The one-week countdown to the start of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship in Vancouver and Victoria is on.
The annual international tournament is never short on drama or emotion, which is why this is always a highly anticipated time of year for hockey fans.
Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s tournament, which begins on Boxing Day.
10 countries competing
Ten countries will be split up into two five-team groups for preliminary round robin play from December 26 to 31.
Group A will play games at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, while Group B prelim games will be hosted at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria.
The marquee matchup of opening round is Canada vs Russia at Rogers Arena on New Year’s Eve.
- Canucks goalie prospect DiPietro makes Canada's World Junior team
- 9 cities in BC will host World Juniors pre-tournament games
- 2019 World Juniors schedule announced for Vancouver and Victoria
Unlike the NHL, the IIHF uses a three-point system for preliminary round games, placing greater emphasis on winning games in 60-minute regulation time:
- Regulation win = 3 points
- Overtime or shootout win = 2 points
- Overtime or shootout loss = 1 point
- Regulation loss = 0 points
If a game is tied after 60 minutes during round robin play, teams will play a five-minute three-on-three sudden death overtime period, followed by a five-player shootout if necessary. If the teams are still tied after the first five shooters, any subsequent shot can be taken by anyone on the team (including repeat shooters).
The tie-breaking procedure is different during the knockout round, with one 10-minute four-on-four sudden death overtime period taking place before going to a shootout, except for the gold medal game, in which case a 20-minute four-on-four OT takes place.
The top four countries in each group will advance to the quarter-finals, played in Vancouver and Victoria on January 2. Qualifying teams will cross-over to play teams from the opposing group, (ie. the first-place team in Group A plays the fourth-place team from Group B).
Both semi-final games will be played in Vancouver on January 4, while the gold medal game is scheduled for January 5.
The last-place teams in each group will play a best-of-three relegation series, with the loser being bumped from next year’s tournament.
World class talent
The World Juniors is an under-20 tournament featuring the best teenaged hockey stars in the world, aside from junior-aged players already in the NHL.
Many of the game’s greatest players have featured in this tournament before going on to become NHL superstars, including Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, and Connor McDavid.
A player to watch at this year’s tournament is Jack Hughes, the American centre expected to be picked first overall at the 2019 NHL Draft. His brother Quinn is one of up to four Canucks players in the tournament, including goaltender Michael DiPietro (Canada), defenceman Toni Utunen (Finland), and forward Tyler Madden (USA).
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Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Ian Scott will battle DiPietro for minutes in net. Two Montreal Canadiens prospects are on Team Canada, in Nick Suzuki and Josh Brook.
The odds-on favourite to be drafted first overall in 2020, 17-year-old forward Alexis Lafreniere, has made Team Canada. Lafreniere will become the ninth-youngest player to ever play for Canada.
Events around town
TransLink has declared Friday “Jersey Day” in Vancouver.
You can meet former Vancouver Canucks centre (and 2003 World Junior silver medallist) Kyle Wellwood and get your picture taken with the championship trophy on Friday. The photo op is presented by Molson Canadian and taking place at four BC Liquor Stores:
- 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm at 5555 Cambie St.
- 4:45 pm – 6:15 pm at 3150 E. Broadway
- 6:30 pm – 8 pm at 3436 Kingsway
The official World Juniors After Party is taking place on December 30 at the Commodore Ballroom, featuring JUNO Award-winning band The Glorious Sons.
Pre-tournament games have already begun. They’re taking place in nine different cities across British Columbia.
Of note, Quinn Hughes and Team USA visit Langley on December 22, while Canada plays their lone tune up game in Vancouver on December 23 against Finland.
