The World Junior Championship has continually grown in popularity in the United States. Perhaps before 2010, you never even heard of the tournament. Team USA’s thrilling win in Saskatoon, with John Carlson scoring the OT game-winner against Canada, brought the tournament to a whole new audience.
So know this, if this is your first year taking in the tournament either in the stands or on TV, you’re not alone. This is still a relatively little known tournament in the United States, but NHL Network’s recent commitment to airing each of Team USA’s games until 2018 should change that.
So coming up after the jump, I’ve got your beginner’s guide to the IIHF World Junior Championship from the American perspective.
Alright, folks, let’s start with the simple stuff.
The World Junior Championship is a tournament that includes players under the age of 20 years old from 10 nations. The tourney, which is run by the International Ice Hockey Federation, the international governing body of ice hockey, has been held annually since 1974.
The World Juniors includes many top NHL prospects. Many players in this tournament have already been drafted by National Hockey League teams.
Many consider the World Junior Championship the premier “amateur” hockey event in the world.
The World Junior Championship is broken up into a preliminary round and a medal round. The preliminary round splits the 10-team tournament into two five-team groups, A and B. Each country plays the teams within its group. The three teams with the best record at the end of Group play advance to the medal round, with the first-place team earning a bye to the semifinals. The four teams that don’t advance to the medal round must play in the relegation round. Each team in the relegation round plays twice. The team with the least points at the end of the relegation round, combined with its points received in the preliminary round, is bumped down to IIHF Division 1A for the next year.
The official format from the IIHF can be found here.
The medal round includes a quarterfinal, semifinal, a bronze-medal game and the gold-medal game.
In the medal round, the quarterfinal goes like this:
3rd place Group A vs. 2nd place Group B
2nd place Group A vs. 3rd place Group B
The two teams that get the bye into the semis (1st place in Group A, Group B), would then play the winner of the quarterfinal. I think you can figure the rest out from here.
Group A is: Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, Latvia
Group B is: Canada, USA, Finland, Czech Republic, Denmark
If you’re wondering how the groups were determined, it’s based on placement in last year’s tournament.
The way the standings work in IIHF events is different from most. A regulation win is worth three standings points, an overtime/shootout win is worth two, an OT loss is one and a regulation loss results in zero points.
No games can end in a tie at the World Junior championship. If the game is tied at the end of regulation during the preliminary round, there is a five-minute overtime followed by a shootout, if no winner is decided in extra time. The shootout is initially three rounds. If there’s still no winner after the first three rounds of the shootout, any player from either team can shoot as many times in order to break the tie.
The rules for overtime change in the medal round:
In the quarterfinals, semifinals and bronze-medal game, a 10-minute overtime period is played if there is a tie in regulation. If the game is still tied at the end of that OT period, it goes to the same shootout procedure as above.
Should the gold-medal game end regulation tied, a 20-minute overtime period is played. If there is still no winner at the end of the 20 minutes, the shootout procedure is the same.
World Junior History, Team USA Retrospective
Despite medals in each of the last two World Junior Championships, Team USA’s World Junior history isn’t overly bright.
The U.S. has won gold twice in the history of the tournament. A team that included Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Ryan Kesler, Al Montoya, Matt Carle and more beat Canada for its first ever World Junior gold medal in 2004. Then Jack Campbell and John Carlson played hero in 2010 to help Team USA knock off the Canadians for the second ever American gold medal.
The U.S. has taken bronze four times (1986, 1992, 2007, 2011) and silver once (1997).
Russia (and the former Soviet Union) has won 16 World Junior Championships, including the first seven ever held. Team Russia is the defending gold medalist.
Canada has won the WJC 15 times, including two separate runs of five consecutive titles, from 1993-1997 and again from 2005-2009.
One of Russia, the United States or Canada has won every World Junior Championship since 2002.
The Czech Republic was the last different team to win gold, having won back-to-back in 2000 and 2001. International hockey superpower Sweden has only won the World Junior Championship once (1981), but has been a silver medalist eight times. Finland has won twice, with its last title coming in 1998. Outside of those teams, no other country has won gold.
At the end of every tournament, three players earn directorate awards as the best player in the tournament at their position. There is also a media all-star team named with three forwards, two defensemen and a goalie.
The U.S. has had eight all-time directorate award winners:
Jack Campbell (G, 2011), Erik Johnson (D, 2007), Al Montoya (G, 2004), Zach Parise (F, 2004), Rick DiPietro (G, 2000), Joe Corvo (D, 1997), Mike Dunham (G, 1992), Alan Perry (G, 1994)
The U.S. has had 20 all-star selections. It’s a pretty distinguished group.
Following the World Juniors
NHL Network will cover the World Junior Championship in the United States on live TV. Every Team USA game will be aired live, with Matt Rosen and Dave Starman in the booth and Rob Simpson at rinkside. NHL.com will also be streaming live games.
TSN.ca is a good resource for Team Canada, game highlights and general tournament coverage.
IIHF.com is the resource for live scoring, team statistics, standings and everything else.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the coverage on United States of Hockey so far and will make it a daily part of your World Junior plans. Enjoy the tournament!