The events are separated by nearly 10 years and more than 5,500 miles, but the similarities between Grand Forks, N.D., and Sochi, Russia, are many.
The off-the-beaten-path sports cities will be remembered for giving fans some of the best hockey ever played.
The list of players who made Grand Forks, site of the 2005 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, one of the most memorable tournaments in history should be among the participants who will make the 2014 Sochi Olympics arguably the most competitive Olympic hockey tournament since NHL players officially began competition in the Games in 1998.
Lay the rosters side-by-side. Look at the players from the nine nations that sent a team to Grand Forks in late December 2004 and the ones that will make the journey to Russia in February 2014.
Sidney Crosby. Alex Ovechkin. Evgeni Malkin. Ryan Getzlaf. Corey Perry. Loui Eriksson. Jaroslav Halak. Phil Kessel. Those are just a few of the bold-faced names.
"It was a crowded bus as far as star-studded players," USA Hockey assistant executive director of hockey operations Jim Johansson told NHL.com. Johansson was the general manager of the U.S. team in Grand Forks. In Sochi, he will be the assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey.
We know who those players are now; what they can do, how they can dazzle and lift us out of our seats. But 10 years ago, the names weren't as familiar, the performances not as awe-inspiring to most hockey fans. They were teenagers, traveling long distances to a small, cold city in North Dakota.
It was a long, sad flight from Finland back to Canada in early January 2004. Canada bulldozed its way to the gold-medal game at the 2004 World Junior tournament in Helsinki, going 4-0 in preliminary-round play and outscoring the competition, 25-4. They scored a touchdown worth of goals in a 7-1 win against the Czech Republic in the semifinals to set up a title-game meeting with the United States.
The Americans had never won a gold medal at the elite under-20 competition, and 2004 was the second time they had a chance to play for the championship in a tournament that dates to 1977. The only times the Americans finished in the top three were bronze medals in 1986 and 1992, and a silver medal in 1997.
Canada had turned the tournament into its own hockey carnival. In 22 tournaments between 1982 and 2003, the Canadians won 10 championships and 15 medals, including back-to-back silver medals in 2002 and 2003. For a country expected to win every year, the 2004 title game against the U.S. seemed like easy pickings.
Canada held a 3-1 lead after two periods.
"I remember going off the ice after the second period," U.S. defenseman Matthew Carle said, "and their whole team was hooting and hollering because they thought they won."
Goals by Americans Patrick O'Sullivan and Ryan Kesler 2:19 apart early in the third period tied the game.
Inside the Numbers: Canada's '05 WJC team
Canada's 2005 World Junior Championship team is considered by many to be the greatest assemblage of junior-age talent in the history of the event, which started in 1977. Here's a look, nearly a decade later, at what the 22 players from that team have accomplished:
1.40: Goals-against average for starting goaltender Jeff Glass, who went 5-0-0 with a shutout
2: Hart Trophy winners: Sidney Crosby (2007) and Corey Perry (2011)
3: Players on the tournament all-star team: forwards Jeff Carter and Patrice Bergeron and defenseman Dion Phaneuf. Bergeron was named MVP
7: Played in NHL All-Star Games: Sidney Crosby (2007), Dion Phaneuf (2007, 2008, 2012), Mike Richards (2008), Corey Perry (2008, 2011, 2012), Ryan Getzlaf (2008, 2009) Jeff Carter (2009), Shea Weber (2009, 2011, 2012)
8: Stanley Cup champions: Andrew Ladd, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Sidney Crosby, Brent Seabrook, Patrice Bergeron, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter
10: Players from the team invited to Canada Olympic orientation camp in August: Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Andrew Ladd, Corey Perry, Dion Phaneuf, Mike Richards, Brent Seabrook, Shea Weber
12: First-round NHL Draft selections: Braydon Coburn, No. 8, Atlanta, 2003; Dion Phaneuf, No. 9, Calgary, 2003; Jeff Carter, No. 11, Philadelphia, 2003; Brent Seabrook, No. 14, Chicago, 2003; Ryan Getzlaf, No. 19, Anaheim, 2003; Corey Perry, No. 23, Anaheim, 2003; Mike Richards, No. 24, Philadelphia, 2003; Anthony Stewart, No. 25, Florida, 2003; Shawn Belle, No. 30, St. Louis, 2003; Cam Barker, No. 3, Chicago, 2004; Andrew Ladd, No. 4, Carolina, 2004; Sidney Crosby, No. 1, Pittsburgh, 2005
13: Points, for Patrice Bergeron, the tournament's leading scorer
29: Points for the line of Ryan Getzlaf (3-9-12), Jeff Carter (7-3-10) and Andrew Ladd (3-4-7)
31: Plus/minus rating for Canada's top four defensemen: Dion Phaneuf (plus-7), Shea Weber (plus-10), Braydon Coburn (plus-8) and Brent Seabrook (plus-6)
41: Goals scored by Canada in six games; it allowed seven
In the final minutes, Patrick Eaves tried to hit O'Sullivan with a long pass, but a pair of Canada skaters bracketed him and the puck bounced off his stick and went to goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. He tried to quickly send the puck the other way, but his pass hit the arm of Canada defenseman Braydon Coburn and ricocheted into the net. O'Sullivan was given credit for the goal, and Canada went from golden elation to silver deflation in the bounce of a puck.
