The 26th edition of the prestigious U-18 summer hockey tournament, which since 2004 has bore the name of deceased Czechoslovakian hockey legend Ivan Hlinka, will be played from August 8th to 13th, 2016, in Břeclav, Czech Republic and Bratislava, Slovakia. We take a look back at how the eight participating teams finished in 2015, and look ahead to some of the changes that have been made for 2016. The biggest favourite to win the title will again be Canada, which always brings an impressive crop of young hockey players.
Last year there was an important change to the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup. For the first time in 13 years, the tournament was not held in Piešťany, as the Slovak Group was moved to the capital Bratislava. The change didn’t bring much luck to the Slovak team, which finished in 8th place after losing in a shootout to Switzerland in the last game. The tournament was again dominated by a strong Canadian squad, which won all of its games, culminating in a 7-3 victory over Sweden in the final.
The bronze medal was taken by Russia, who came closest to knocking off Canada by taking them to a shootout in the semi-final. Then in the game for 3rd place they staged a third-period comeback to win 4-3 over Finland, who have been dominant at the youth levels in recent years. “In the group we played really great games, but in the two playoff games we didn’t play so well. We failed to win a medal, and that´s important. If we’d played as well as we did in the group, we definitely would’ve gotten a medal,” said Finnish captain Juuso Välimäki.
After finishing 3rd and 2nd in the previous two years, the co-host Czechs finished 6th in 2015, falling to the Americans in the game for 5th place.
Now in 2016 the Canadians will now try to extend their gold-medal streak to nine in a row, and win their 20th overall title in the tournament’s 25-year history. It will also be the 13th year in a row that the tournament will be co-hosted by the South Moravian city of Břeclav. The participating teams that this tournament very seriously, as it includes most of the world’s top players who will be eligible for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
3-on-3 overtime and other news
Following the example of the best hockey leagues in the world, the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup will adopt the 3-on-3 format for overtime. The period will be a maximum of five minutes during the group stage and 10 minutes during the knockout stage. As always, games that are not decided in overtime will go to a penalty shootout.
For fans who can’t make their way to Břeclav or Bratislava, streams will once again be available for all games, with Czech commentary accompanying the games involving the Czech Republic. The streams have been upgraded for 2016, with new graphics and replays available. Links can be found on the site before the tournament at hlinkamemorial.cz.
Another novelty is that the top three teams will receive medals, in addition to trophies. Fans of the Czech team will find concessions available at the arena in Břeclav, with team souvenirs for sale. The picturesque town in Southern Moravia will also host the pair of mascots of the Czech hockey team. This year, the tournament has taken on a significant partner, with ČEZ becoming the title sponsor of the Czech portion of the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup.