IIHF World U20 Championship

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IIHF World U20 Championship
Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2018 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships
SportIce hockey
Inaugural season1974 (unofficial)
1977 (official)
No. of teams10
Most recent
Most titles Canada (17 titles)
Relegation toDivision I
Official websiteIIHF.com

The IIHF Ice Hockey World Junior Championships (WJC), commonly known simply as the World Juniors, are an annual event organized by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) for national under-20 ice hockey teams from around the world. They are traditionally held in late December, ending in early January. The tournament usually attracts top hockey players in this age category. However, some NHL teams do not release their top players as the tournament overlaps with the NHL season.

The main tournament features the top ten ranked hockey nations in the world, comprising the 'Top Division', from which a world champion is crowned. There are also three lower pools—Divisions I, II and III—that each play separate tournaments playing for the right to be promoted to a higher pool, or face relegation to a lower pool.

The competition's profile is particularly high in Canada; its stature has been credited to Canada's strong performance in the tournament (it has won the gold medal seventeen times since its inception), the role of hockey in Canadian culture, along with strong media coverage and fan attendance. As such, in recent years, nearly half of the tournaments have been held in Canadian cities, with the remainder being held in Europe and the United States.

Canada is the defending champion of the tournament, after having beaten Sweden to win the 2018 edition.


The first official tournament was held in 1977, although the first three tournaments from 1974 to 1976 were held unofficially.[1] The tournament has been dominated by the teams from Soviet Union/CIS/Russia and Canada, together accounting for 30 of the 42 overall gold medals awarded (through 2018). The USSR won the first four official tournaments, while the Canadians put together five straight championships between 1993 and 1997, and another five straight from 2005 to 2009. Canada leads the all-time gold medal count with 17 golds, while the Soviet Union/CIS/Russia have 13 golds.

In the 2010s, the competition has become more level with the United States winning three gold medals and Canada and Finland winning two golds. Russia and Sweden also remained competitive winning one gold each.

When it began, the World Junior Championship was a relatively obscure tournament. It has since grown in prestige, particularly in Canada, where the tournament ranks as one of the most important events on the sports calendar and during the holiday season. The Globe and Mail writer Bruce Dowbiggin credits TSN, along with Canada's strong performance at the tournament, for turning it from an obscure non-event when it acquired the rights in 1991 (which, however, also began growing in prominence due to the Punch-up in Piestany) to one of Canada's most beloved annual sports events, and at the same time cementing the link between Canadian nationalism and hockey, and inspiring the NHL's Winter Classic[2][3] Based on increasing attendances for countries repeatedly hosting the event[citation needed], the popularity of the tournament seems to be growing in other nations as well.

At editions of the tournament held in the country, games involving Team Canada consistently sell out NHL arenas, offering large profit guarantees to Hockey Canada and the IIHF.[4] In the 21st Century, Canada has and will continue to host the tournament every second or third year due to the significantly greater following the tournament has in Canada compared to other participating countries. Originally, Switzerland was selected to host the WJHC in 2010, but withdrew.[5] Buffalo, New York, USA hosted the tournament in 2011 and 2018; in both cases, proximity to Canada's population core in Southern Ontario was a key factor in the city winning the bidding rights.[6]

The tournament offers one of the most prestigious stages for young hockey players, able to significantly boost a player's value for upcoming NHL Entry Drafts.[3]

Punch-up in Piestany[edit]

One of the most infamous incidents in WJC history occurred in 1987 in Piestany, Czechoslovakia (now part of Slovakia), where a bench-clearing brawl occurred between Canada and the Soviet Union. It began when the Soviet Union's Pavel Kostichkin took a two-handed slash at Canadian player Theoren Fleury. The Soviet Union's Evgeny Davydov then came off the bench, eventually leading to both benches emptying. The officials, unable to break up the fight, left the ice and eventually tried shutting off the arena lights, but the brawl lasted for 20 minutes before the IIHF declared the game null and void. A 35-minute emergency meeting was held, resulting in the delegates voting 7–1 (the sole dissenter was Canadian Dennis McDonald) to eject both teams from the tournament. The Canadian team chose to leave rather than stay for the end-of-tournament dinner, from which the Soviet team was banned.

While the Soviets were out of medal contention, Canada was playing for the gold medal and was leading 4–2 at the time of the brawl. The gold medal ultimately went to Finland, hosts Czechoslovakia took the silver and Sweden, who had previously been eliminated from medal contention, was awarded the bronze.[7]


Recent results and upcoming tournaments
  • (#) Number of tournaments won at the time.
Year 1st, gold medalist(s) Gold 2nd, silver medalist(s) Silver 3rd, bronze medalist(s) Bronze Host city (cities) Host country
2010  United States (2)  Canada (7)  Sweden (5) Saskatoon and Regina  Canada
2011  Russia (4/13)  Canada (8)  United States (4) Buffalo and Lewiston[8]  United States
2012  Sweden (2)  Russia (7/10)  Canada (5) Calgary and Edmonton  Canada
2013  United States (3)  Sweden (9)  Russia (6/8) Ufa  Russia
2014  Finland (3)  Sweden (10)  Russia (7/9) Malmö  Sweden
2015  Canada (16)  Russia (8/11)  Slovakia (2) Toronto and Montreal  Canada
2016  Finland (4)  Russia (9/12)  United States (5) Helsinki  Finland
2017  United States (4)  Canada (9)  Russia (8/10) Montreal and Toronto  Canada
2018  Canada (17)  Sweden (11)  United States (6) Buffalo and Orchard Park[9]  United States
2019 Vancouver and Victoria  Canada
2020 Ostrava and Třinec  Czech Republic
2021 Edmonton and Red Deer  Canada
2022  Sweden
2023 Novosibirsk  Russia
2024  Canada