|Tue, Dec 18||Russia vs Sweden||Prospera Place (Kelowna)|
|Wed, Dec 19||Kazakhstan vs Alberni Valley||Weyerhaeuser Arena (Port Alberni)|
|Wed, Dec 19||Czech Republic vs Slovakia||Frank Crane Arena (Nanaimo)|
|Wed, Dec 19||Denmark vs Finland||Langley Events Centre (Langley)|
|Wed, Dec 19||Canada vs Switzerland||Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre (Victoria)|
|Thu, Dec 20||Russia vs USA||Sandman Centre (Kamloops)|
|Fri, Dec 21||Kazakhstan vs Switzerland||Weyerhaeuser Arena (Port Alberni)|
|Fri, Dec 21||Canada vs Slovakia||Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre (Victoria)|
|Sat, Dec 22||Denmark vs Sweden||Prospera Centre (Chilliwack)|
|Sat, Dec 22||USA vs Czech Republic||Langley Events Centre (Langley)|
|Sun, Dec 23||Switzerland vs Russia||Bill Copeland Arena (Burnaby)|
|Sun, Dec 23||Canada vs Finland||Rogers Arena (Vancouver)|
Group A games (Vancouver):
|Wed, Dec 26||1:00 PM||Vancouver||Czech Rep vs Switzerland|
|Wed, Dec 26||5:00 PM||Vancouver||Canada vs Denmark|
|Thu, Dec 27||1:00 PM||Vancouver||Russia vs Denmark|
|Thu, Dec 27||5:00 PM||Vancouver||Switzerland vs Canada|
|Fri, Dec 28||5:00 PM||Vancouver||Czech Rep vs Russia|
|Sat, Dec 29||1:00 PM||Vancouver||Denmark vs Switzerland|
|Sat, Dec 29||5:00 PM||Vancouver||Canada vs Czech Rep|
|Sun, Dec 30||5:00 PM||Vancouver||Switzerland vs Russia|
|Mon, Dec 31||1:00 PM||Vancouver||Denmark vs Czech Rep|
|Mon, Dec 31||5:00 PM||Vancouver||Russia vs Canada|
Group B games (Victoria):
|Wed, Dec 26||3:30 PM||Victoria||USA vs Slovakia|
|Wed, Dec 26||7:30 PM||Victoria||Finland vs Sweden|
|Thu, Dec 27||3:30 PM||Victoria||Slovakia vs Sweden|
|Thu, Dec 27||7:30 PM||Victoria||Finland vs Kazakhstan|
|Fri, Dec 28||7:30 PM||Victoria||Kazakhstan vs USA|
|Sat, Dec 29||3:30 PM||Victoria||Slovakia vs Finland|
|Sat, Dec 29||7:30 PM||Victoria||Sweden vs USA|
|Sun, Dec 30||7:30 PM||Victoria||Kazakhstan vs Slovakia|
|Mon, Dec 31||3:30 PM||Victoria||Sweden vs Kazakhstan|
|Mon, Dec 31||7:30 PM||Victoria||USA vs Finland|
Knockout round games:
|Wed, Jan 2||11:00 AM||Vancouver||Relegation|
|Wed, Jan 2||1:00 PM||Victoria||Quarter-final|
|Wed, Jan 2||3:30 PM||Vancouver||Quarter-final|
|Wed, Jan 2||5:00 PM||Victoria||Quarter-final|
|Wed, Jan 2||7:30 PM||Vancouver||Quarter-final|
|Fri, Jan 4||9:00 AM||Vancouver||Relegation|
|Fri, Jan 4||1:00 PM||Vancouver||Semi-final|
|Fri, Jan 4||5:00 PM||Vancouver||Semi-final|
|Sat, Jan 5||9:00 AM||Vancouver||Relegation|
|Sat, Jan 5||1:00 PM||Vancouver||Bronze medal|
|Sat, Jan 5||5:00 PM||Vancouver||Gold medal|
Tickets for the most in-demand games like Canada-Russia on New Year’s Eve and the gold medal game are sold out. Many other good seats are still available for games through Hockey Canada’s website (prices vary).
Canada is the most successful country in the history of the World Juniors, but winning gold is not a certainty.
Our country has won the gold medal 17 times since the inaugural tournament in 1977. The Soviet Union/Russia is next with 13. No other country has won more than four times.
Canada won gold last year, defeating Sweden in the gold medal game in dramatic fashion, but has won the tournament just twice in the last nine years.
Vancouver has hosted once before, in 2006. Canada won gold that year with a team featuring the likes of Jonathan Toews, Kris Letang, Marc Staal, and Luc Bourdon.
|1977||Soviet Union||Canada||Czechoslovakia||B. Bystrica|
|2005||Canada||Russia||Czech Republic||Grand Forks|