We conclude our in-depth series on the Victoria Cougars at the World Juniors with Russ Courtnall as he captained the 1984 Canadian team.
1984 – Nykoping, Sweden
For the third consecutive year, Team Canada had a member of the Victoria Cougars on their roster at the World Juniors. Cougars captain Russ Courtnall and teammate Fabian Joseph both participated in the National Junior Team tryout camp in July 1983. When the final rosters were announced, Joseph was not selected but Courtnall made the squad and named team captain. Courtnall was Victoria’s leading scorer with 64 points when he joined the national team in December as they prepared for the journey to Sweden.
Canada began the tournament on Christmas Day with a loss to Finland but bounced back to defeat the United States 5-2 with Courtnall selected as the Player of the Game.
In a 12-0 blowout of Switzerland, Courtnall had three goals and two assists. During one 68 second shift in the second period, the line of Courtnall, Dave Gagner and Dean Evason scored four times. The next day, Courtnall scored another three goals and added an assist in a 7-0 win over West Germany
Canada went on to defeat Sweden in the next game and managed a 3-3 tie against the undefeated Russians to set up a final showdown against Czechoslovakia for the bronze medal. The Canadians had a 3-2 lead in the third period, but the Czechs stormed back with three goals in fifty-one seconds to win 6-4. The loss dropped Canada into fourth place with a 5-3-1 record. The final standings had the Soviet Union winning gold, Sweden the silver and the bronze going to Czechoslovakia.
Courtnall had an outstanding tournament and was named Team Canada’s Most Valuable Player. With thirteen points in seven games, he was the top Canadian scorer and fourth overall in the tournament.
We didn’t medal, which was really disappointing. We had a couple of turning points in games, we were winning against the Soviets and then scored on our own net and ended up with a tie, and at the beginning of the tournament, I think we got shocked and surprised by the Finnish team. It was disappointing because as Team Canada, you go over there as a favoured team, or with the expectation that you’ll win. Our expectations were really high on ourselves, and we didn’t come away with a medal, so we were really disappointed in that performance.
After the tournament, Courtnall joined the Canadian national team in preparation for the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. Following Canada’s fourth-place finish at the Olympics, Courtnall returned to the Cougars for one game on February 25th against Kamloops. Two days later, he made his NHL debut with Toronto Maple Leafs on February 26, 1984, against the Canucks in Vancouver. Toronto was the last stop of his whirlwind year, as he remained with the Leafs for the rest of the season and collected twelve points in fourteen games.
Russ Courtnall was the last member of the Victoria Cougars to participate in the IIHF World Junior Championship. In preparation for the 1987 tournament, Cougars forward Ken Priestlay was one of thirty players at Canada’s national training camp. Unfortunately, while he was in Ottawa for the December 1986 camp, Priestlay caught a flu virus and was left off the final roster.
In total, five Victoria Cougars have represented Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship.
At the 2021 World Juniors, there are four individuals with a Vancouver Island connection:
Keanu Derungs (Switzerland) The Swiss forward is going into his second year with the Victoria Royals after picking up 29 points as a rookie. Derungs is the fourth Royals player to participate in the World Junior Championship.
Alex Newhook (Canada) Spent two seasons with Victoria Grizzlies (2017-2019) and is now attending Boston College. Newhook was a 2020 first-round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche.
Dylan Garand (Canada) Born in Victoria and grew up playing minor hockey in Juan de Fuca. Appeared in four playoff games with the Campbell River Storm in 2018 and is currently the starting goaltender for the Kamloops Blazers. Garand was selected by the New York Rangers in the fourth round of the 2020 NHL entry draft.
Dennis Beyak (Broadcaster) the TSN play-by-play announcer worked for the Victoria Cougars in the mid-1970s. For two years he did radio play-by-play for the Cougars and worked in their marketing department. Beyak has been the television voice of the Winnipeg Jets since 2011.
Victoria Cougars at the World Juniors
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