Hlinka and more
by Andrew Podnieks|30 JUL 2022
Canada celebrates the Hlinka Memorial Tournament win in 2014.
photo: Werner Krainbucher
The busy summer of hockey continues shortly with the start of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in Red Deer, Canada, on 31 July. It has established itself in the hockey calendar as an important U18 event for men, but it is not an official IIHF event. And it is not alone. Indeed, the history of international hockey also includes several short- or long-standing events outside the World Championship program but significant nonetheless. Herewith is a brief history of such events.

Hlinka Gretzky Cup
Of course, we know the eponymous names – Ivan Hlinka and Wayne Gretzky – but the tournament’s history extends much farther back. It started in 1991, hosted by Japan, and was called the Phoenix Cup that year. From 1992 to 1996, it was known as the Pacific Cup, except in 1994 when Mexico hosted the event and it was called La Copa Mexico. In 1997, it was re-named the Nations Cup to signify the co-hosting of the event between the now-independent nations of Czech Republic and Slovakia. In 2003, it was called the U18 Junior World Cup, and four years later it changed again, to Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. In 2018, number 99’s name was added to create what we have today, the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, which will be played alternately in Canada and Czechia/Slovakia. Canada has won the event every time it has participated (22 times), except for 1991 (Soviet Union), 1993 (Russia), 1995 (Russia), 2003 (United States), 2007 (Sweden), 2016 (Czech Republic), and 2019 (Russia). The event is played in the summer, when Canada’s best U18 players are all available.

Spengler Cup
The oldest annual European event, this was started in 1923 and is played every year in Davos, Switzerland between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve. It was the brainchild of Dr. Carl Spengler, who wanted to promote hockey in the years after the First World War. Despite not playing the event until 1986, Canada has won the event more than any other country (16 times) and the tournament is a unique blend of national teams and club teams. Davos, the club team, has won the tournament 15 times. In all, 13 countries or teams from 13 countries have won the Cup at least once. Up until 1979 the event was played at an outdoor rink. Covid forced the cancellation of the Spengler in 2020 and 2021, but it will played again later this year. 

Izvestia Trophy
Like Hlinka Gretzky, this is an event known mostly for only part of its longer history. Perhaps most commonly referred to as “the Izvestia,” it has a longer and less straightforward history. It began in 1967, as the International Moscow tournament, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution. Two years later, Izvestia, a popular newspaper in the Soviet Union, took sponsorship of the event, and it did so for the next 27 years. It was played under other names for a decade, but in 2006 a TV station took sponsorship responsibilities and it has been known as the Channel One Cup ever since. The tournament is usually played in December and has been won most commonly by Soviet Union/Russia. In 2021, however, Finland won, adding to its trophy and medal haul of the last few years.

Thayer Tutt Trophy
Named after the IIHF president from the United States who presided from 1966 to 1969, this trophy was handed out only three times – 1980, 1984, and 1988. It was played in February by teams that did not qualify for the Olympics. In 1980, in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, ten teams were divided into two groups and played two rounds of round robin, Switzerland coming out on top. Four years later, in Grenoble, France, East Germany claimed victory, and in 1988, in the Netherlands, Italy triumphed. 

Karjala Tournament
It is named after a popular beer brand and held annually in Finland. It started in 1992 as the Sauna Cup, and in 1995 it was called the Christmas Cup because it was played later in December. Finland has won the event 12 times and Russia nine. Other nations to win include Sweden (five, including last year) and Czech Republic (two). 

Euro Hockey Tour
While the Izvestia and Karjala have had a successful life of their own, they have, since 1996, been part of a larger group of events called the Euro Hockey Tour. This tour includes these two tournaments along with the Sweden Hockey Games and the Czech Hockey Games. Each event consists of four national teams from Czechia, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. (Switzerland replaced Russia this year following the invasion of Ukraine and will continue on indefinitely.) The team with the best record after these four events was named winner, but in 2003/04 a playoff system was adopted and the top two teams played a home-and-home series to determine the winner.

U20 Invitational
Of course, the World Junior Championship is a popular and important event on the IIHF calendar. It started in 1977 and is usually played between Boxing Day and 5 January. But prior to 1977, there were three such tournaments played as invitationals. The first one was played in Leningrad and won by the hosts. Finland won silver and Canada bronze. Other participating nations included Sweden (4th), United States (5th), and Czechoslovakia. In 1975, the Soviets won again, but the hosts were Canada (Winnipeg and Brandon) and the U.S. (Minneapolis, Fargo, Bloomington). The last U20 prior to the official IIHF World Junior Championship came in 1976 in various cities across Finland. The Soviets took gold, Canada silver, and Czechoslovakia bronze. The success of these events led to the creation of a formal IIHF World Junior Championship a year later.

Women’s World Championship
Like the U20, the women also held an event prior to 1990 when the IIHF assumed organizing duties of what we now call the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship. In 1987, Toronto hosted the event which was created by IIHF Hall of Famer Fran Rider. Canada had two teams (Canada and Ontario), and other participating nations included the United States, Netherlands, Japan, Switzerland, and Sweden. Canada beat Ontario, 4-0, for gold while the U.S. took care of Sweden, 5-0, for bronze. The success of this event, and the dogged pursuit by Rider of greater respect for women’s hockey, led to the IIHF taking on tournament duties three years later. The rest is history.