Canadian Gold: Remembering the 1991 World Junior Championship

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In the lead-up to the 2021 World Junior Championship, we're taking a look back at each of the 18 Canadian teams to capture the gold medal, culminating Dec. 25 with the start of the latest edition of the tournament.

The 1991 edition of the world juniors took place throughout Saskatchewan and saw Team Canada take home its second consecutive gold medal. Once again, the squad faced stiff competition after edging out the Soviet Union for gold in 1990. With the round-robin format still in place, Canada came out on top with a clutch win in their final game.

The roster

Player Position Age
Mike Craig* F 19
Dale Craigwell F 19
Kris Draper F 19
Martin Lapointe F 17
Pat Falloon F 18
Greg Johnson F 19
Eric Lindros* F 17
Kent Manderville* F 19
Brad May F 19
Steven Rice* F 19
Pierre Sevigny F 19
Mike Sillinger F 19
Scott Thornton F 19
Patrice Brisebois* D 19
Karl Dykhuis D 18
David Harlock D 19
Jason Marshall D 19
John Slaney D 18
Chris Snell D 19
Scott Niedermayer D 17
Trevor Kidd G 18
Felix Potvin G 19

*Denotes returning player
All ages are as of the start of the tournament

The tournament

The event featured a number of future Hall of Fame-caliber players. Doug Weight led the tournament in scoring, with Canada's Eric Lindros and the Soviet Union's Pavel Bure trailing the American.

Canada took care of Switzerland in the tourney's first game, winning 6-0. Things started to look bleak for their gold medal hopes when they tied the U.S. 4-4 in their second matchup, putting them a point behind the Soviets.

Canada continued on, beating Norway, Sweden, and Finland before dropping their first contest against Czechoslovakia. With a 4-1-1 record and just one game left to play against the then-undefeated Soviets, Canada needed a miracle to secure gold.

On Jan. 3, the Soviets were taking on Finland in the team's sixth game of the tournament. If the Soviets won, they would have clinched the gold medal. Finland pulled off a miracle and did Canada a huge favor, scoring a game-tying goal with 15 seconds left. The tie meant the matchup between Canada and the Soviet Union on Jan. 4 decided who would take home the gold medal.

The stars

Seventeen-year-old Lindros dominated the tournament, leading Canada in scoring with 17 points in seven games. To nobody's surprise, he took home the Top Forward honor. It was Lindros' second appearance at the world juniors, and he returned in 1992. He would ultimately become the country's all-time leading scorer at the world juniors with 31 points.

Forward Mike Craig was second in scoring for the team with 11 points. He was one of the six returning players to win back-to-back golds and was named a First-Team All-Star of the tournament. Despite his great performances at the world juniors, Craig's career ended up being rather lackluster - he played in 423 NHL games while recording 168 points.

The key moment

Aside from Finland's epic late goal to force a tie against the Soviets and allow Canada to play for gold, the tournament's key moment came in the championship game.

Canada got off to an early 2-0 lead, but the Soviets clawed back to tie it up in the third frame. With all eyes on Canada's stars to get the game-winner, an unlikely hero stepped up to clinch gold.

John Slaney - who hadn't scored yet in the tournament - blasted home a goal through traffic with just over five minutes left in the third period. Slaney sprained his ankle during the goal celebration and anxiously watched the game's final minutes from the bench. Despite an onslaught from the Soviets, Canada managed to hold on to the lead and shut the Soviets down, taking home the country's second consecutive gold.

The fallout

Lindros went on to be infamously selected first overall in the 1991 NHL Draft by the Quebec Nordiques. Injuries derailed his career, but his talent and impact on the ice were undeniable. He only appeared in 760 NHL games while recording 865 points but was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016. He finished his career as a six-time All-Star and won the Hart Trophy in 1995.

The team didn't churn out as many future stars as some of Canada's other rosters but still produced a number of solid careers. Players such as Kris Draper, Mike Sillinger, Patrice Brisebois, and Brad May all appeared in over 1,000 NHL games.

Canada's top goalie Trevor Kidd played in a respectable 387 NHL games with a career .901 save percentage. Backup goalie Felix Potvin went on to become a two-time All-Star and appeared in 635 games.

Scott Niedermayer went pointless in seven games at the world juniors. While his play at the tournament didn't turn many heads, he went on to win four Stanley Cups, a Norris Trophy, the Conn Smythe Trophy, and two Olympic golds.

Canadian Gold: Remembering the 1991 World Junior Championship
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