Wednesday, July 15, 2009

1978 Team Canada Juniors

Recently on ESPN Classic I enjoyed watching a 1977/78 World Junior Championship game between Canada and Czechoslovakia. The game was from Christmas day 1977 and featured a 16 year old Wayne Gretzky firing three goals and six points. Canada won 9-3 over a Czech team that included Anton Stastny and Miroslav Frycer. Upon searching for a roster of Canada from this tourney I was somewhat surprised that I couldn’t find much info on the internet. With the help of PVR and the hockey database sites, I was able to piece together Canada’s roster.

Gretzky’s 17 points would lead the tournament in scoring, a tourney that along with Stastny included Sergei Makarov and Mats Naslund. All of them were two and three years older than Gretzky. In the Czech game that I watched, the line of Gretzky, Wayne Babych and Tony McKegney was simply dominant. Canada’s roster that year may have been one of the best ever and included future stars Mike Gartner, Bobby Smith, Ryan Walter, Rick Vaive and Stan Smyl. This was the first time that Canada opted to enter an all-star squad rather than the previous year’s Memorial Cup winning team. In the 1976/77 tournament the St. Catherines Fincups had won a silver medal for Canada although they were reinforced by Toronto Marlboro star John Anderson.
Perhaps the weakest part of the ’78 squad was the goaltending. A fairly non-descript Al Jensen and Tim Bernhardt tended the cages and may have been two of the reasons Canada could only manage a third place finish. Two names on the roster full of future NHLers really jumped out at me as not quite belonging.

Pat Daley and Brian Young (pictured above with Tim Bernhardt) each played regular roles for Canada and were stars on their junior club teams. Daley would score 120 points for the Laval Nationale that season and be drafted in the fourth round by Winnipeg. He’d play a mere 12 games over two seasons with the Jets before returning to his native France to play until 1994.
Brian Young was a member of the New Westminster Bruins of the WHL coached by Ernie “Punch” MacLean who also coached the 1978 Canadian squad. Young scored 57 points that season and like Daley was drafted in the fourth round by Chicago. He would, as with Daley play very few NHL games notching two assists in eight games in 1980/81. His career continued to parallel Daley as he would play nine seasons in Europe after bouncing around the minor leagues for a few seasons.
Gretzky working some magic

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