Ice Hockey World Championships

The Ice Hockey World Championships are an annual men's ice hockey tournament organized by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). First officially held at the 1920 Summer Olympics, it is the sport's highest profile annual international tournament. The IIHF was created in 1908 while the European Championships, the precursor to the World Championships, were first held in 1910. The tournament held at the 1920 Summer Olympics is recognized as the first Ice Hockey World Championship. Between 1920 and 1968, the Olympic hockey tournament was also considered the World Championship for that year. The first World Championship that was held as an individual event was in 1930 in which twelve nations participated. In 1931, ten teams played a series of round-robin format qualifying rounds to determine which nations participated in the medal round. Medals were awarded based on the final standings of the teams in the medal round. This basic format would be used until 1992 (although small variations were made). In 1951, thirteen nations took part and were split into two groups. The top seven teams (Pool A) played for the World Championship. The other six (Pool B) played for ranking purposes. During a congress in 1990, the IIHF introduced a playoff system. As the IIHF grew, more teams began to participate at the World Championships, so more pools (later renamed divisions) were introduced.

The modern format for the World Championship features 16 teams in the championship 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 teams in the championship play a preliminary round, then the top eight teams play in the playoff medal round and the winning team is crowned World Champion. Over the years, the tournament has gone through several rule changes. In 1969 body-checking in all three zones in a rink was allowed, helmets and goaltender masks became mandatory in the early 1970s and in 1992 the IIHF began using the shootout. The current IIHF rules differ slightly from the rules used in the NHL. The World Championships have been open to all players, both professional and amateur, since 1977. The IIHF requires that players are citizens of the country they represent and allow players to switch national teams provided that they play in their new nation for a certain period of time.

Canada was the tournament's first dominant team, winning the tournament 12 times between 1930 and 1952. The United States, Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Great Britain and Switzerland were also competitive during this period. The Soviet Union first participated in 1954 and soon became rivals with Canada. From 1963 until the nation's breakup in 1991, the Soviet Union was the dominant team, winning 20 championships. During that period, only three other nations won medals: Canada, Czechoslovakia and Sweden. Russia first participated in 1992 and the Czech Republic and Slovakia began competing in 1993. In the 2000s, the competition became more open as the "Big Six" teams – Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden, and the United States – as well as Slovakia became more evenly matched. As this tournament takes place during the same time period as the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, many of the best players do not participate, and it is considered secondary in importance among North American fans and players to the Stanley Cup.

The 76th World Championship was held in Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden. In the final, Russia defeated Slovakia to win their fourth championship since becoming an independent nation.

Read more about Ice Hockey World Championships:  Background, Divisions, Directorate Awards, Other Men's National Team Tournaments

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