing brawl occurred between Canada and the Soviet Union. It began when Pavel Kostichkin took a two-handed slash at Theoren Fleury. The Soviet Union's Evgeny Davydov came off the bench, eventually leading to both benches emptying. The officials, unable to break up the fight, walked off the ice and eventually tried shutting off the arena lights, but the brawl lasted for 20 minutes before the International Ice Hockey Federation declared the game null and void. A 35-minute emergency meeting was held, resulting in the delegates voting 7-1—the sole dissenter was Canadian Dennis McDonald—to disqualify both teams from the tournament; the teams were also banned from attending the players' banquet at the end of the tournament.
While the Soviets were out of medal contention, Canada was playing for the gold medal, and were leading 4-2 at the time of the brawl. The gold medal ultimately went to Finland; hosts Czechoslovakia took the silver and Sweden, who had previously been eliminated from medal contention, were awarded the bronze.
At the conclusion of each tournament, the Directorate of the IIHF presents awards to the Top Goalie, Forward and Defenceman of the tournament. The media attending the event select an All-Star team separately from this.
- International Ice Hockey Federation. Retrieved on 2009-01-07.
- Mens National Junior U-20 Team. Hockey Canada. Retrieved on 2009-01-07.
- World Juniors. tsn.ca. Retrieved on 2009-01-07.