IIHF World Junior Championship

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IIHF World Junior Championship
Most recent season or competition:
2023 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships
SportIce hockey
Inaugural season1974 (unofficial)
1977 (official)
No. of teams10
Most recent
(20th title)
Most titles Canada
(20 titles)
Relegation toDivision I
Division II
Division III
Official websiteIIHF.com

The IIHF World Junior Championship (WJC), or simply the "World Juniors" in ice hockey circles, is an annual event organized by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) for national under-20 ice hockey teams from around the world. It is traditionally held in late December, ending in early January. The tournament usually attracts the top hockey players in this age category.

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, and this is partly for historical reasons in that prior to NHL players being allowed in the Winter Olympics, this was a rare tournament where the best western players faced the best players from the Soviet bloc, and the only other tournament of similar stature where this occurred was the irregularly scheduled Canada Cup invitational tournament. The tournament's stature in Canada can also be credited to Canada's strong performance in the tournament (it has won the gold medal twenty 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 defeating Czechia to win the 2023 edition in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.


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 Canada and Soviet Union/CIS/Russia, together accounting for 31 of the 45 overall gold medals awarded (through 2021). 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 20 golds, while the Soviet Union, the CIS and Russia combined have 13 golds.

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 had started to grow in prominence due to the 1987 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, 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, in the United States, 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, significantly boosting 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 numerous fights, 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]


The winners by season listed below.

Unofficial tournaments[edit]

Year 1st place, gold medalist(s) Gold 2nd place, silver medalist(s) Silver 3rd place, bronze medalist(s) Bronze 4th place Host city (cities) Host country (countries)
1974  Soviet Union  Finland  Canada  Sweden Leningrad  Soviet Union
1975  Soviet Union  Canada  Sweden  Czechoslovakia Winnipeg and Brandon
Minneapolis, Bloomington and Fargo
 United States
1976  Soviet Union  Canada  Czechoslovakia  Finland Tampere, Turku, Pori and Rauma  Finland

Official tournaments[edit]