"We should have won that year," Sidney Crosby, a 16-year-old phenom on Canada's 2004 WJC team, said. "We had a great team."
When Hockey Canada assembled its group in the summer of 2004 to begin preparing for the 2005 WJC, it did so with a new coach, a new style of play and a new attitude.
"I think there was certainly a sense of wanting to redeem themselves," Brent Sutter said. Sutter, who was coaching the Red Deer Rebels at the time, was the coach hired by Canada. "And there was certainly a huge level of urgency."
At summer evaluation camp, Sutter told the players exactly what to expect.
"I met with them in August and I made it very clear," he said. "I told them the way things needed to be for myself and the coaching staff and how we were going to go about doing this. … I think that the message was made very clear right from the start in how we were going to play and how we were going to do things."
After camp, Sutter returned to Red Deer to ponder the pool of players.
At the same time, the darkest cloud any hockey fan had seen was settling into place. The NHL shut its doors in September 2004 for a lockout, and no one associated with the game knew when those doors would reopen.
NHL fans were left in the cold, but the sun was shining brightly on Sutter. Suddenly his roster possibilities were endless.
"You knew you had so many elite players and they were all there because of the NHL lockout at the time," Sutter said. "Not only Canada but other countries had players that possibly could have been playing in the NHL. There were probably seven or eight guys off that [Canada] team that would have been in the NHL if the lockout hadn't been in place."
Forward Patrice Bergeron, who had a full NHL season under his belt with the Boston Bruins, was one such player. The final roster included nine players taken in the first round of the 2003 NHL Draft (Coburn, Getzlaf, Perry, Dion Phaneuf, Jeff Carter, Brent Seabrook, Mike Richards, Anthony Stewart, Shawn Belle), which suggests a few of those players would be in the NHL if the season were taking place.
Other countries also benefitted from the work stoppage. Sweden was able to install Eriksson in its lineup, the Czech Republic had access to David Krejci and the American team turned to Ryan Suter.
Russia had Ovechkin, who would have been a for-sure NHL star had the League been open for business.
"There were a lot of outstanding players in that tournament," American coach Scott Sandelin said. "It was a pretty star-studded tournament."
Canada's galaxy of stars shined brightest. The number of outstanding players looked great but made it tough for Sutter and his staff to assemble a team.
"The key to it was, we knew those guys were elite players, but getting them to park all their egos and focus on the task at hand," Sutter said.
He knew the core of the team would be formed by 11 players returning from the team that lost in Finland, among them Phaneuf, Getzlaf, Carter, Richards and Crosby, now 17 and ready for more ice time than the fourth-line role he played the previous year in Finland.
The key was finding the right complementary parts.
For Crosby it was Bergeron, with Perry added to fill out the line.
"The two of them, they became very unique themselves in that tournament," Sutter said of Crosby and Bergeron. "We roomed them together and they had such great chemistry on the ice."
Binding the group was Richards, whom Sutter determined early in the final evaluation camp was best suited to lead the group.
"I knew from the first day in camp," Sutter said. "When you've been around the game you have a sense. [Assistant coach] Pete DeBoer coached him in Kitchener. It was a situation where Pete spoke very highly of him, but Pete wanted me to see it for myself, and you could tell from the first day that he was going to be the captain of our hockey team."
Richards said captaining the 2005 WJC team was one of the easiest things he's done in hockey.
