A time to remember

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

Forgive Ryan Smyth for being biased.

The Canadian team that won gold last winter in North Dakota was considered by many to be the best one ever assembled for the world junior championship.

Smyth would politely beg to differ. The 1995 edition he was a part of was a pretty good one, too.

Every player off that team went on to play in the NHL. Some were all-stars, others are now journeymen and even a handful like Smyth, Wade Redden, Bryan McCabe and Ed Jovanovski are headed to the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Smyth scored seven points as Canada won gold in Red Deer, but he very nearly wasn't even a part of the team.

'CLEAR AS DAY'

"I remember it clear as day. If you got a call, it wasn't a good thing," said Smyth. "(Coach) Don Hay called me into his room, sat me down and asked me if I'd like to be the 13th forward. I was so excited I nearly fell out of my chair."

A decade later, it can be said that right at that moment, Captain Canada was created.

"It's such an awesome feeling playing for country," said Smyth. "You have 16,000 people cheering for you with your own team and then you have the whole country cheering for you.

"It's always special when you play for your country, especially at a young age. There were NHL-calibre players there, the speed of the international game and having it in Canada - it was awesome."

The '95 squad had quite the talented lineup, thanks in part due to the NHL lockout of that year. Jeff Friesen, Alexandre Daigle, Jason Allison, Darcy Tucker and Jeff O'Neill were some of the elite players. It was up to the team captain - current Oiler Todd Harvey - to bring them all together.

'LOT OF PRESSURE'

"We were expected to go out and get the gold, but there was a lot of pressure on us being at home," said Harvey, who finished tied for third on the team with six goals in the tournament.

"We did have a lot of high-profile guys but we came together as a team. We didn't worry about who was scoring the goals or who was getting the glory. It was more about playing for Canada.

"All eyes were on us. I remember going up to Grande Prairie and being together for a few days together up there, playing some pond hockey and getting to know each other. Every time I see a guy who's still playing, we have that memory together of going out and getting the gold medal."

The 2005 Canadian team did the hot-knife-through-butter routine on the opposition, but the '95ers were the first to go through the tournament undefeated.

After beating Finland in Edmonton, the Canadians dropped Russia 8-5.

Combined with the Finns' tie with Sweden, Canada had won the gold even before playing its final game against Sweden.

"My fondest memory was probably beating the Russians and finding out we'd won it," said Harvey.


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