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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

It Is Over! Canada Ends It's World Championship Drought.

Crowning the best hockey nation in the world was a difficult task throughout the 20th century. The banning of professional players for best-on-best tournament like the Olympics and World Championships was laudable for its emphasis on promoting amateur sport. In practicality, Communist bloc nations such as the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia made a mockery of the process, with their so-called ‘amateurs’ prevented from becoming North American professionals. As a result, from 1963 to 1993, the Soviet Union/Russia won all but seven World Championship tournaments, with Czechoslovakia winning four golds and Sweden three. Canada’s amateur squads were no match against Europe’s best professionals, last winning a gold medal in 1961 courtesy of the Trail Smoke Eaters.

Beginning in 1976, the tournament was open to professionals, and the schedule changed to limit the clash with the NHL playoffs. European countries continued to dominate, until the 1994 Canada squad hit the ice. After sweeping all five preliminary round games, Canada defeated Czech Republic and Sweden to make the finals against Finland. In a tight finals game, Canada and Finland would take a 1-1 tie to a shootout. Tied after the initial five shooters, Luc Robitaille scored on the first sudden death shot, and Bill Ranford would stop Mika Nieminen to win gold. Led by future Hall of Famers Robitaille, Brendan Shanahan, Paul Kariya, Joe Sakic and Rob Blake, Canada broke a 33 year gold medal drought. Since 1994 Canada has won eight additional world championships.

Watch the shootout in its totality, and enjoy Paul Romaniuk’s legendary play-by-play.

502 - Dirk Graham

The Blackhawks forward had only one prior experience representing Team Canada, as a member of the 1987 World Championship squad, contributing three assists. While Graham had scored 33 goals during the 1988-89 season, by the time of the 1991 Canada Cup he was known as a defensive specialist, having won the Selke Trophy the spring before the tournament. Graham contributed three goals and four points during the 1991 tourney.

503 - Rick Tocchet

The Flyers’ power forward had been a part of the legendary 1987 Canada Cup team as a 22 year old, scoring three goals and five points in a breakout performance. During the 1991 Canada Cup he chipped in a goal and assist. Tocchet also played for Canada at the 1990 World Championship, scoring four goals and six points on the fourth place finisher.

504 - Eric Desjardins

The 1991 Canada Cup was the first time Desjardins represented Canada at the senior level. He won gold at the 1988 world juniors tournament, avenging Canada’s disqualification from the previous year due to the Punch Up in Piestany. Desjardins captained the junior squad the next year, scoring one goal and five points as Canada finished fourth.

At the 1991 Canada Cup Desjardins contributed a goal and three points as one of the youngest players on the squad. He would go on to wear the maple leaf at the 1996 World Cup, scoring one goal and three points, as well as at the 1998 Olympics.

505 - Shayne Corson

Like Desjardins, the 1991 Canada Cup was Corson’s first time on a Canadian squad at the senior level. He had played in two world junior championships, winning gold in 1985 and silver in 1986. At the 1986 tournament Corson scored seven goals and 14 points, tying Joe Murphy for the team lead in scoring and was named to the tournament all-star team.

At the 1991 Canada Cup Corson surprised by recording five assists, along with 12 penalty minutes, in eight games. The tournament would just be the start of Corson’s national team experience. He played in the 1993 and 1994 World Championships, finishing second to Eric Lindros in team scoring at the 1993 tournament with three goals and 10 points. The 1993 tournament would see Canada lose the bronze medal to the Czech Republic, but Corson would enter the winner’s circle with a gold on the 1994 squad. 

He also earned Olympic experience as part of the 1998 team at the Nagano Olympics, scoring two points.

506 - Theoren Fleury

The diminutive Fleury had plenty of Team Canada experience prior to the 1991 Canada Cup. He played in the infamous 1987 world juniors, the aforementioned Punch Up in Piestany. Fleury was part of the redemptive 1988 junior squad, scoring six goals (tied with Rob Brown for the team lead) and eight points, captaining the team to a gold medal victory.

Fleury also played on the 1990 and 1991 World Championship squad, scoring four goals and 11 points in 1990 and five goals and 10 points in 1991, finishing second in team scoring both years. Canada would earn silver at the 1990 tournament, finishing behind Sweden.

At the 1991 Canada Cup Fleury contributed one goal and five points. He would continue to represent Canada, scoring four goals and six points at the 1996 World Cup, and playing at the 1998 and 2002 Olympics, winning gold in 2002 in Salt Lake City.

507 - Luc Robitaille

At the 1991 Canada Cup Robitaille contributed one goal and three points. His only previous experience representing Canada was at the 1986 world juniors, scoring three goals and eight points for the silver medal earning squad. 

Despite being the highest scoring left winger of all-time (until recently surpassed by Alex Ovechkin), Robitaille only represented Canada one more time on the international stage. As team captain at the 1994 World Championships, he scored four goals and eight points, finishing second in team scoring to Paul Kariya. Most importantly, he scored the game winning shootout goal against Finland, earning Canada its first world championship gold since 1961.

Robitaille would be the assistant general manager of Canada’s 2008 world championship entry, a team which would lose to Russia in the gold medal game.

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