When Canada withdrew from international competition in 1970 to protest its inability to use even semi-pro players in major tournaments, it set off a chain of events that changed the hockey world forever. When the country returned to the IIHF World Championship in 1977, it used only NHLers who had been eliminated from the playoffs. In short, during the early years of the 1970s, it was clear that young players and true amateurs were being pushed out of top-flight international competition in favour of pros. As a result, an invitational tournament that began in 1974 received full IIHF status in December 1976. Thus was born the IIHF World Junior Championship, an event modeled in the mold of the world championship but limited in participation only to players under 20 years of age.
The early years of the World Juniors were difficult as fans and players struggled to embrace a new event held every Christmas. But during the 1980s, the junior championship developed a stronger and stronger presence on the international calendar. The IIHF World Junior Championship has become a holiday tradition in Canada, with the National Junior Team’s games among the highest-rated broadcasts of all-time on TSN.
The World Juniors have always attracted the best players in the world from all countries, and virtually every superstar and teenage, world-class player has appeared in at least one tournament, from Vyacheslav Fetisov to Wayne Gretzky to Peter Forsberg. Today, it is an event watched by millions of fans around the world, used by pro scouts as an important benchmark for performance, and has provided spectacular performances from both future greats and players soon to be forgotten.
As part of the IIHF's 100th anniversary celebrations, IIHF.com is featuring the 100 Top International Hockey Stories from the past century (1908-2008). Continuing through the 2008 IIHF World Championships in Quebec City & Halifax, from May 2 – 18, the IIHF will post approximately three stories a week counting down from Number 100 to 1.
The Top-10 Countdown will be one of the highlights of the IIHF’s Centennial Gala evening in Quebec City on May 17, the day prior to the gold medal game of the 2008 IIHF World Championship. The evening will culminate with the announcement of the Top Story of the Century.