THIRTY YEARS OF THE GAME AT ITS BEST IN STORES NOW
Some sports have a natural home: soccer in Brazil, rugby in New Zealand, baseball in America. And Canada’s game? Hockey, of course. Team Canada is a perennial gold medal contender, always a favourite on the world stage.
But it wasn’t always that way. Sometimes talent and hard work just aren’t enough. Sometimes even Wayne Gretzky isn’t enough, as Canada found out the hard way at the 1978 IIHF World Junior Championship in Montreal. The youthful Great One may have turned heads at the tournament, but Team Canada had to settle for a disappointing third-place finish, and the next three years didn’t produce a single medal.
In the wake of those disappointments, Hockey Canada came to the realization that having the best players didn’t necessarily guarantee the best team. From this hard truth the Program of Excellence was born: a national development system designed to build teams capable of squaring off against the Soviets, who by 1982 had won every IIHF World Junior Championship gold medal but one. The results were immediate. Canada took the gold in ’82 and has brought home fourteen more, as well as seven silvers and three bronzes, in the years since.
The 2011-12 season marks the 30th anniversary of the Program of Excellence, which has brought Canadian hockey fans so many glorious memories and introduced names like Shanahan, Fleury, Lindros, Crosby, Stamkos and Toews to the national lexicon. Richly illustrated, Thirty Years of the Game at Its Best tells the IIHF World Junior Championship story from the perspectives of the players, coaches and journalists who were there making hockey history.
Contributors include Stanley Cup and Olympic gold medal-winning coach Mike Babcock, TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Gord Miller, The Globe and Mail’s Roy MacGregor, the Toronto Star’s Damien Cox and ESPN’s Gare Joyce.
Penguin Canada, the book’s publisher, invites hockey fans to visit www.penguin.ca/hockeycanada to honour their own Gold Medal Hero with a short video testimonial for a chance to win a trip for two to the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship in Calgary. The Gold Medal Hero contest kicks off Oct. 25 and runs through Nov. 25.