NO LAUGHING MATTER. Vincent Lecavalier was drafted 1st overall 1998. Six months earlier, he was a part of Canada’s biggest WJC fiasco ever. Photo: Getty Images
World Juniors 2018

WJC Countdown: Kazakhstan upsets Canada in front of tiny crowd

Inexplicable is about the only way you could describe the 7th place game between Canada and Kazakhstan at the 1998 World Juniors.

Taking place in the town of Hämeenlinna, Finland, it’s almost an urban-legend level status of a game. Occurring on the same day as the gold medal game between Finland and Russia in Helsinki, there was no TV broadcast in Canada. If footage of the game exists, it’s not in the public domain anywhere. Unlike most other teams featuring one of the tournament’s traditional powers, there was a reported attendance of just 169.

In their four round robin games, quarterfinal game, and now-extinct “placement game”, Kazakhstan had scored 10 goals while giving up 48. Canada had also scored just 10 goals over that frame, but had only given up 12 goals over the course of their six tournament games. According to a recent Sportsnet feature on the game, Kazakhstan had players with mismatched skates, a lack of extra sticks on the bench and just one water bottle.

Yet exactly 34 minutes into the game, Kazakhstan’s Andrei Troschinsky had already scored a hat trick, and some way, somehow, the score was 4-0 Kazakhstan over a dejected Canadian lineup.

Canada’s coaching staff tried changing things up by putting in Roberto Luongo for starter Mathieu Garon, but it was a futile effort at that point. A pair of power play goals pushed the score to 4-2, but that’s as close as the score would get. When the final buzzer sounded, the final score was Kazakhstan 6, Canada 3.

Canada’s roster featured a few names in Vincent Lecavalier, Alex Tanguay, Eric Brewer and Mike van Ryn who would become NHL regulars. Meanwhile, Kazakhstan’s Nikolai Antropov, who would be the only player from the team to make the National Hockey League, picked up three assists in the win.

Despite the massive upset, neither side had any “real” consequences come out of the game. Both teams would return to the next year. It was not the start of some grand Kazakh influx of hockey talent, or the collapse of Canadian junior hockey as we know it. A team that’s been in the tournament on just six occasions, Kazakhstan’s won only five times (excluding relegation games) in the top division in their history.

They’ve managed a 5-2 win over Slovakia in the round robin during that 1998 tournament,  a 3-0 win over Switzerland in 1999, a 5-2 win over Ukraine in 2000, and a 3-1 victory over Switzerland in 2008. But of course, their most famous victory lies in their 6-3 triumph over Canada. Conversely, it was Canada’s lowest-ever finish at the tournament.

Against the traditional junior hockey powerhouses, Kazakhstan’s chances have often been slim to none, save for a memorable 5-4 loss to the Russian at the 2008 event where Kazakhstan actually held a 2-0 lead and had the game tied at 4-4 with under seven minutes remaining, before conceding the game winner just twenty seconds later.

In their last appearance at the tournament in 2009, Kazakhstan managed just  two goals in the round robin, while allowing 46 against. In the relegation round, they were bounced out with identical 7-1 losses to Latvia and Finland.

After winning the Division IA title this past Friday, Kazakhstan returns to the top division of the World Juniors in 2019, and it could not have been much closer. A final day victory over France and a 3-2 overtime victory on December 11th over Latvia proved to be the difference, edging out Latvia by just a single point to win the round-robin format.

As the idea behind placement games at the World Juniors have now been abolished, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see something quite like Kazakhstan’s upset of Canada ever again.



 P Spelare Född CM KG L/R Kontrakt  
 G Mathieu Garon 1978-01-09 185 92 R
 G Roberto Luongo 1979-04-04 190 98 L
 D Sean Blanchard 1978-03-29 181 91 L
 D Eric Brewer 1979-04-17 193 98 L
 D Brad Ference 1979-04-02 191 95 R
 D Zenith Komarniski 1978-08-13 184 92 L
 D Cory Sarich 1978-08-16 193 94 R
 D Mike Van Ryn 1979-05-14 185 90 R
 D Jesse Wallin 1978-03-10 188 92 L
 F Steve Bégin 1978-06-14 183 87 L
 F Matt Bradley 1978-06-13 191 91 R
 F Matt Cooke 1978-09-07 180 98 L
 F Daniel Corso 1978-04-03 178 86 L
 F Jean-Pierre Dumont 1978-04-01 183 99 L
 F Josh Holden 1978-01-18 183 83 L
 F Vincent Lecavalier 1980-04-21 193 98 L
 F Manny Malhotra 1980-05-18 188 94 L
 F Brett McLean 1978-08-14 180 84 L
 F Alex Tanguay 1979-11-21 185 88 L
 F Daniel Tkaczuk 1979-06-10 185 86 L
 F Jason Ward 1979-01-16 188 92 R
 F Brian Willsie 1978-03-16 185 89 R


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