7 magical memories from 2015
by Lucas AYKROYD|08 MAY 2024
Czech legend Jaromir Jagr was named tournament MVP on home ice at the 2015 IIHF World Championship.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Andre Ringuette
2015 is a funny year. For many of us, it feels both recent and long ago. That holds true when flashing back to the 2015 IIHF World Championship in Prague and Ostrava. Quite a few hockey stars, coaches, and managers who brought their talent and passion to that 64-game extravaganza are still going strong today.

It was Czechia’s second time hosting the tournament in the post-Czechoslovakia era, and just as in 2004, it was a massive success. With the World Championship taking place in Prague and Ostrava once again this year, it’s time to revisit some magical memories from 2015.

1) Canada dominates en route to gold

In 2015, Canada brought arguably the strongest squad ever in the modern World Championship era. Guided by head coach Todd McLellan, the undefeated Canadians piled up 66 goals – the most by any 21st-century squad – and allowed just 15. Only twice did they trail, during a 6-4 win over Sweden and (oddly) a 4-3 win over France. It all culminated in a 6-1 gold-medal rout of a Russian team with superstars like Yevgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk.

Jason Spezza won the scoring race with 15 points and was named Best Forward, while Brent Burns’ powerhouse two-way performance with 12 points got him named Best Defender. Taylor Hall – the leading goal-getter (seven) – joined Spezza and Burns on the media all-star team. Indeed, this Olympic-calibre roster was a who’s-who of past and future NHL trophy and Stanley Cup winners, like Nathan MacKinnon, Ryan O’Reilly, and, of course, Sidney Crosby.

2) Crosby joins Triple Gold Club

For most NHL forwards, coming third in league scoring with 84 points in 77 games would be a pretty good season. But the legendary Sidney Crosby has always set the bar higher, and Canada’s two-time Olympic gold medal hero was hungry for more after his Pittsburgh Penguins lost their first-round playoff series with the New York Rangers in five games.

At that point, Crosby hadn’t gotten past the second round in six straight seasons – not to mention his struggles with concussion issues. Deciding to wear the “C” for Canada revitalized his career on multiple levels. In Prague, “Sid the Kid” racked up 11 points and became the 26th member of the Triple Gold Club (Olympic gold, World Championship gold, Stanley Cup). Back-to-back Cups and Conn Smythe Trophies would follow in 2016 and 2017, among other honours.

3) Jagr named MVP on home ice

At age 43, most IIHF and NHL veterans are golfing, fishing, or playing old-timers hockey. Not Jaromir Jagr. The Czech superstar laced up his skates in international competition for the last time in 2015 – and he was a difference-maker in his national capital.

By his standards, Jagr was coming off a quiet NHL season with 47 points in 77 games split betwen the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers. But the still-powerful winger scored Czechia’s first goal in the opening 6-5 shootout loss to Sweden and kept on trucking right through the 5-3 quarter-final win over Finland. There, he stepped up to save the host nation with two goals, including the third-period winner with 4:30, and an assist at an ecstatic O2 Arena.

Even though the Czechs were blanked in their last two medal-round games and settled for fourth place, few quibbled when Jagr was named tournament MVP with six goals and three assists. Unbelievably, he was still playing professionally this year at age 52 with Kladno, the Czech club he owns.

4) U.S. makes statement with bronze

The Americans haven’t won an Olympic gold medal since the “Miracle on Ice” at the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid. Their World Championship drought stretches back to 1933. Still, as the NHL’s second-biggest talent producer after Canada, the U.S.’s potential is always there, and their third-place run in Prague underlined that reality.

U.S. goalie Connor Hellebuyck was five seasons away from becoming a Vezina Trophy winner with the Winnipeg Jets, but the then-St. John’s IceCaps starter showed European fans why he’d soon graduate from the AHL. With a sparkling 1.37 GAA and 94.8 save percentage in seven games, Hellbuyck earned his media all-star team berth. He saved his best for last, recording a 39-save shutout as coach Todd Richards’ troops downed the Czechs 3-0 for bronze.

Yet Hellebuyck wasn’t a one-man show. U.S. scoring leader Brock Nelson (6+4=10), an 18-year-old Jack Eichel fresh out of Boston University (2+5=7), and a defensive cornerstone in 20-year-old Seth Jones (second in average U.S. ice time at 22:15) were some of the other key contributors who did USA Hockey proud.

5) Rinne posts historic shutout streak

Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators had just landed his third Vezina Trophy nomination when he joined Finland at the Worlds. One of Suomi’s most dominant netminders ever, the towering Kempele native had also been named tournament MVP in 2014’s silver-medal run. What would he do for an encore?
Behind head coach Kari Jalonen’s stifling defensive system, Rinne prospered. He had a record-setting modern-day shutout streak of 237:05. It began after he allowed the fourth U.S. goal by Nick Bonino in a 5-1 tournament-opening loss on 1 May. Rinne wouldn’t surrender another goal until Belarusian forward Evgeni Kovyrshin drew first blood in a 3-2 Finnish win on 11 May.

That span included a 3-0 shutout over Slovakia by Nashville prospect Juuse Saros (then with HPK), and the two Finnish goalies combined for a shutout streak of 287:47, also an all-time record.

6) Other individual feats delight fans

Regardless of which team you supported in 2015, individual highlights provided reasons to cheer.

Finland’s Joonas Donskoi, coming off his final Liiga season with Karpat before jumping to the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, scored the shootout winner in 3-2 victories over the Belarusians and Russians. Latvia’s Kaspar Daugavins got the deciding goal in 2-1 overtime wins versus the Swiss and Austrians.

And French goalie Cristobal Huet took a page out of Jaromir Jagr’s book, showing that age is just a number, as he earned his first World Championship shutout at age 39. Huet, who became the first French-born player to hoist the Stanley Cup in 2010 with Chicago, made 22 saves in a 2-0 win over Austria.

7) Amazing attendance sets new record

Countries like Canada, Latvia, and Slovakia often claim that their hockey fans are the world’s most passionate. And while they all have good cases to make, one fact is beyond argument: no country has ever gotten bigger crowds at an IIHF World Championship than Czechia.

In 2015, a record-setting 741,690 fans flocked to the games in Prague and Ostrava. That mark stands to this day. The closest any other Worlds has come to matching it thus far is the 2017 edition co-hosted by Paris, France and Cologne, Germany (686,391).