  • (#) Number of tournaments (or 2nd, 3rd or 4th places) won at the time.
Year 1st place, gold medalist(s) Gold 2nd place, silver medalist(s) Silver 3rd place, bronze medalist(s) Bronze 4th place Host city (cities) Host country (countries)
1977  Soviet Union (1)  Canada (1)  Czechoslovakia (1)  Finland (1) Zvolen and Banská Bystrica  Czechoslovakia
1978  Soviet Union (2)  Sweden (1)  Canada (1)  Czechoslovakia (1) Montreal and Quebec City  Canada
1979  Soviet Union (3)  Czechoslovakia (1)  Sweden (1)  Finland (2) Karlstad and Karlskoga  Sweden
1980  Soviet Union (4)  Finland (1)  Sweden (2)  Czechoslovakia (2) Helsinki and Vantaa  Finland
1981  Sweden (1)  Finland (2)  Soviet Union (1)  Czechoslovakia (3) Füssen, Landsberg and Kaufbeuren  West Germany
1982  Canada (1)  Czechoslovakia (2)  Finland (1)  Soviet Union (1) Bloomington, Minneapolis and Duluth
Winnipeg and Kenora
 United States
1983  Soviet Union (5)  Czechoslovakia (3)  Canada (2)  Sweden (1) Leningrad  Soviet Union
1984  Soviet Union (6)  Finland (3)  Czechoslovakia (2)  Canada (1) Norrköping and Nyköping  Sweden
1985  Canada (2)  Czechoslovakia (4)  Soviet Union (2)  Finland (3) Helsinki and Turku  Finland
1986  Soviet Union (7)  Canada (2)  United States (1)  Czechoslovakia (4) Hamilton, Toronto and London  Canada
1987  Finland[α] (1)  Czechoslovakia[α] (5)  Sweden[α] (3)  United States (1) Piešťany, Topoľčany, Trenčín and Nitra  Czechoslovakia
1988  Canada (3)  Soviet Union (1)  Finland (2)  Czechoslovakia (4) Moscow  Soviet Union
1989  Soviet Union (8)  Sweden (2)  Czechoslovakia (3)  Canada (2) Anchorage and Eagle River  United States
1990  Canada (4)  Soviet Union (2)  Czechoslovakia (4)  Finland (4) Helsinki and Turku  Finland[β]
1991  Canada (5)  Soviet Union (3)  Czechoslovakia (5)  United States (2) Saskatoon  Canada
1992  CIS [8](1)  Sweden (3)  United States (2)  Finland (5) Füssen and Kaufbeuren  Germany
1993  Canada (6)  Sweden (4) Czech Republic and Slovakia [9] (6)  United States (3) Gävle, Uppsala and Falun  Sweden
1994  Canada (7)  Sweden (5)  Russia (1)  Finland (6) Ostrava and Frýdek-Místek  Czech Republic
1995  Canada (8)  Russia (1)  Sweden (4)  Finland (7) Red Deer, Edmonton and Calgary  Canada
1996  Canada (9)  Sweden (6)  Russia (2)  Czech Republic (1) Boston, Amherst and Marlborough  United States
1997  Canada (10)  United States (1)  Russia (3)  Czech Republic (2) Geneva and Morges  Switzerland
1998  Finland (2)  Russia (2)  Switzerland (1)  Czech Republic (3) Helsinki and Hämeenlinna  Finland
1999  Russia (1)  Canada (3)  Slovakia (1)  Sweden (2) Winnipeg, Brandon and Selkirk  Canada
2000  Czech Republic (1)  Russia (3)  Canada (3)  United States (4) Skellefteå and Umeå  Sweden
2001  Czech Republic (2)  Finland (4)  Canada (4)  Sweden (3) Moscow and Podolsk  Russia
2002  Russia (2)  Canada (4)  Finland (3)  Switzerland (1) Pardubice and Hradec Králové  Czech Republic
2003  Russia (3)  Canada (5)  Finland (4)  United States (5) Halifax and Sydney  Canada
2004  United States (1)  Canada (6)  Finland (5)  Czech Republic (4) Helsinki and Hämeenlinna  Finland
2005  Canada (11)  Russia (4)  Czech Republic (1)  United States (6) Grand Forks and Thief River Falls  United States
2006  Canada (12)  Russia (5)  Finland (6)  United States (7) Vancouver, Kelowna and Kamloops  Canada
2007  Canada (13)  Russia (6)  United States (3)  Sweden (4) Leksand and Mora  Sweden
2008  Canada (14)  Sweden (7)  Russia (4)  United States (8) Pardubice and Liberec  Czech Republic
2009  Canada (15)  Sweden (8)  Russia (5)  Slovakia (1) Ottawa  Canada
2010  United States (2)  Canada (7)  Sweden (5)  Switzerland (2) Saskatoon and Regina  Canada
2011  Russia (4)  Canada (8)  United States (4)  Sweden (5) Buffalo (various venues)[10]  United States
2012  Sweden (2)  Russia (7)  Canada (5)  Finland (8) Calgary and Edmonton  Canada
2013  United States (3)  Sweden (9)  Russia (6)  Canada (3) Ufa  Russia
2014  Finland (3)  Sweden (10)  Russia (7)  Canada (4) Malmö  Sweden
2015  Canada (16)  Russia (8)  Slovakia (2)  Sweden (6) Toronto and Montreal  Canada
2016  Finland (4)  Russia (9)  United States (5)  Sweden (7) Helsinki  Finland
2017  United States (4)  Canada (9)  Russia (8)  Sweden (8) Montreal and Toronto[11]  Canada
2018  Canada (17)  Sweden (11)  United States (6)  Czech Republic (5) Buffalo (various venues)[12]  United States
2019  Finland (5)  United States (2)  Russia (9)  Switzerland (3) Vancouver and Victoria  Canada
2020  Canada (18)  Russia (10)  Sweden (6)  Finland (9) Ostrava and Třinec  Czech Republic
2021  United States (5)  Canada (10)  Finland (7)  Russia (1) Edmonton  Canada
2022  Canada (19)  Finland (5)  Sweden (7)  Czech Republic (6) Edmonton  Canada
2023  Canada (20)  Czech Republic (1)  United States (7)  Sweden (9) Halifax and Moncton  Canada
2024 Gothenburg  Sweden

Medal table[edit]

Map of countries' best results

The unofficial tournaments held prior to 1977 are not included in this table.

Countries in italics no longer compete at the World Championships.

Country 1st place, gold medalist(s) Gold 2nd place, silver medalist(s) Silver 3rd place, bronze medalist(s) Bronze Medals
 Canada 20 10 5 35
 Soviet Union
 Finland 5 5 7 17
 United States 5 2 7 14
 Sweden 2 11 7 20
 Czech Republic
 Slovakia 0 0 2 2
 Switzerland 0 0 1 1
Total 47 47 47 141

Future tournaments[edit]

These tournaments have been announced:

Year Host city (cities) Host country
2024 Gothenburg[13]  Sweden
2025 TBA  Canada
2026 TBA  United States[14]

Hockey Canada stated in January 2019 that Canada would also host the tournament in 2024, 2026, 2028, and 2031, though the 2022 and 2024 events have now been swapped between Canada and Sweden due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[15][13]

Hosting countries[edit]

Host country Tournaments[16]
 Canada 18[17]
 Finland 7
 United States 7[18]
 Sweden 6
 Czech Republic
 Soviet Union
 West Germany
 Switzerland 1
  • 1974, 1975 and 1976 unofficial tournaments are counted.
  • The 1975 and 1982 tournaments were co-hosted by the United States and Canada.
  • Including the 2023 tournament.

