From World Junior Gold to Memorial Cup Glory
Sunday, 12 August 2007
Originally published in Prospects Hockey in 2007
By Lucas Aykroyd
In 1958, a Canadian forward named Connie Broden won an IIHF World Championship in Oslo, Norway, and then a Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens the following month. Since today’s senior World Championship rosters generally consist of players eliminated from NHL playoff contention, odds are we’ll never see Broden’s feat replicated.
But some major junior stars get a special opportunity to top the bill on both the international and CHL stages in one calendar year. Winning an IIHF World Junior Championship and a Memorial Cup back-to-back happens rarely, and in some cases, it proves to be an all-time career highlight.
Trevor Linden of the Vancouver Canucks achieved this dynamic double in 1988 with Medicine Hat, and he understands the difference between the two tournaments: “The World Juniors is a real sprint. It comes at you fast, and you’ve got to be spot-on when the time comes. The Memorial Cup is more of a journey, like a marathon. It’s your goal when you start training camp. You’re with the same group of guys, and it’s the culmination of a lot of hard work.”
Only 18 players have won junior hockey’s two most prestigious titles in the same year. Let’s look back at the elite group of young men who beat the odds and made sports headlines everywhere from Kamloops, British Columbia to Moscow, Russia.
Prince Albert Raiders
“That season was, without a question, my ultimate season,” Hodgson said. Although the Alberta-raised center never fulfilled his NHL potential with Toronto or Vancouver, largely due to injuries, he could do no wrong with Team Canada or the Prince Albert Raiders in 1985 as the first-ever double winner.
The Raiders captain had previously appeared at the ’84 World Juniors, where Canada settled for fourth place. When he wore the “C” at the next tournament in Finland, he learned a valuable lesson: “These are the best players in Canada, but leadership-wise, it doesn’t really matter about the level of players. The leadership skills remain the same.”
Hodgson also loved playing for coach Terry Simpson, both with Prince Albert and Canada: “His philosophy never changed. It was ‘team, team, team’ with him. On the Raiders, 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. It was the same in Finland.”
Hodgson led Canada with two goals in a crucial 5-0 win over the defending champion Soviets. It was the first game his parents ever saw him play on TV.
He built off that confidence in the playoffs, leading the Raiders to the WHL crown with 36 points in 13 games. His Memorial Cup MVP performance included a five-assist game against Verdun, as Prince Albert won its only national title to date.
After 16 seasons in Europe (mostly Switzerland), Hodgson recently moved to Edmonton to work as a First Truck salesman.
Rob DiMaio, Trevor Linden, Wayne McBean, Scott McCrady, and Mark Pederson
Medicine Hat Tigers
Five World Junior gold medalists from one club? That’s not something you see every day. Then again, Medicine Hat was the defending Memorial Cup champion.
The five Tigers mostly didn’t stand out at the ’88 World Juniors in Moscow. But they played solid roles, and Linden tallied Canada’s second goal and Pederson assisted on the winner in a must-have 3-2 victory over a Russian squad with Sergei Fedorov and Alexander Mogilny.
“The World Junior Championship provided an extra layer of confidence,” said Linden. “That’s probably what got us to our second Memorial Cup title. The first time we won it, I felt like we were the best team. The second time, I think we got through our league just on the belief that we could do it.”
What was the toughest adjustment after returning from Moscow? “We couldn’t believe how small the rink was back home,” Linden laughed. “You get so used to playing on those big European rinks.”
But it was hard-nosed Canadian hockey that earned the Tigers another Memorial Cup berth and, ultimately, an exciting 7-6 triumph over Windsor for the title.
Eric Lindros and Mike Craig
Neither the 16-year-old Lindros nor the 18-year-old Craig earned an assist in this World Junior tournament in Finland, but they combined for seven of Canada’s 33 goals en route to gold.
Lindros, then dubbed the heir apparent to Wayne Gretzky, was acquired by Oshawa from Sault St. Marie the day after Team Canada left for Europe. “The Big E” had refused to report to the Greyhounds, who received three players, draft picks, and about $80,000 in exchange for the phenom’s rights.
That deal paid off for Oshawa. Lindros paced the club with 36 OHL playoff points. A terrific 4-3 overtime win over Kitchener in the Memorial Cup final climaxed the season for the Generals, who also got a hat trick from Craig in a round-robin tilt with Kamloops.
While Lindros toils for Dallas today, Craig headed back to Europe after 423 NHL games. He captured the 2005 Austrian scoring title with Vienna, where he still plays.