"It was a privilege but I don't think it was much more than that," he said. "It was probably the easiest job you could have of being part of that team because everyone was focused; the coaching staff didn't let anything slip where you had to say something. It was more of a businesslike approach where there was nothing else going on where you had to do anything or say anything to anybody. Everyone understood the situation and what we needed to do and what everybody wanted to do.
"You're there for one reason. It was an easy job. We had 20 guys that were all on the same page and it was 20 guys that shared that captaincy and 20 guys knew what they wanted to do and 20 guys that were on the same page to do it."
Canada held its final evaluation camp in Winnipeg, and when the group made the 150-mile bus ride south to Grand Forks on Christmas Day, there was a comfortable feeling.
"Before the beginning of the tournament we knew we had a great team," Coburn said. "We were on a mission."
Winter in Grand Forks can be nasty for the uninitiated. The average temperature the first week of January 2005 was minus-10 degrees Fahrenheit.
"It was cold, I remember that," Eriksson said.
Roman Polak, who played defense for the Czech team that won the bronze medal, was more blunt: "The weather was [terrible] and there was absolutely nothing to do there."
Not everyone shared that opinion.
"It's very much like where I grew up," Coburn, a native of Shaunavon, Saskatchewan, said.
The Fire Hall Theater, the Muddy Waters Clay Center, and the Bingo Palace certainly are draws, but the jewel of the community is the University of North Dakota and Ralph Englestadt Arena, where the majority of the tournament's games were played.
"People get there and see a palace," Johansson said. "They see one of the nicest arenas in the world. And they're like, 'How did this end up in Grand Forks, North Dakota?'"
Though Grand Forks might not be the most accessible place, it was an absolute can't-miss trip for NHL scouts and general managers, and those hoping to be one or the other.
"I was unemployed, so the Washington Capitals were nice enough to let me stay at the house they rented," said Brian Burke, now president of hockey operations for the Calgary Flames. "I paid my own way in and I sat up next to the TSN camera [because] I didn't have a seat."
The roster USA Hockey put together for the 2005 WJC featured six of the golden stars from the year before in Helsinki, but much of the magic of that team had departed.
Zach Parise, the offensive star, aged out of the tournament, as did other important components, Kesler, Carle and David Booth.
A few key players were back, among them defenseman Suter, goaltender Al Montoya, and forwards Drew Stafford and O'Sullivan, who was credited with the golden goal the year before.
Among those added to the group was Guelph Storm forward Ryan Callahan; Alex Goligoski, a freshman defenseman at the University of Minnesota; Boston College freshman goalie Cory Schneider; and Kessel, a 17-year-old sniper from the United States National Team Development Program Under-18 team.
Sandelin, from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, was picked to coach.
"I don't know if there was that swagger," Sandelin said of his defending champions. "We had some returning guys that had that experience, starting with Montoya in goal. ... Maybe there was a little pressure with it being in our country to defend."
Canada opened with a 7-3 rout of Slovakia (Bergeron and Crosby combined to score Canada's first four goals), and the Americans opened their title defense against Russia.
Leading the Russians was Ovechkin, the top pick in the 2004 NHL Draft. He hadn't quite fully formed into the "Great 8" fans know him as today, but he certainly was a commodity in certain hockey circles.
"I had heard a lot about him, got to witness it in some exhibition games and things like that," Sandelin said. "He was one strong young player that was very talented. ... I remember how strong he was for his age. Strong skater, strong on the puck, can shoot the puck. It was kind of impressive."
Burke said, "There was a lot of hype because Ovechkin by himself elevated the status of the tournament. That's why I went there even though I wasn't employed. It was a stellar group [but] the lightning rod for all the attention on the group was [Ovechkin]."
It wasn't just Ovechkin. Though the spotlight might have shone brightest on him, there was a big, skinny center few had seen but everyone learned about quickly.
"You're like, 'Oh my god, we're going to hear about this guy for quite a while,'" Johansson said of Malkin, another Russian player. "He was big and gangly then, but he was really skilled. There wasn't as much hype for him, but wow, here's another good Russian player we're going to see down the road. And he didn't disappoint in Grand Forks with his performance there."
The U.S. couldn't match that star power, but it didn't matter much in the opening game when they were able to match the Russians on the ice. Stafford and Chris Bourque put two past goalie Anton Khudobin in the first 5:45, but the real fireworks came with about two minutes left in the period when the teams scored three times in 40 seconds. Russia tied the game, Dan Fritsche put the U.S. ahead again, then Ovechkin scored.
