Skip to main content

Canada's semifinal shootout still gives Coach Hartsburg chills

NHL.com @NHL

Canada's shootout win over the U.S. in the semifinal at the 2007 world junior hockey championship was the most electrifying moment of Craig Hartsburg's coaching career.

Hartsburg, a former NHL coach who will be behind Canada's bench again when the 2008 world junior tournament opens Wednesday in the Czech Republic, says the seven-round shootout was the defining moment of Canada's gold medal effort in Leksand, Sweden.

"It was the most intense, emotional moment that I know as a coach I've ever been through," Hartsburg recalled. "It was amazing what those kids did under that much pressure.

"The shots going in on both sides were spectacular."

When Hartsburg and the team returned to Canada, their 4-2 win over Russia in the final was an afterthought as the shootout was foremost hockey fans' minds.

"That's all anybody wanted to talk about," Hartsburg said. "You'd get to (the final) eventually, but not right away."

The high drama of Canada's 2-1 shootout victory has been replayed on YouTube thousands of times since Jan. 3.

It ended with Canadian goaltender Carey Price foiling American forward Peter Mueller trying to go five-hole, after Jonathan Toews scored his third of the shootout going upstairs on U.S. goalie Jeff Frazee.

While the Canadians players piled on each other like they'd already won the gold, the reality of what had just happened began sinking in for Hartsburg as he turned and saw the team doctor and trainer in tears.

"That's when it hit me that this thing was wild," Hartsburg said. "When you're involved in it, there's emotion, but you're picking the players (for the shootout).

"About 20 minutes later, my wife Peggy was outside and she was crying. So that's when I thought 'Holy cow."'

The tension began building when the U.S. scored five minutes into the second period. It was the first time Canada had trailed in the tournament and the uptight Canadians continued to do so until defenceman Luc Bourdon tied it halfway through the third.

Price faced down 12 shots in overtime, during which Canada was a man down for two minutes due to a high-sticking penalty by captain Kristopher Letang.

Then came the shootout. A couple of incidents ratcheted up the excitement. The first shooter was Canada's Steve Downie and he was stopped by Frazee, who let go of his stick at the same time he made the save.

Downie complained, to no avail, that Frazee had thrown his stick.

In the fourth round, Price slid back towards the net as he squeezed his pads together on a shot by Patrick Kane. He smartly turned his pads sideways so he wouldn't push the puck across the goal-line.

Hartsburg hadn't seen a replay until last summer.

"You see it on video, you actually start to tingle and there are shivers down your spine," he said.

The 48-year-old from Stratford, Ont., is in his fourth season at the helm of the Ontario Hockey League's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

Hartburg was NHL head coach in Chicago for three seasons from 1995 to 1998 and in Anaheim for two more after that. His NHL coaching record is 184-190-69 in the regular season and 8-12 in the post-season.

Injuries ended Hartsburg's playing career in 1989 after 10 years with the Minnesota North Stars. He had a career 98 goals, 315 assists and 818 penalty minutes in 570 regular-season games.

The closest he came to winning a Stanley Cup was in 1981, when Minnesota lost to the New York Islanders in the final.

But the highlight of his playing career was winning the 1987 Canada Cup with Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and company.

On his television at home, the gold medal from the world junior championship is draped on the trophy each player was given for winning that Canada Cup.

"Your life moves forward in different stages and as a player, the Canada Cup was the greatest thing I ever experienced," Hartsburg said. "Obviously in this part of my life as a coach (the gold medal) is the highlight.

"To say one was better . . . I probably played a bigger role in (the gold) as a coach than I did in the Canada Cup in 1987, but the experience of both was amazing."

View More