The National Men’s Under-18 Team is part of a three-stage Program of Excellence beginning with the Under-17 regional teams and ending with the National Junior Team. The primary objectives of the Under-18 program are to identify, evaluate and condition players to the rigors of international competition by giving first exposure to off-shore officiating, ice-surfaces, and travel.
The Under-18 squad traditionally competes in the month of August, during the off season, to allow players to further develop skills with their respective junior teams in the winter following a week-long camp. A 22-player roster is chosen by scouts and coaches from Hockey Canada to represent Canada on the international stage.
The first National Men’s Under-18 Team was created in 1981 with the development of the Program of Excellence and has since competed in many international competitions. For the first 10 years of the program the National Men’s Under-18 Team participated in exchange camps with the United States to provide both countries the opportunity to refine the skills of their most gifted young players against top caliber international competition. It was not until the Japanese Ice Hockey Federation introduced the Phoenix Cup, a four-nation tournament designed to improve Japan's international hockey program, in 1991 that Canada took part in an international tournament.
The Phoenix Cup (later the Pacific Cup and La Copa Mexico) was a single round robin competition between the national under-18 teams of Canada, Russia, Japan and the United States. It was competed for between 1991 and 1996, with tournaments in Japan, Mexico City and Nelson, B.C. In its six-year history, Canada took home three gold medals, two silver and one bronze.
In 1997 the National Men’s Under-18 Team competed against Slovakia and the Czech Republic in a three-nation tournament in the Czech Republic. Canada captured gold and repeated their performance the following year in Slovakia against Belarus, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.
Canada won the 1998, 1999 and 2000 Four Nations tournaments took home gold from the Six Nations Cup and Eight Nations Cup in 2001 and 2002, respectively. Since 2003 Canada’s National Men’s Under-18 Team has competed in the Junior World Cup (now known as the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka) in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, taking home the gold medal the last three years.
Since 2002, Canada’s National Men’s Under-18 Team has taken part in the IIHF World Under-18 Championship, winning one gold (2003) and one silver (2005).