Pat Falloon and Trevor Kidd
Falloon and Kidd won the World Juniors in Saskatoon with a 3-2 victory over the Soviets on John Slaney’s slapshot goal, but they actually weren’t WHL teammates at that point. Spokane acquired Kidd, 1990’s top WHL goalie, from Brandon in late January. That helped the Chiefs cruise through the league playoffs with just one loss.
Falloon was an easy choice for Memorial Cup MVP after he tied Dale Hawerchuk and Luc Robitaille’s tournament record with eight goals. “This feels better than winning the World Juniors,” said the talented winger, who would play 575 NHL games. Chicoutimi’s Felix Potvin edged Kidd for best goalie honours, even though the Spokane backstop tied Richard Brodeur’s record-setting 1.67 GAA from 1972.
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
This shifty center saved his best for the big World Junior games. Intranuovo earned two points in a 5-4 Canadian victory over the host Swedes, who boasted Peter Forsberg and Markus Naslund, and he scored the winner in a 9-1 thrashing of Russia.
He also showed his character as “The Soo” hosted the Memorial Cup. Intranuovo was named MVP with seven points despite passing a kidney stone in hospital the night before the final win over Kamloops. It was the third straight appearance in the tournament for the Greyhounds, and Intranuovo’s inspirational example finally led them to glory.
Despite only appearing in 22 NHL games, he’s become a consistent scorer in Europe, suiting up this year in Austria at age 33.
Darcy Tucker and Nolan Baumgartner
For this terrific twosome, home cooking never tasted so good. First, they triumphed at the World Juniors in Red Deer on a Canadian squad that was stacked due to the NHL lockout. Then, with Kamloops hosting the Memorial Cup, Tucker and Baumgartner helped the WHL champions reel off four straight wins, and both were named to the tournament all-star team.
Tucker became one of just three players to win three Memorial Cups with the same franchise. The other two were Kamloops teammates Tyson Nash and Ryan Huska.
Martin Biron and Christian Dubé
Due to coaching decisions, Biron did less to earn his double than anyone else in history. The Buffalo first-rounder backed up Marc Denis at the World Juniors and didn’t play one minute. During that tournament, Hull traded for Biron to bolster their goaltending, but then rookie netminder Christian Bronsard stole back the starter’s job and took the Olympiques all the way.
Dubé was acquired via trade as well (from Sherbrooke), and he shone with Hull after tying for Canada’s scoring lead with seven points in Switzerland. He was named Memorial Cup MVP after a 5-1 home ice championship win over Lethbridge. The former New York Rangers prospect is now finishing his eighth season in a place where he obviously feels comfortable: Switzerland.
Red Deer Rebels
Erat was one of eight CHLers on the Czech team that beat Finland 2-1 for its second consecutive World Junior gold in January, but he was a Saskatoon Blade at the time. Saskatoon subsequently dealt the 20-year-old forward to Red Deer to give him a shot at a title run, and Erat thrived under his new coach, Brent Sutter.
He exploded for 36 playoff points as the Rebels earned the WHL championship, and added six more when they took their first Memorial Cup in Regina. Still, Erat didn’t forget what Saskatoon did for him, pledging $5,000 to that city’s Children’s Wish Foundation after graduating to the Nashville Predators.
Corey Perry and Danny Syvret
Total domination. That’s the best way to describe what Perry and Syvret accomplished in ’05. Perry, who would claim the OHL scoring title and regular season and playoff MVP awards, teamed up with Sidney Crosby and Patrice Bergeron on a potent line as Canada outscored opponents 41-7 to win gold in Grand Forks. Syvret, the London captain, chipped in three points.
Then, after the most outstanding season in major junior history, the Knights steamrolled Guelph, Windsor, Kitchener, and Ottawa in the OHL playoffs. They achieved their first-ever Memorial Cup with four straight wins on home ice, ending with a 5-0 trouncing of Sidney Crosby’s Rimouski Oceanic.
Now, who might join the ranks of the double winners this year? Likely candidates include 2007 World Junior champions such as Cody Franson and Kenndal McArdle (Vancouver), Leland Irving (Everett), Sam Gagner (London), Ryan O’Marra and Tom Pyatt (Saginaw), Steve Downie (Kitchener), Bryan Little (Barrie), and Marc-Andre Cliché (Lewiston).
By the Numbers
Out of the 18 players who have won World Junior gold and the Memorial Cup in the same year, only one also owns an Olympic gold: Eric Lindros.
None of the double winners has ever captured a senior-level IIHF World Championship or a World Cup.
Eleven of the double winners hail from the WHL, five from the OHL, and two from the QMJHL.
Twelve forwards, four defensemen, and two goalies have achieved this feat.
Officially, CHL players have only been able to chase World Junior gold since 1977, when the IIHF inaugurated the tournament.