This July marks 20 years since Paul Kariya debuted in a Team Canada jersey, leading Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team in scoring with 10 points in six games as the Canadians took silver at the 1991 Phoenix Cup in Yokohama, Japan.
Kariya, who retired Wednesday after 15 NHL seasons, represented Canada on nine occasions during his career, finishing as one of the few Canadians to win gold at the IIHF World Junior Championship (1993), IIHF World Championship (1994) and Olympic Winter Games (2002).
He also gave back to Canadian hockey off the ice, serving as national spokesperson, along with National Women’s Team veteran Jayna Hefford, for Hockey Canada’s Initiation program, introduced in the late 1990s to make children's first contact with hockey a safe and positive experience.
After his debut in the summer of 1991, Kariya returned to the Program of Excellence just five months later, suiting up for Canada at the 1992 IIHF World Junior Championship, and helped Canada’s National Junior Team to the first of five consecutive World Junior gold medals the following year, winning his first international gold.
Kariya made the jump to Canada’s National Men’s Team four months after his World Junior triumph, scoring nine points in eight games as an 18-year-old to help Canada to fourth place at the 1993 IIHF World Championship, just months before the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim made him the fourth overall pick in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft.
Instead of joining the Ducks for the 1993-94 season Kariya wore the red and white of Team Canada in preparation for the 1994 Olympic Winter Games, where he led Canada with 12 points and scored in the gold medal game shootout against Sweden, although Canada settled for silver.
Three months later he was Canada’s leading scorer once again, this time at the 1994 IIHF World Championship, where Canada ended a 33-year gold medal drought with a shootout win over Finland.
Appearance No. 8 came at the 1996 IIHF World Championship, where Kariya helped Canada to a silver medal, and in late 1997 he was named to Canada’s roster for the 1998 Olympic Winter Games, the first to feature NHLers. But an injury suffered just weeks before the start of the Games meant the North Vancouver, B.C., native would have to wait another four years for his second Olympic experience.
Kariya’s Team Canada swan song came at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, where he joined arguably the greatest collection of Canadian talent ever assembled to help end Canada’s 50-year Olympic gold medal drought, playing alongside captain Mario Lemieux and scoring Canada’s first goal in the gold medal game victory over the United States.
Overall, Kariya recorded 102 points (31 goals, 71 assists) in 79 Team Canada games, winning three gold medals and three silver medals.
1991 Phoenix Cup (summer U18) – 5 GP | 4 G | 8 A | 12 P | 2 PIM | Silver Medal
1992 IIHF World Junior Championship – 6 GP | 1 G | 1 A | 2 P | 2 PIM | 6th Place
1993 IIHF World Junior Championship – 7 GP | 2 G | 6 A | 8 P | 2 PIM | Gold Medal
1993 IIHF World Championship – 8 GP | 2 G | 7 A | 9 P | 0 PIM | 4th Place
1993-94 National Men’s Team – 23 GP | 7 G | 34 A | 41 P | 2 PIM
1994 Olympic Winter Games – 8 GP | 3 G | 4 A | 7 P | 2 PIM | Silver Medal
1994 IIHF World Championship – 8 GP | 5 G | 7 A | 12 P | 2 PIM | Gold Medal
1996 IIHF World Championship – 8 GP | 4 G | 3 A | 7 P | 2 PIM | Silver Medal
2002 Olympic Winter Games – 6 GP | 3 G | 1 A | 4 P | 0 PIM | Gold Medal
TOTAL – 79 GP | 31 G | 71 A | 102 P | 14 PIM | 3 Gold | 3 Silver