January 06, 2011

Canada's Worst Loss At WJC: Sweden 17 - Canada 1 in 1976

Allowing 5 unanswered goals to blow a 3-0 third period lead to lose the gold medal certainly ranks as one of  Canada's worst losses in World Junior Championship history.

But it was not Canada's worst loss ever - although there is a bit of an asterisk attached here.

In 1976 the World Junior Hockey Championships, held in Finland, was still an unofficial tournament - hence the starry piece of punctuation. Unofficial or not, Sweden's 17-1 whitewashing of Team Canada marks Canada's worst loss at the U20 World Juniors. Sweden scored 9 goals in an 8 minute span in the 2nd period.

The shots on goal were just as lopsided: Sweden 79 - 14.

Canada was represented by the defending QMJHL champions Sherbrooke Castors (also known as the Beavers in English Canada). Coached by Ghislain Delage, the Beavers' roster included future NHLers Jere Gillis, Daniel Chicoine, Peter Marsh and goalie Richard Sevigny.

Sevigny's game worn jersey was sold at auction in 2004, fetching just $354. Here's a look at the interesting jersey:

Sevigny was in net on December 28th, 1975, the night Sweden walloped Sherbrooke 17-1. Sevigny was known to have a few off nights during his career, but this may have been his worst. It appears that Sevigny let in 12 of the goals. Back up Benoit Perreault played part of the 2nd period. After letting in 5 goals, Sevigny returned for the third period.

Very little evidence of the disastrous game seems to exist anymore. I can not find a game summary or a box score anywhere. Not even in Andrew Podniek's excellent and all encompassing book Red, White, and Gold: Canada at the World Junior Championships 1974-1999.

Hockey historian Robert Lefebvre tells me Sherbrooke took 23 penalties compared to Sweden's 2. Robert "Schmoe" Simpson was the worst offender, earning a 5 minute major and a 10 minute misconduct for spearing Thomas Gradin.

Bjorn Johansson and Hans Sarkijarvi paced the Swedes with 3 goals each. Bengt Gustafsson, Lars Molin and Thomas Gradin, all names that would one day become well known in the NHL, had 2 goals each.

Oddly enough, despite that win (and the fact that they led the tournament in goals scored), Sweden finished last (5th place), while Canada, despite that loss (and the fact that they last in goals against and tied for last in goals for), won the silver medal.

After competing in the tournament coach Ghislain Delage suggested Canada needed a national junior team, complete with a winter camp and scouting team. The CAHA agreed, finally. Father Bauer, Canada's leading voice international hockey at the time, had campaigned for a junior national program dating back to the 1960s. Delage's vision was the foundation of Canada's Program of Excellence, adopted in 1982, which oversees U20, U18 and regional U17 national teams.


Anonymous said...

I would love to have some more info on this game if anyone can find anything. Did the goalie pull a Roy and let them score or what? 17 goals seems nearly impossible for a Canadian team to lose.

Anonymous said...

Well it was hard to watch and hard to believe but I was there in the stands. The Swedish team put on an incredible display of passing the puck around that European ice surface like I have never seen before. It was an the Wow factor in the crowed. Basically it appeared as tic tac to and in the net. It was amazing and at the same time very hard to watch my team mates out there. But I wanted to be out there myself. Keep in mind a very huge advantage for the Europeans was the larger ice surface.( 10 feet wider) We (Canadians) had no idea and were not prepared for it. It may not appear to be much but it was a huge difference, seeing your angles and passing, everything changes, it appears to take longer to get there. Anyway also keep in mind we were not a all star team from Canada. We were the Sherbrooke Beaver's representing the Canada Junior's. But we were a great team and we did win 66 out of 80 games in 1976. But also they had the advantage of being an all star team from Sweden and they had the Bendt *(who was competition for me at the Washington Capitals camp in 1980- he was great there also) and Thomas line who ended up stars in the NHL. Hope that sheds some light.
by Larry Mensour 16 years old (Rookie for the Sherbrooke Beavers in 1976)

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Larry!