MONTREAL, CANADA - JANUARY 5: Opening face off between Team Canada and Team USA in the gold medal game at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/HHOF-IIHF Images)
WJC host’s top 10 international games since ‘72
The gold medal game of the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship was just one of many great international games in Montreal.
This city is globally renowned as a hockey mecca. And even though the Canadiens haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1993, international hockey always flourishes here.
Want proof? Take a look at our chronological list of the top 10 international games here since 1972. While most of them weren’t in official IIHF competition, they all loom large in the imagination of hardcore hockey fans.
1972 Summit Series
Soviet Union 7, Canada 3
September 2, 1972
Canada’s NHL professionals were supposed to romp over the USSR’s state-sponsored amateurs in the inaugural Cold War-era clash between the hockey superpowers. But the jacked-up crowd of 18,818 at the Montreal Forum, including Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, was in for a shock.
After the hosts jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, the Soviets found their puck-control game with high-tempo skating, passing, and dipsydoodling. Valeri Kharlamov scored two electrifying second-period goals as the visitors marched to a 7-3 win. It proved the Soviets could play with North America’s best, and it would take Paul Henderson’s last-minute goal in Game Eight to give Canada the series victory.
Super Series 1976
Montreal Canadiens 3, CSKA Moscow 3
December 31, 1975
This is sometimes dubbed the greatest game every played. It certainly was the greatest tie. In the first tour pitting Soviet club teams against NHL rivals, the New Year’s Eve matchup between Montreal and Red Army (as the Western press called it) was supremely anticipated.
Legendary goalie Vladislav Tretiak stood on his head as the Habs outshot their opponents 38-13. Yvan Cournoyer, nicknamed “The Roadrunner,” put Montreal up 3-1 with a mid-game power play goal. But Kharlamov scored late in the second period, and Boris Alexandrov finished off a 2-on-1 to tie it up in the third. Pete Mahovlich said: “Over 60 minutes, it was the best hockey game I’ve ever been associated with, in terms of goaltending, puck possession, strategy and so on.”
1976 Canada Cup
Czechoslovakia 1, Canada 0
September 9, 1976
Many still believe the host nation’s roster in the inaugural Canada Cup was its best ever, featuring Bobby Orr, Bobby Hull, Phil Esposito, and Guy Lafleur. Before the round-robin game with Czechoslovakia, Bratislava-born goalie Vladimir Dzurilla was feeling intimidated: “When coach Karel Gut told me that I would be in the net, I felt like a soldier in the front line about to approach bayonets.”
But Dzurilla, 34, outduelled his Canadien counterpart Rogie Vachon with a 29-save shutout. It was an exciting affair, and Milan Novy scored the winner on a sweet Josef Augusta set-up with 4:19 left.
1976 Canada Cup
Canada 5, Czechoslovakia 4 (OT)
September 15, 1976
In the second game of the ‘76 final, the Czechoslovakians battled to bounce back after Canada hammered them 6-0 in the opener. It didn’t go well for the reigning IIHF World Champions at the start. Goalie Jiri Holocek allowed two goals in the first 3:09 and was yanked in favor of Dzurilla. In this back-and-forth affair, Czecholovakia took a late 4-3 lead on goals by Augusta and Marian Stastny, but Bill Barber knotted the score with just over two minutes remaining.
That set the stage for Darryl Sittler’s famous overtime winner at 11:33. The Toronto star burst down left wing, faked a slap shot as Dzurilla challenged wildly, and then slid the puck into the gaping cage. The Forum fans kept cheering when the two teams spontaneously swapped jerseys afterwards.
1978 IIHF World Junior Championship
Soviet Union 5, Sweden 2
January 3, 1978
Only 3,996 fans showed up to watch the Soviets capture their second straight World Junior title, but it was still an impressive display. Sergei Makarov led the way with two goals and defenceman Vyacheslav Fetisov, named a tournament all-star, added a single in the one-game final. The Globe and Mail described the win as a “scientific, controlled effort.”
The Montreal fans’ disappointment was understandable after a star-studded Canadian roster with a 16-year-old Wayne Gretzky settled for bronze. Gretzky, who led the tournament with 17 points, had his best single outing with 6 points in a 9-3 shellacking of Czecholovakia.
1981 Canada Cup
Soviet Union 8, Canada 1
September 13, 1981
The unheralded Sergei Shepelev set the tone with a hat trick in the worst final-game defeat Canada has ever suffered in senior international play. Tretiak stood tall in the scoreless first period as the Canadians held a 12-4 edge in shots. Then his teammates ventilated goalie Mike Liut at the other end, while the likes of Gretzky, Lafleur and Marcel Dionne were blanked. Igor Larionov added a pair of goals in the rout. Tournament organizer Alan Eagleson compounded the embarrassment by refusing to let the Russians take the tournament trophy home.
1987 Canada Cup
Soviet Union 6, Canada 5 (OT)
September 11, 1987
For pure thrills, little in international hockey history rivals the ‘87 Canada Cup final. The first of three consecutive 6-5 games was played at the Forum. The Soviets squandered leads of 3-1 and 4-2, and Gretzky put Canada up 5-4 with under three minutes left, bouncing a bad-angle shot in off goalie Sergei Mylnikov’s skate. Yet Andrei Khomutov got the equalizer just 32 seconds later, and it was off to overtime.
Alexander Semak got the sudden-death winner – the first one in Soviet hockey history – with a great shot over netminder Grant Fuhr’s shoulder at 5:33. But Gretzky would lead the charge as Canada rallied to win the next two games in Hamilton.
1991 Canada Cup
Canada 4, United States 1
September 14, 1991
The first game of the ‘91 final remains notorious for U.S. defenseman Gary Suter’s hit from behind on Gretzky halfway through the game. The “Great One’ was forced to leave the tournament, and Suter, who wasn’t penalized, added insult to injury by scoring moments later to cut Canada’s lead to 2-1.
However, Gretzky’s superstar Edmonton teammate, Mark Messier, stepped up with the 3-1 goal in the third period, and Brent Sutter provided insurance with 3:43 remaining. Of Messier’s performance, coach Mike Keenan said: “His good friend went down and he was responsible for picking up the team with his intensity on the ice and his composure on the bench.” Canada won the tournament with a 4-2 victory in Game Two.
1996 World Cup of Hockey
United States 5, Canada 2
September 14, 1996
After decades of playing second fiddle to Canada in the North American rivalry, the U.S. finally earned its revenge by winning the inaugural World Cup of Hockey in Quebec’s biggest city. Game Three of the final saw the U.S.’s second straight 5-2 win on Montreal ice after Canada won the opener 4-3 in overtime in Philadelphia.
Goalie Mike Richter was the story as he faced 37 Canadian shots for the second consecutive game. The winning goal went to Tony Amonte, who beat Curtis Joseph with 2:35 remaining.
2017 IIHF World Junior Championship
United States 5, Canada 4
January 5, 2017
This shootout spectacular was one of the most exciting finals in World Junior history. In front of an electric Bell Centre crowd, host Canada took leads of 2-0 and 4-2. But the Americans fought back to tie it up both times, getting a pair of goals from Kieffer Bellows in regulation time. Goalie Tyler Parsons stood on his head as Canada outshot the U.S. 50-36.
After a thrilling overtime settled nothing, Troy Terry, who had scored three shootout goals in the U.S.'s 4-3 win over Russia, played the hero again. The University of Denver star went five-hole on Canadian goalie Carter Hart for the lone gold medal shootout goal. It was joy for USA Hockey and heartbreak for Canadian defenceman Thomas Chabot, the tournament MVP who logged 43:53 in the final, and his teammates.