The Canada-USSR brawl at the 1987 world junior hockey tournament

Junior hockey teams from Canada and the Soviet Union fought for 20 minutes before getting ejected from the game.

Both teams ejected after the lights went out on a 20-minute fight

Canada, USSR brawl at 1987 World Junior Hockey Tournament

36 years ago
Duration 1:47
Junior hockey teams from Canada and the Soviet Union are ejected for fighting in an annual international tournament in Poland. Aired Jan. 4, 1987 on CBC's The National.

The hockey melee had to be serious: even the goalies were fighting.

In the final game of the 1987 World Junior Hockey Championship in Piestany, Czechoslovakia, on Jan. 4 that year, punches were thrown between a Canadian and a Soviet player — not an unusual event for hockey at that level.

Held over the holiday season each year since 1977, the World Junior Hockey Championship features each participating country's best players under age 20.

Russia was not included in the 2023 tournament because it was banned from international hockey due to the invasion of Ukraine, according to CBC Sports.

Literally bench-clearing

Both Canada and the Soviet Union cleared their benches when a brawl broke out at the 1987 World Junior Hockey Championship. (The National/CBC Archives)

But back to 1987.

Suddenly it was a free-for-all as both teams bolted from their benches to enter the fray, launching a 20-minute tussle that continued even when the referees left the ice to watch from a hallway.

"You just don't see this in international hockey," said an astonished Don Wittman, CBC's commentator for the match. "You just don't see it."

Desperate arena officials then took more extreme measures in a bid to calm the situation.

"They've turned out the lights in the arena, but that isn't going to solve anything," said Wittman. "They're still fighting. I've never seen anything like this, even in the National Hockey League."

Heavy consequences

The referees retreated off the ice as the fisticuffs continued. (The National/CBC Archives)

Canada was ahead 4-2 halfway through the game before the brawl began. But when it was finally all over, officials booted both teams from the tournament.

The Soviets, well back in the standings, had nothing to lose by the ejection.

But heading into the game, the Canadians were assured a medal: bronze if they lost to the Soviets, silver if they won, and gold if they won by a margin of five goals or more.

Instead they went home.

A win for Finland

Soviet and Canadian goalies joined the fight when a brawl erupted at the 1987 World Junior Hockey Championship. (The National/CBC Archives)

The gold medal ultimately went to Finland, which had the best win/loss record in the tournament. Czechoslovakia took the silver and Sweden was awarded the bronze.

A number of players on both the Soviet and Canadian rosters would go on to be well-known players in the National Hockey League. Among them were Canadians Steve Chiasson, Pat Elynuik, Theoren Fleury, Mike Keane, Cliff Ronning, Brendan Shanahan and Pierre Turgeon. Soviets Evgeny Davydov and Vladimir Konstantinov also went on to the NHL.

One of the Canadian team's staunchest defenders after the bust-up was broadcaster Don Cherry, who appeared on CBC's The Journal the following night and blamed the Soviets for the brawl.

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