Fritsche's second goal of the game, a shorthanded score at 8:40 of the third period, put the U.S. on top 5-4, and Montoya shut the door.
"I think that our group needed that game against Russia to kind of lay to rest the year before of finally breaking through and winning it," Johansson said.
After a day off, Canada got back on the ice against Sweden. It took 2:28 for Carter to score to give Canada a 1-0 lead, then four goals in the second turned the game into a rout. Crosby's second power-play goal 21 seconds into the third period made it 6-1, and Carter's linemates, Andrew Ladd and Getzlaf, added goals to cap an 8-1 victory.
The offense chugged along the next day against Germany. Canada scored four times in the first period and finished with goals from seven players in a 9-0 rout.
Crosby was the offensive leader, scoring two more goals.
Though Ovechkin may have been a bit of an unknown, Crosby's story already had been told.
"The first time I got a chance to see him was down in [Shattuck-St. Mary's Prep School in Faribault, Minn.]," Sandelin said of Crosby, who was 15 years old at the time. "I think there was a Canadian broadcasting team for a week there doing a piece on him. Just even watching him play there you knew he was special. He was fun to watch, [but] it's like, 'We'll never see him in college, as much as we'd like to.'"
Sutter said, "Sidney Crosby, from the first day I saw him and had the opportunity to coach him, you knew he'd be a superstar and what he is today. You just knew it. He was the hardest-working player in practice every day. He was the first on the ice, the last off the ice every day. Didn't matter what drill he did in practice, he treated it like it was a game. He wanted to be the best he could be. ... He was just so driven and was on such a mission. He made himself what he is.
"For myself and the coaching staff it was such a treat to have a player like that around. We used to talk about it all the time … wait five or six years down the road when he's doing it in the NHL. He's a very focused and driven person. He gets everything and more out of the talent that he's been blessed with, and that's because of his hard work and determination."
While Canada rolled, the U.S. came up with a flat tire in their drive for a second straight title. Two days after its win against Russia it struggled to put away Switzerland. The Americans led 2-0 after two periods on goals by Callahan and Kevin Porter, but the Swiss tied it in the first 1:04 of the third. Stafford sparked a three-goal rally, but the Swiss got within 5-4 with goals 36 seconds apart. O'Sullivan's goal at 7:06 of the third made it 6-4 and the U.S. buckled down.
It wasn't as lucky a day later when Andrei Kostitsyn had a goal and two assists to lead Belarus to a stunning 5-3 victory.
A day later, hours after Carter scored a hat trick and Perry twice in an 8-1 rout of Finland, the U.S. hit another bad patch against the Czech Republic.
Rostislav Olesz scored midway through the first, and Lukas Kaspar beat Montoya 57 seconds into the second to give the Czechs a 2-0 lead. Fritsche scored with 53 seconds remaining in the second, but the U.S. couldn't break through despite 13 shots in the third period. Olesz closed the game in the final seconds with his second goal.
"You come off an emotional win against Russia, there's always a concern about a let-down mentally," Sandelin said. "That's the uniqueness of that tournament. You can go from highs to lows in a hurry. ... And part of it is we just didn't play very well. That's sometimes the way it goes in those tournaments. It's like anything in hockey. If you don't show up and play your best game you can get beat. The teams that play in those tournaments, they have great players.
"At the same time it's getting guys to rebound from [tough losses]. We tried, and sometimes, in those games, it's a fine line. A mistake here or a mistake there, a bad five or 10 minutes can cost you a game. That's that tournament. Teams get on rolls, teams can go through a lot of emotional ups and downs and you have to be strong and get through it. That's maybe where we struggled a little bit. "
The U.S. earned its way into the medal round with a 2-2 record that placed it third in Group A. At the top was Russia, which wasn't drawing the headlines Canada was for steamrolling its way to the top of Group B, but was dominating the competition in going 3-1.
Malkin and Alexander Radulov each had a goal in a 4-1 win against the Czechs, then Ovechkin scored twice in a 7-2 rout of Belarus. Ovechkin scored twice more in a 6-1 win against Switzerland to close the opening round.
