The Ice Hockey World Championships are an annual event put together by the IIHF, the International Ice Hockey Federation, since 1930. Originally, in Olympic Years, the Championships were decided at the Winter Olympics, except for 1972 and 1976. The last World Championships decided at an the Olympic Winter Games were in Sarajevo in 1984.
In the early days of the Championships, teams from Canada dominated. Between 1930 and 1939, Canadian teams won 8 world championships. This was in spite of Canada sending a different team every year, as in those days Senior A amateur teams typically represented Canada.
The World War II years caused the championships to be delayed, and it wasn't until 1947, 8 years after the last one, that they were hosted again. Canada refused an invitation to that tournament, as well as to tournaments in 1953 and 1957, but nonetheless continued to dominate tournaments until after the 1961 WC's, as teams from Czechoslovakia, Sweden, and the Soviet Union became increasingly competitive.
Canadian officials began to feel the amateurs that represented Canada were not able to keep up with the European teams, who were capable of bringing their best players while retaining their amateur status, so in 1970 the IIHF allowed Canada to send 9 professionals from the ranks of the National Hockey League and the rest of its minor professional leagues; as the tournaments were held during the Stanley Cup playoffs only a handful of them could actually compete. However, these rules were later rescinded after officials produced many reciprocal claims against them. It upset the Canadians, who felt that they should be allowed to send their best players as well. Canada boycotted the World Championships for 7 years as a result, during which the IIHF moved the championships out of the Olympics in 1972 and 1976 in an attempt to bring back the Canadians.
During 1976, a new president of the IIHF finally allowed professionals on all teams, and Canada returned the following year. It would take Canada until 1994, 33 years after their previous championship, for Canada to win. The breakup of the Soviet Union, which dominated the WC's for 3 decades after Canada's dominance ended, and of Czechoslovakia, which won in most of the years the Soviets didn't, made it easier for the Canadians to win ? by 1994 most of these countries' best players were also tied up in the Stanley Cup, and the ones who were not represented a number of different countries.
In recent championships, former Czechoslovakia has fared quite well in international play, as they accounted for 4 straight world championships between 1999-2002 (1999-2001 Czech republic, 2002 Slovak republic), as well as the olympic gold medals from "Tournament of the Century" (won by Czech republic, 1998 winter olympic games in Nagano, Japan). Canada regained their form in 2003 and won a 16th world championship, and repeated their championship in 2004.
The Playing Format
The modern format for the World Championships features a minimum of 40 teams: 16 teams in the main group, 12 teams in Division I and 12 teams in Division II. If there are more than 40 teams, the rest compete in Division III.
The main group features 16 teams split into 4 groups. The teams play each other in a round robin format, and the top 3 teams in each advance into another round of group play, this time with 2 groups of 6. After another robin round format, the top 4 teams in each advance into an 8 team knockout playoff, which eventually decides the championship.
The bottom team in the first groups will play in another group as well, this group will determine relegation. After round-robin format, the bottom two teams are usually relegated to the Division I. Japan typically does not get relegated, as the IIHF holds a "far-east qualifier" typically featuring Japan, China and South Korea, the winner of it gets an automatic berth. Japan has always won this tournament, since this system was established in 1998. IIHF plans to discontinue the "far-east qualifier" after 2004.
After the World Championship group are the two 6-team Division I groups. Those groups play in a round robin format and the winner of the respective groups are promoted to the world championship group, while the last place teams in each are demoted to Division II. Division II works similarly to Division I, the last place team in these groups are subject to a Division III, a qualifying group which determines entry into Division II the following season. No team can go lower than this.
List of Men's World Championships
Women's World Ice Hockey Champions:
See: IIHF World Women Championships
Junior World Championships
IIHF also conducts Junior World Championships in two age groups: for Under-20 and Under-18 players. They are organized according to a system similar to World Championships, with the main group and Divisions I, II and III but the number of teams is smaller.
- World Championships web site (http://ihwc.net) - current Men's World Championships
- Result archive (http://www.iihf.com/archive/archive.htm) - full results for men's, women's and junior championships since 1999 and medalists for all tournaments.