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, Canada had a member of the Victoria Cougars on their World Junior roster. Cougars captain Russ Courtnall and teammate Fabian Joseph participated in the National Junior Team tryout camp in July 1983. Joseph was not one of the final selections, but Courtnall made the squad and was 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. In their next outing, the Canadians bounced back to defeat the United States 5-2. Courtnall picked up his first goal and was named 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's hat trick paced Canada to a 7-0 win over West Germany.
Canada went on to beat Sweden and earned a 3-3 tie against the undefeated Russians. With one game remaining, Canada had a record of 4-1-1. They could not catch Finland or Russia in the standings but could take home the bronze with a victory over Czechoslovakia.
In the battle for bronze, Canada built a 3-2 lead. But they fell apart in the third period as the Czechs stormed back with three goals in fifty-one seconds to win 6-4. The loss dropped Canada into fourth place with a 4-2-1 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 Canada's Most Valuable Player. With thirteen points in seven games, he was the top Canadian scorer.
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 Olympic team. He played in all seven games for Canada at the 1984 Winter Olympics, picking up four points. Following Canada’s fourth-place finish, Courtnall returned to the Cougars for one game on February 24th. Two days later, he was recalled by the Toronto Maple Leafs and made his NHL debut on February 26, 1984, against the Vancouver Canucks. Toronto was the last stop of his whirlwind year. Courtnall remained with the Leafs for the rest of the season, collecting twelve points in fourteen games.
Russ Courtnall was the last Cougars player to participate in the World Juniors.
Ken Priestlay was one of thirty players invited to Canada’s 1987 World Junior training camp. Unfortunately, he caught the flu during camp and was left off the final roster.
In total, five Victoria Cougars have represented Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship.
The 2021 World Juniors had four participants with a Victoria connection:
Keanu Derungs - (Switzerland - Victoria Royals). Derungs was the fourth Royals player to participate in the World Juniors.
Alex Newhook - (Canada - Boston College). Before joining Boston College, Newhook played for the Victoria Grizzlies (2017-2019).
Dylan Garand - (Canada - Kamloops Blazers). The Victoria-born goaltender is a product of Juan de Fuca minor hockey.
Dennis Beyak - (TSN Broadcaster). In the mid-1970s, Beyak was the Victoria Cougars' play-by-play announcer.
Victoria Cougars at the World Juniors
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