"What struck me about him was the enthusiasm he had for the game, the power he brought to the game," Burke said. "He looked like a little kid out there. He was a man but he enjoyed the game like a little kid, and I loved that. I loved that he clearly loved the game. He had a passion for it and a flair for it."
Canada and Russia each earned a bye to the semifinals. One quarterfinal matchup saw Finland, which finished third in Group B, face the Czech Republic, the second-place team in Group A. The goalie matchup was the highlight: Czech Marek Schwarz, a 2004 first-round pick of the St. Louis Blues, against a top prospect for the 2005 draft, Tuukka Rask of Finland.
It was as good as expected; each goalie put up a clean sheet until Petr Vrana beat Rask with 3:03 remaining in the second period. Olesz and Roman Cervenka scored in the third, and the Czechs won 3-0 and advanced to face Canada.
Sweden was feeling good after finishing second to Canada in Group B, and that continued against the U.S. through the first period when Eriksson scored 4:12 into the game. He added a goal midway through the second, but in between the U.S. scored three times to lead 3-2 after two periods.
In the third, the Americans shifted into another gear and the Swedes couldn't keep pace. Kessel, who scored in the second, capped a hat trick with goals 3:06 apart early in the third. Robbie Schremp, Suter and Tim Hensick scored later in the third to make the second semifinal a United States-Russia rematch.
Sandelin wasn't sure how his players would fare the second time.
"Once you get to the medal round, you throw out the previous games," he said. "I think at that time we were still trying to find our identity as a team. We had an emotional win, we had some tough losses, but you bounced back. So we didn't know which team is going to show up."
The Americans made it interesting in their march to the final four. Canada rolled along smoothly, dispatching opponents with machinelike precision.
"We were at the hotel and the rink," Sutter said. "We didn't see much of Grand Forks. ... Our business was to take care of business at the rink, and that's how we went about it."
Canada outscored the opposition 32-5 in four preliminary-round games, with the closest a four-goal margin of victory.
Usually a team needs a test to help it handle the rigors of the medal round. The way Canada ran roughshod through the early portion of the tournament, however, meant Sutter and his staff had to get creative.
"To some degree, we had to do it ourselves as coaches and create some adversity because we knew we had a very good team," Sutter said. "But we also knew that we could deal with adversity throughout the tournament at different points of time. ... We had to do some things you wouldn't normally have to do, so if we got into a situation where we were down a goal at a certain point in a game and things weren't going our way that we would be strong enough to get through it."
Richards said, "I remember the day after [the first game], we were looking at stuff, things we could improve. I remember just thinking to myself we played a pretty good game, we won, which is the most important thing in tournaments like that, but the focus was on getting better as the tournament went on by the coaching staff. I don't know if it surprised guys right away, but you could tell what the plan was, and that was to get better through the tournament."
A lot of that work came in practice.
"We had a good coach in Brent Sutter," Coburn said. "He's a tough guy. We had ... even though we were in a short tournament, we had some pretty tough practices. I remember those practices really well, just competing against those guys. ... All those guys are really competitive, so our practices were really competitive."
Though it may have felt like a business trip more than a teenage hockey tournament, Sutter said he believes his players enjoyed the experience.
"You could feel that they were so determined, but they had fun with it," Sutter said. "They had a lot of fun with challenging themselves every day to be better, to get better. And knowing that they were on a very talented team, they really pushed each other. That was something that was really unique with that group. They made each other better because of how they pushed each other and it was all very positive stuff. They were a driven group."
Richards said Sutter didn't have to do much motivating. As one of the players who went through the long flight home from Finland the previous year, he had enough internal drive to push him through.
"Just with going through what we did the year prior with a lot of the same guys ... we thought we let one slip away," Richards said. "There was that added energy and drive to have success in Grand Forks.
"Everyone understood how big it is not just for the players and Hockey Canada but what it is for Canada. We definitely didn't want to have that feeling again. You dream of the World Juniors more so than the Stanley Cup when you grow up in Canada. Watching it every Christmas, like I did, like everyone probably did on the team, to have it so close and let it slip away, I think that added that much more focus on what we needed to do."
Canada's semifinal against the Czech Republic turned out to be more competitive than anyone expected. Canada put 10 shots on net in the first period but all it got was Carter's goal with 82 seconds remaining.