Participating countries[edit]

Canada, Finland and Sweden have participated in all 44 IIHF Ice Hockey World Junior Championships as well as the three unofficial World Junior Championships. USSR/CIS/Russia (when the Soviet Union broke up, Russia remained in Pool A, while all other former Soviet republics started competing in Pool C in 1993) and Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic have also participated in all official and unofficial World Junior Championships, and the United States has participated in all except the unofficial tournament in 1976.

When Czechoslovakia peacefully split in 1993, the Czech Republic remained in Pool A but Slovakia 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, the competition was increased from an 8-team round-robin to the current 10-team format, including elimination rounds. 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.

At the most recent championship, held in Canada in 2022, participating teams included Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States.

Player eligibility[edit]

A player is eligible to play in the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships if:[19]

  • the player is eligible to compete as a male athlete
  • the player has his 20th birthday in the year of the tournament's ending (e.g. born in 1994 for 2014 tournament), and at latest, the fifth year after the tournament's ending (e.g. 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.[20]

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 Sport
Europe Eurosport
Finland TV5
Russia Match TV
Channel One Russia
Slovakia RTVS
Sweden SVT
C More
Switzerland UPC Switzerland (MySports)
United States NHL Network

TSN is the IIHF's main broadcast partner for this tournament. TSN.ca carries all games excluding relegation games live, as well as most games on demand after their completion.[21]

Starting with the 2013 tournament, a paywall and geo-block was implemented on TSN's online coverage.[22] The same system applies to Canadian cable subscribers and subscribers of TSN's streaming service - users cannot stream the tournament outside of Canada on TSN Direct.[23]

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 7 January 2009.
  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. 3 May 2006. Archived from the original on 28 December 2007. Retrieved 7 January 2009.
  5. ^ "Toronto, Regina-Saskatoon formally bid to stage World Juniors". tsn.ca. 10 June 2008. Retrieved 5 January 2010.
  6. ^ "Buffalo to host 2011 world hockey juniors". CBC Sports. Associated Press. 27 October 2008. Retrieved 7 January 2009.
  7. ^ "Punch-up in Piestany". CBC Digital Archives. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 4 January 1987. Retrieved 7 January 2009.
  8. ^ "Story 59" International Ice Hockey Federation. Retrieved 2016-06-28.
  9. ^ "Brotherly but divided". International Ice Hockey Federation. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
  10. ^ "2011 IIHF World U20 Championship". International Ice Hockey Federation. Archived from the original on 27 December 2010.
  11. ^ "Toronto and Montreal to host 2015 and 2017 world juniors". TSN. 19 June 2013.
  12. ^ Seravalli, Frank (3 December 2015). "Sources: Outdoor game planned for 2018 World Juniors in Buffalo". TSN.
  13. ^ a b "IIHF announces 2021 world juniors will be played in Edmonton bubble". Sportsnet.ca. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  14. ^ Bloom, Carlton (5 January 2023). "Insider Says Minneapolis "Showing Interest" To Host 2026 World Juniors". Zone Coverage. Retrieved 6 January 2023.
  15. ^ Merk, Martin (5 January 2019). "Happy in BC". International Ice Hockey Federation. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  16. ^ 1974, 1975 and 1976 unofficial tournaments are counted
  17. ^ 1975 and 1982 tournaments were co-hosted with the United States
  18. ^ 1975 and 1982 tournaments were co-hosted with Canada
  19. ^ "IIHF statutes and bylaws" (PDF). IIHF. Retrieved 26 December 2022.
  20. ^ "IIHF Eligibility". IIHF. Archived from the original on 16 September 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  21. ^ "IIHF World Under 20 Championship 2011 Television Coverage". iihf.com. 5 January 2011. Retrieved 5 January 2010.
  22. ^ "FAQ: How to watch the World Juniors PPV online". TSN. 20 December 2012. Archived from the original on 31 December 2012.
  23. ^ TSN ca Staff (7 June 2018). "Streaming FAQ - TSN.ca". TSN. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
General references

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to IIHF World U20 Championship at Wikimedia Commons