At least to the host Swedes, who brought a powerhouse squad to the 1993 IIHF World Junior Championship led by future National Hockey League superstars Peter Forsberg and Markus Naslund.
But Dean McAmmond and a group of plucky Canucks had other ideas.
“We weren’t supposed to beat Sweden,” the Senators centre said in looking back at the ’93 event, which was played in Gavle. “They beat us 8-3 in exhibition and Peter Forsberg didn’t even play…. They were supposed to win it. They had a good team and there was a lot of pressure on them and they probably felt that.
“But the crazy Canadians were just chomping at the bit to overthrow the big dogs.”
Back then, there was no playoff format at the WJC. The top three teams at the end of a round-robin tournament won the medals. So when McAmmond and Co. shocked the mighty Swedes 5-4, their path to the gold was essentially assured.
“It was kind of anti-climactic,” said McAmmond. “We had to beat Japan to have the best record and we beat them 8-1.”
For McAmmond, the gold was sweet redemption of sorts. The year before, he’d been cut from a Canadian team that went on to finish sixth at the 1992 world juniors in Germany.
“I was disappointed,” said McAmmond, a first-round draft choice by the Chicago Blackhawks earlier that year. “Not as much disappointed as kind of put out. I had never been cut before and I thought I could have been on the team.”
The feeling was completely different a year later.
“I don’t remember that process as much as the year before, when I got cut,” said McAmmond. “You always remember when you don’t make it. When I made the team, I remember how it all played out. We flew over to Sweden and we went to a little village (Leksand) and we stayed in little cabins and practised and had some exhibition games there. It was fun. I enjoyed it.”
McAmmond roomed with current Anaheim Ducks forward Rob Niedermayer – “both not real talkers, both real laid back” – and played on a line with another pair of future NHLers, Jeff Shantz and Nathan Lafayette. The Canadian roster also included current Senators teammate Jason Smith.
"It's a pride moment. You do feel like the whole country is watching and cheering. In other countries, like the United States, it's not a big deal. But I feel it's Canada’s game. When you're at the world juniors, you’re representing your nation. It's a feel-good moment." - Dean McAmmond
“We had a good team,” said McAmmond. “We had lots of good players that went on (to the NHL). We had (Chris) Pronger and (Paul) Kariya and Marty Lapointe.
“I was glad that we played well as a team. I remember we played the U.S. the first game. We struggled a bit against the U.S. to get going and ended up beating them. Manny Legace was our goalie and he played so well for us.”
That 1993 team started a run of five world junior golds for Canada – a feat the boys wearing the red maple leaf will be aiming to match at the 2009 WJC, which will be played Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Ottawa.
“It’s big for those kids. Real big for those kids,” said McAmmond. “There’s a lot of pressure on them because they’re at home.”
He knows they’ll have plenty of support beyond the fans who will pack Scotiabank Place to watch them play. Even 16 years ago, McAmmond knew he had plenty of company on his golden ride.
“It’s a pride moment,” he said. “You do feel like the whole country is watching and cheering. In other countries, like the United States, it’s not a big deal. But I feel it’s Canada’s game.
“When you’re at the world juniors, you’re representing your nation. It’s a feel-good moment.”