Canada scored twice 2:32 apart early in the second, by Nigel Dawes and Bergeron. Olesz's shorthanded goal 3:36 into the third got the Czechs on the board, but a great defensive effort held the Czechs to 11 shots, four in the first two periods. At the other end, Canada piled up 42 shots; Schwartz turned aside 39 but took the loss in Canada's 3-1 win.
"When you get a group that really wants to get back to the gold-medal game and win, there's a process that's there," Sutter said. "You can't let them get away from the process. That's a day-to-day thing. We did a really good job on keeping our focus on the present and not worry about what the end result was. Yet we knew that if we got better each day their goal could possibly be accomplished."
Canada had a somewhat easy trip back to the championship game, but it wouldn't be so simple for the Americans. The Russians were more determined after their tough loss in the opener.
The U.S. committed a pair of penalties in the first five minutes, and Enver Lisin and Ovechkin each scored a power-play goal.
Schremp and O'Sullivan answered with power-play goals to tie the game, but Malkin and Radulov set up Sergei Shirokin for a goal late in the first period that gave Russia the lead for good.
After a Malkin goal gave Russia a 4-2 lead with 8:57 remaining, frustration began for the Americans, something that wasn't helped when they perceived the Russians as taunting them.
O'Sullivan received a four-minute minor for high-sticking which was killed, but Ovechkin scored an empty-net goal. Then, with a little less than two minutes remaining, Suter was called for slashing, which led to another goal for Malkin.
Callahan and teammate Nathan Hagemo lost their composure in the final minute and were given misconduct penalties, and Mikhail Yunkov scored a 5-on-3 goal to cap Russia's 7-2 victory.
Nearly 10 years later, there's still a bit of resentment from the Americans toward what happened that night, especially what some saw as a bit of showboating by Ovechkin.
Canada's contingent was watching the USA-Russia semifinal. They took notes. They already knew the key to beating Russia in the gold-medal game was to keep a body on Ovechkin, who led the tournament to that point with seven goals. But after what they saw against the Americans, the target on Ovechkin got even bigger.
When the puck dropped for the gold-medal game at Ralph Englestadt Arena on Jan. 5, 2005, it was a clash of colossal teams.
Fourteen first-round NHL Draft picks were on the rosters, three players from the game have won the Hart Trophy as League MVP, and eight players have gone on to win the Stanley Cup.
It was one of the eventual Cup-winners who started the game off in a big way. Getzlaf scored off a set-up by Carter, another Cup-winner, at 51 seconds. Seven minutes later, Danny Syvret made it 2-0. Alexei Emelin got Russia on the board with a power-play goal with 32 seconds remaining in the first.
Carter's seventh goal, which tied him for the tournament lead, made it 3-1 3:33 into the second. Goals by Bergeron and Stewart 61 seconds apart blew the game open, making it 5-1 nine minutes into the period.
Russia was stymied in every attempt to come back, mostly because the only thing closer to Ovechkin than the Canada skaters was his shoulder pads.
"We had to be hard on him," Sutter said. "There's no question that [Ovechkin] certainly was a very confident player. And just some of the things he did that upset opponents and there's no question, our guys, all it did was motivate our guys that much more. Certain things he did. And that's fine, he came there and he was a profiled player on their team and he let it be known that he was with the things that he did. He used to come on the ice at the start of every period and the start of games and stuff that he would do, the more our guys saw it the more driven they got. They didn't use it as, 'Oh we're going to really demolish this guy.' They used it like, 'Every time he touches the puck, let's make sure he's paying the price, but staying within the rules of the game.'"
The final blow was a hit by Bergeron along the boards in the second period. Ovechkin went out with an injured right shoulder and never returned, finishing with one shot.
Phaneuf scored a power-play goal late in the second, and after Jeff Glass made the last of his 18 saves, Canada's celebration began.
"They were a very, very hungry group," Sutter said. "When we got into that final game, right from the opening faceoff they dominated in all facets of the game. Then Ovechkin gets knocked out of the game halfway through. He got knocked out of the game because we just wore him down in half of the game. Every time he had the puck there was someone finishing the check on him and doing all the right things you have to do to succeed.
"When we got to the final, our team game was flawless, when we got to that point not much had to be said. You could sense it in the room. You could feel the energy and feel the very calm but very confident group, that if we all do this the right way we could succeed. They were back to the point they were the year before. Now they didn't want to make that one or two mistakes that would cost them the game. They wanted to be a flawless team."