Participating countries[edit]

Sweden, Finland and Canada have participated in all 40 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships as well as the three unofficial World Junior Hockey Championships. USSR/CIS/Russia (when the Soviet Union broke up, Russia remained in Pool A, while all other Soviet republics were relegated) and Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic have also participated in all IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships, and the United States have participated in all except one (1976). When Czechoslovakia peacefully split in 1993, the Czech Republic remained in Pool A but Slovakia (Slovak Republic) was placed in Pool C (now Division II). Slovakia was promoted to the top division for the 1996 Championships and has remained there since.

Starting with the 1996 tournament, competition was increased from an 8-team round robin to the current 10-team format. Since then, Switzerland has become a regular participant.

Germany has been a frequent participant in the top pool, having played there roughly half the time in the past decade. Latvia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan have also each made a number of top division appearances since the early 1990s. Less frequent top pool appearances have been made by Austria, Denmark, France, Japan, Norway, Poland and Ukraine.

For the 2019 championships to be held in Vancouver and Victoria, the participating teams will be Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Kazakhstan, Russia, Switzerland, Slovakia, Sweden, and the United States.

Player eligibility[edit]

A player is eligible to play in the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships if:[10]

  • the player is of the male gender;
  • the player has his 20th birthday in the year of the tournament's ending (i.e. born in 1994 for 2014 tournament), and at latest, the fifth year after the tournament's ending (i.e. born in 1999 for 2014 tournament);
  • the player is a citizen in the country he represents;
  • the player is under the jurisdiction of a national association that is a member of the IIHF.

If a player who has never played in IIHF-organized competition wishes to switch national eligibility, he must have played in competitions for two consecutive years in the new country without playing in another country, as well as show his move to the new country's national association with an international transfer card. In case the player has previously played in IIHF-organized competition but wishes to switch national eligibility, he must have played in competitions for four consecutive years in the new country without playing in another country, he must show his move to the new country's national association with an international transfer card, as well as be a citizen of the new country. A player may only switch national eligibility once.[11]

Tournament awards[edit]

At the conclusion of each tournament, the Directorate of the IIHF presents awards to the Top Goalie, Forward and Defenceman of the tournament. The media attending the event select an All-Star team separately from this.

Broadcast coverage[edit]

The following television networks and websites broadcast World Junior Championship games on television or online.

Country Broadcaster(s)
Canada TSN
Czech Republic ČT
Europe Eurosport
Finland Yle, MTV3 (2009-2015)
Russia Match TV
Slovakia RTVS
Sweden SVT
United States NHL Network

TSN (Canada) is the IIHF's main broadcast partner for this tournament. TSN.ca carries all Canada, select preliminary round, and all medal round games live, as well as most games on demand after their completion.[12]

Starting with the 2013 tournament, TSN.ca online coverage - both Live and On-Demand - is behind a paywall and only available from Canadian I.P. addresses.[13]

Norway is currently a 'blackout' zone. Neither Eurosport or Viasat carry the tournament.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "All Medallists - U20". History. International Ice Hockey Federation. Retrieved 2009-01-07.
  2. ^ "TSN turned World Junior molehill into mountain". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  3. ^ a b Dowbiggin, Bruce. "Credit TSN for elevating world juniors to must-see TV". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  4. ^ "Ottawa to host 2009 world junior tourney". tsn.ca. The Canadian Press. 2006-05-03. Archived from the original on 2007-12-28. Retrieved 2009-01-07.
  5. ^ "Toronto, Regina-Saskatoon formally bid to stage World Juniors". tsn.ca. 10 June 2008. Retrieved 2010-01-05.
  6. ^ "Buffalo to host 2011 world hockey juniors". CBC Sports. Associated Press. 2008-10-27. Retrieved 2009-01-07.
  7. ^ "Punch-up in Piestany". CBC Digital Archives. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 1987-01-04. Retrieved 2009-01-07.
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ https://www.tsn.ca/sources-outdoor-game-planned-for-2018-world-juniors-in-buffalo-1.403558
  10. ^ "IIHF statutes and bylaws" (PDF). IIHF. Retrieved 2014-01-01.
  11. ^ "IIHF Eligibility". IIHF. Retrieved 2014-01-01.
  12. ^ "IIHF World Under 20 Championship 2011 Television Coverage". iihf.com. 5 January 2011. Retrieved 2010-01-05.
  13. ^ https://www.tsn.ca/world_jrs/story/?id=411089
General references

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to IIHF World U20 Championship at Wikimedia Commons