The Hlinka Gretzky Cup started yesterday in Edmonton and Red Deer, has a long history since 1991. It's an annual hockey tournament for the U18 national teams, maybe, not less prestigious than the U18 World Championship. And it's not ruled by the International Ice Hockey Federation. This year is the first when the tornamet has this name. In different years name changed some times, from the Nations Cup at the beginning through the U-18 Junior World Cup to the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament until this year.

The inaugural tournamet known as the Phoenix Cup was held (surprisingly!) in Japan, as the two following, too. In its second year of existence the Phoenix Cup was renamed to the Pacific Cup. Then it moved to Mexica in 1994 (and was known as La Copa Mexico), was played in Tokyo, Japan one more time in 1995, and finally came to Canada 1996. Nelson and Castlegar of British Colombia hosted the Pacific Cup won by Canada. The second and the third places had the United States and Finland accordingly.

Since 1997 this tournament settled in Europe. First the location was alternated by the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the tournament got the new name - the Nations Cup. Later, in 2002 these two countries began to co-host the tournament, renamed again to the U-18 Junior World Cup. Games were played in Czech town Břeclav and Slovak town Piešťany. Also another Czech town Hodonín joined them or replaced Břeclav four times. Last years we all knew this tournament as the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournement. It was named after Ivan Hlinka (in 2007), the legend of the Czech hockey, player and coach, who died in a traffic collision in 2004 at the age 54. Also, in 2009, Bratislava replaced Piešťany as a Slovakian venue.

And this year name was changed again to the Hlinka Gretzky Cup because of relocating of the tournament to Canada. Canadian cities Edmonton and Red Deer hosts the Cup again after the 21-years-long break when it was played on European continent in Czech Republic and Slovakia. 

Eight teams separated to two groups of four each. Group A has Canada, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland and they play in Edmonton, Alberta. Group B has Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, United States and they play in Red Deer, Alberta. Also the Cup got a new trophy.

The first preliminary round games were played yesterday, on august 6:

  • Slovakia - Sweden   2-4
  •  Switzerland  - Canada   0-10
  • Russia - Finland   7-2
  • Czech Republic -  United States   0-6

The no-doubt favorite of the tournament team Canada had a major victory over Switzerland and today will face Slovakia. Another three games scheduled today are:

  • Switzerland - Sweden
  • Czech Republic - Russia
  • Finland - United States

By the way, Canada won the 21 Hlinka Gretzky Cup of 27 tournaments played in total. 

The preliminary round ends tomorrow, on august 8. Then a one-day break is scheduled and on friday we will see the semifinals. The last day of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup is Saturday, august 11, when the final game and 3rd place game are scheduled in Endmonton at the Rogers Place.

Will Canada win again, this time at home? Or do you think there will be another champion?