Canada was close to flawless for those 10 days in Grand Forks. It outscored opponents 41-7 in six games. Not only were the 41 goals the most in the tournament, but Canada was the most efficient team, scoring on 15.8 percent of its shots. It also had the best goaltending, with a .935 save percentage.
Individually, Bergeron led the tournament in scoring with 13 points, one more than Getzlaf. Carter tied Ovechkin and Olesz for the tournament lead with seven goals, one more than Crosby's six. Getzlaf led the event with nine assists, one more than Bergeron's eight. Bergeron was named the tournament MVP and was joined on the all-star team by Carter and Phaneuf.
Richards, who had one goal, four assists and a plus-6 rating, got the honor of lifting the championship trophy first. With Grand Forks being less than a five-hour drive from his home in Kenora, Ontario, the crowd had a near-hometown favorite for which to cheer extra loud.
"That was pretty cool for me because I'd never been ... when we won the [the Memorial Cup with the 2002-03 Kitchener Rangers] Derek Roy got the trophy first so I never got to do that before," Richards said. "That was unique for me to get that opportunity, just have that feeling of going up there, being the first person to hoist the trophy.
"To have my parents there, that was pretty unique for me. I had a lot of friends and family there. I remember doing an interview after we won and some people from Kenora somehow got into the press conference, and they were yelling and throwing things. That's something I remember."
How good was the 2005 Canada World Junior team? Some call it the best of its kind.
"I remember watching them play," Philadelphia Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. "That team could have beaten a lot of American [Hockey] League teams, easily."
The people who were part of that team know how good it was, and the success so many of those players have gone onto since speaks further to how special those 20 players were.
"We had a great team," Richards said. "A couple days ago when we listed off the players that we had, it was pretty crazy to see how everyone's having success and how well everyone did for themselves."
Richards said a recent trip by his Los Angeles Kings to Toronto led to a conversation with teammates Carter and Drew Doughty about which Canada World Junior team was better: Richards and Carter's 2005 team or Doughty's 2008 squad, which featured Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Claude Giroux and P.K. Subban, and had Steve Mason and Jonathan Bernier in goal en route to winning a gold medal in the Czech Republic.
"Some of the players he had on his team were pretty remarkable," Richards said. "Me and [Carter] were joking around and [Doughty] said something about being able to beat us. We went through the order of some of the players that we had and some of the players they had. They had a good team too, but we were joking around that there's not much chance of his team beating ours."
The legacy of that Canada team, and the teams from the other countries, will be seen at the 2014 Olympics. Nine players from the 2005 World Junior team which took home gold were invited to Canada's summer evaluation camp, and all have a shot at making the team which goes to Sochi.
A number of players from the fourth place U.S. will have prominent roles at these Olympics. Kessel, who had four goals and two assists in Grand Forks, could be on the top line.
Suter, who led all defenseman in Grand Forks in scoring with eight points and was named to the tournament all-star team, will possibly be captain. Callahan likely will play a key role defensively and on the penalty kill, and Cory Schneider could be one of the three goalies.
"I think part of it is they're hitting the real money part of their careers," Johansson, the USA GM, said. "They're hitting the real peak of their careers."
It's not just North American nations that will have players from Grand Forks.
Eriksson was second on the team in scoring at the tournament with five points in six games as Sweden finished sixth; would he move to right wing to have a chance to play with Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin in Sochi? Even if Eriksson doesn't, if healthy, he'll be on one of the top two lines.
Halak had a 2.17 GAA playing every minute for seventh-place Slovakia in Grand Forks, and it's easy to envision him repeating that feat in Sochi.
Rask split time in Finland's net in Grand Forks, winning twice and posting a 2.96 GAA, and could head to Sochi as his team's starter
Ovechkin and Malkin, who combined for 10 goals and 21 points in 2005, could comprise two-thirds of Russia's top line, and David Krejci, who was held to one point for the Czechs, could be that country's top center.
So many star players burst into the collective hockey consciousness in Grand Forks nearly a decade ago, and they'll be front-and-center in a few months in Sochi.
"It's not surprising at all," Sutter said. "Those players were all very good players, great juniors. ... Seeing that group of guys, you look back, it's not surprising. They've been catalysts on their teams since then. They've grown on their teams in the National Hockey League. They're men now and they're superior at what they do. It's not surprising at all to see that many players, not just Canada but on other teams that were in that tournament. It was a pretty unique tournament."