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The Hlinka Gretzky Cup is an annual international under-18 ice hockey tournament administered by Canada, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia's ice hockey federations. Held since 1991, it has been contested under various titles and in various countries, including Japan, Mexico, and Canada. From 1997 through 2017, hosting duties for the event alternated between, and were later split between, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. During this period, the event was known as the Nations Cup, the U-18 Junior World Cup, and Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. From 2018 through 2022, the tournament will alternate between Edmonton, Canada and Czech Republic/Slovakia.
The event is not sanctioned by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), which holds its own U-18 championship in April. As that event conflicts with Canadian Hockey League (CHL) playoffs, the Hlinka Gretzky Cup is one of the few opportunities for Canada to compete with its strongest U-18 national team. Canada has subsequently been the most dominant team in the tournament, having won 22 times.
The tournament is a prominent pre-season showcase for National Hockey League (NHL) prospects; 17 players on Canada's winning team from 2017 were selected with first-round picks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
The tournament started in 1991, hosted by Japan for the first three years, as well as the fifth. In its first year, it was known as the Phoenix Cup, after which the Pacific Cup moniker was adopted (with the exception of 1994, when Mexico served as the host country and the tournament was known as La Copa Mexico). In 1996, the tournament was first held in Canada. Beginning in 1997, just four years after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia began alternating as hosts, and the tournament was renamed the Nations Cup. The two countries alternated until 2003, then co-hosted from 2003 through 2017. At this time, it was also renamed the U-18 Junior World Cup. In 2007, the event was renamed the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in honour of prominent Czech player Ivan Hlinka—who had died in a vehicle accident in 2004.
Historically, the tournament has been dominated by Canada; over 29 years, the country has won 22 times and medalled in each year except 2003, 2007, and 2016. As the IIHF's official U18 world championships conflicts with playoffs in domestic competitions such as the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), this tournament is the only competition of the two to which Canada is able to send its best under-18 team.
In January 2018, Hockey Canada announced that the 2018 edition would be co-hosted by Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta, in association with Oilers Entertainment Group and the Czech and Slovak ice hockey federations, and that the event had been renamed the Hlinka Gretzky Cup—additionally honouring Edmonton Oilers hall of famer Wayne Gretzky. The tournament will alternate between Edmonton and Czech Republic/Slovakia annually through 2022.
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- "Hlinka Gretzky Cup the first step to possible NHL stardom". Edmonton Sun. 2018-08-04. Retrieved 2018-08-06.
- "HLINKA GRETZKY CUP COMING TO ROGERS PLACE AND SERVUS ARENA IN RED DEER". Hockey Canada. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
- s.r.o., eSports.cz. "Hlinka Gretzky Cup introduced in Edmonton". Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup official website. Retrieved 2018-08-11.
- "pozvánka na športoviská" (in Slovak). SME.sk. 15 August 1998. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
- "Hockey Canada statement on 2020 Hlinka Gretzky Cup". Hockey Canada.