IIHF World Junior Championship

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.

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 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 PiestanyEdit

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 tournamentsEdit

Year   Gold   Silver   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 tournamentsEdit

  • (#) Number of tournaments (or 2nd, 3rd or 4th places) won at the time.
Year   Gold   Silver   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)   Czechia (6) Edmonton   Canada
2023   Canada (20)   Czechia (1)   United States (7)   Sweden (9) Halifax and Moncton   Canada
2024 Gothenburg   Sweden

Medal tableEdit

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   Gold   Silver   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
  Slovakia 0 0 2 2
  Switzerland 0 0 1 1
Total 47 47 47 141

Future tournamentsEdit

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 countriesEdit

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 countriesEdit

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 eligibilityEdit

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 awardsEdit

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 coverageEdit

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 alsoEdit


  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 readingEdit

External linksEdit

  Media related to IIHF World U20 Championship at Wikimedia Commons