Five Victoria Cougars have represented Canada at the annual IIHF World Junior Championship. Our three-part series began with Curt Fraser and Gary Lupul at the 1978 and 1979 World Juniors. In Part Two, we review Canada’s historical performance at the 1982 tournament in Minnesota and 1983 in Leningrad.
PAUL CYR and MARK MORRISON 1982 – Minnesota, USA
One of the greatest Canadian teams to ever participate at the World Junior Championship was the 1982 squad coached by Dave King. Going into the 1982 World Juniors, Canada was still looking for their first gold medal. In preparation for this tournament, Hockey Canada made a concerted effort to assemble a true national junior team. The previous three years Canada sent the defending Memorial Cup Champions to the World Juniors (New Westminster 1979, Peterborough 1980, Cornwall 1981) and their best result was a fifth-place finish.
Three Cougars were originally selected to join the Canadian team - Mark Morrison, Paul Cyr and Rich Chernomaz. Unfortunately, Chernomaz suffered a shoulder injury with the Cougars and could not participate.
Coach King put the two Victoria teammates together on the same forward line with Bruce Eakin of the Saskatoon Blades. They were one of the top lines for Canada and relied upon heavily throughout the tournament. An early highlight for the Canadians was a 7-0 blowout of the Soviet Union in front of 10,943 fans at Winnipeg Arena. Morrison had one goal in Canada’s first-ever victory over the Soviets at the World Junior Championship. In an 11-1 romp over Switzerland, the two Cougars had a huge game as Morrison and Cyr each scored four points.
Going into their last game of the tournament, the Canadians only needed a tie against Czechoslovakia to win the gold. In a hard-fought battle right to the very end, Canada held on to tie the Czechs 3-3 and capture their first-ever world junior gold medal.
Photo: Times-Colonist After the Canadian players received their gold medals, the arena in Rochester, Minnesota did not have the audio to play “Oh Canada”. Paul Cyr was on the ice and described what happened next. “They announced that the rink did not have a record of the Canadian national anthem. We decided we had to sing it. We strung out along the blueline and started. We were singing it for ourselves. The fans were filing out of the place, but when they saw what was going on, they stopped and stood at attention. All you could hear were our voices. I’ll never forget that moment.” (1) That began the tradition of players singing the anthem when Canada wins gold at the World Juniors.
The Canadians were dominating throughout the 1982 tournament, outscoring their opponents 45-14 and going undefeated with a 6-0-1 record. Cyr and Morrison each picked up ten points in seven games. Marc Habschied, who later coached the Victoria Royals, was second in team scoring with twelve points. There were no superstars on the 1982 national junior team, but every player went on the NHL.
“As a bunch of kids coming together, we just wanted to win the tournament. I don’t think at the time it meant very much, but it’s kind of cool now. It’s something you think about more after the fact because every time there’s a World Juniors tournament, that team is talked about or its picture is shown. So, it means a lot more in hindsight. It’s something I take a lot of pride in now, looking back and knowing we were the first.”
When the tournament ended, the Cougar teammates went in different directions with Cyr returning to Victoria and Morrison going to New York. “Things have sure happened fast down here,” said Morrison shortly after arriving in Manhattan. “Rangers head scout, Danny Summers, told me for sure I’d be going to New York before the last game against the Czechs. I flew out of Rochester (Minn) Sunday and was in New York late in the afternoon. (Rangers’ general manager) Craig Patrick signed me to a contract for three-years prior to last night’s game against Washington.” (2)
On January 7, 1982, Morrison made his National Hockey League debut against the Vancouver Canucks at Madison Square Garden. “They told me I’d be up for 10 games and if I played well, I’d be up here for the rest of the year” (2) After nine games with the Rangers, Morrison was returned to Victoria for the remainder of the year. Even though he only played 56 games with the Cougars, Morrison ended the season as the team’s leading scorer with 114 points.
MARK MORRISON and PAUL CYR
1983 Leningrad (St Petersburg), Russia
A year later, Morrison and Cyr were back with the 1983 Canadian national team for the 1983 World Juniors. Morrison was named co-captain on a team that included Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman and Mike Vernon. When asked about playing on the larger European rinks, Morrison could not hide his excitement. “I love international hockey, especially out here on the big ice surface. I love to skate and the style is the same as the New York Rangers play, and they drafted me“ (3)
Morrison and Cyr were slotted on a line with Pat Verbeek and given more of a defensive role for this tournament. In a 6-3 victory over Finland, Morrison and Cyr killed five penalties in succession. After the game Morrison talked about his linemates, “It’s easy to play with those guys. I play with Cyr in Victoria, so we know where each other is going to be, and Pat isn’t hard to play with. He goes up and down the wing and he’s a grinder” (3)
The pair from Victoria had their best game against Czechoslovakia with Morrison scoring twice and Cyr picking up two points as the Canadians came from behind to tie the Czechs 7-7. The tie kept Canada in contention for the gold medal.
The next day Canada needed a victory against Sweden but was defeated 5-2. The loss ended the Canadians hopes of winning gold for a second consecutive year but could still capture the bronze with a victory against Norway in their final tournament game.
Canada came through with a 13-0 shellacking of Norway to win the bronze and finish at 4-2-1. The undefeated Soviet Union won gold with Czechoslovakia picking up silver. There were complaints throughout the tournament about the substandard living conditions in Leningrad. John Humphries, owner of the Oshawa Generals told the Canadian Press that, “he has seen better conditions at the jail in Whitby, just west of Oshawa” (4)
In the seven tournament games, Morrison had five points and Cyr collected four. Once again, the pair went in different directions after the tournament, but this time Morrison returned to Victoria and Cyr went to Buffalo. Morrison finished the year with 130 points, leading the Cougars in scoring for the second straight season and set a franchise record for career points. Cyr never returned to junior as Buffalo’s first-round draft pick spent the rest of the season with the Sabres picking up 27 points in 36 games
(1) Ernie Fedoruk “Cougar pair has medals that Gretzky can’t buy” January 5, 1982 (Page 14 of 28). Times Colonist (1980-2010) 1982 Jan 05(19):14.
(2) Jack Keating “The big moment fades as team scatters”, (1) January 5, 1982 (Page 15 of 28). The Province (1956-2010) 1982 Jan 05:15.
(3) “Cougars’ ‘Mouse’ roaring like a lion in tournament play”, December 31, 1982 (Page 21 of 48). Times Colonist (1980-2010) 1982 Dec 31(16):21.
“Team Canada weary, bored”January 4, 1983 (Page 11 of 32). Times Colonist (1980-2010) 1983 Jan 04(18):11.
1984 - Sweden
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