The Canadian junior men’s hockey team of 2005 is the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to the Olympic Games.
Ten of the 47 players invited to Calgary to start preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics won gold at the 2005 world junior hockey championships in Grand Forks, N.D.
Seven of the 2005 alumni are already Olympic gold medallists having played for their country in the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
Defencemen Brent Seabrook and Shea Weber, and forwards Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Michael Richards made up almost a third of the victorious team in Vancouver.
They were joined at this week’s orientation camp in Calgary by 2005 teammates Dion Phaneuf, Jeff Carter and Andrew Ladd.
The 2005 junior team, coached by Brent Sutter, is considered Canada’s best of all time. Canada steamrolled through the tournament outscoring its opposition 41-7.
The Canadians dismantled a Russian team that featured current NHL superstars Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin by a 6-1 score in the final. It was Canada’s first world junior gold since 1997 and sparked a run of five straight titles.
“It was pretty cool to be a part of that team,” Seabrook recalled. “We’ve sort of grown up together.”
Richards was captain of the junior team in Grand Forks. He believes the shared history of those players helped team chemistry in 2010 and can do so again in Sochi, Russia in February.
“If a lot of the guys make the team, I think it always helps in a short tournament when you know each other and are comfortable with each other, stepping into a dressing room and playing two days later,” he said.
Canada was dominant in Grand Forks not just because of the NHL lockout of 2004-05. The 1985 birth year producing the 19-year-old players for that junior tournament was freakishly full of big, skilled forwards.
Six-foot-four Getzlaf and Carter played the first shift of every game in the tournament with Brent Burns, another towering forward before the NHL converted him to defenceman.
The NHL lockout did make Bergeron available to the junior team when he would have otherwise been playing for the NHL’s Boston Bruins.
Bergeron, who had already played in a world championship earlier that year, led the junior tournament in scoring playing on a line with Crosby and Perry. Bergeron, Getzlaf, Carter and Crosby finished in the top six in points.
Crosby scored the golden goal in overtime against the U.S. in Vancouver for a 3-2 win. He and Getzlaf finished among the top 10 in scoring and Weber was Canada’s top-scoring defender.
All but Phaneuf and Weber have won a Stanley Cup within their first six seasons in the NHL. Crosby and Perry are already Hart Trophy winners as the NHL’s most valuable players and Bergeron earned the Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward in 2012.
“Seeing the talent back then, just the way the guys have grown throughout the league, I think a lot of those guys are superstars in the league now,” Carter said. “It doesn’t surprise me at all that there’s that many here.”
— With notes from Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press.