Road to Gold is the story of how the annual IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship Tournament rose to fame and became a holiday tradition in Canada.
Prior to 1981, Canada would send over its reigning Memorial Cup Championship team to compete in the tournament. The biggest problem being that the Memorial Cup was competed for in May and the World Junior tournament would happen the following December when the winning team would look very different. It just wasn’t working. Canada wasn’t competitive. During their annual meeting, the GMs of CHL teams were approached by Costello, a representative with Hockey Canada who was searching for a way to put forth a competitive team.
The solution? Create an all-star team of sorts. However, it would require the CHL clubs to provide their star players in the middle of the season. After some resistance, Costello threatened to go to the players and their parents himself and let them know they had the opportunity to represent their country on a world stage.
The GMs relented and thus the modern version of the tournament was born.
Author Mark Spector takes the reader on a journey through the years beginning in the 1980s to present day detailing the various ups and downs of Canada’s performances. By conducting dozens of interviews, Spector produces excellent play-by-play style breakdowns of the biggest games in the modern history of the famed tournament. Given the length of time Spector attempts to cover, he is not going to be able to hit on every year of the event’s history. That being said, I feel like Spector spent a little too long on the 2005 tournament. Granted, it was arguably the best team Canada has ever iced at the World Jrs, but a single chapter would have sufficed rather than adding a follow-up chapter on Crosby alone (who was the stand-out on the aforementioned team).
Above complaint aside, this is a solid read about Canada’s history at the tournament. Having grown into an annual tradition around the holidays while evolving into a multi-million dollar juggernaut, Mark Spector presents as comprehensive a history as possible of a Canadian institution in The Road to Gold.