Canada at its best at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament

Yes we are still in the middle of the summer season, but as hockey is almost a 12-month affair every year, you should know that RDS offers you, all week long, the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament live from Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

It is a tournament that brings together the best players under the age of 18 (born in 2002 or later) from the top eight hockey nations in the world. This competition, believe it or not, began in Japan in 1991.

After a stopover in Mexico in 1994 and another in British Columbia in 1996, this tournament established its presence in Slovakia and the Czech Republic in 1997.

Following the death of former Czechoslovak coach Ivan Hlinka, the tournament was renamed in his honour in 2006. Since 2017 it has now been the “Hlinka Gretzky Cup” and Canada will have the privilege of hosting this event in 2020 and 2022 as it was also last summer.

For the record, this competition, which is now in its 29th presentation since 1991, is completely dominated by Canada, which won 22 gold, two silver and one bronze medals.

Over the years, Canadian teams have only been excluded from the podium three times (2003-2007 and 2016). What we have to understand is that this competition is one of the few, if not the only one on the international scene where Canada can rely on all its elements. The only other time it happens is during the Olympic Games when of course NHL pros are admitted.

At International Ice Hockey Federation tournaments (senior, under 20 or under 18), some players are retained with their respective teams and therefore cannot, as is the case this week, give Canada the best team available.

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The 2019 Canadian team won its first game, with one hand behind its back, 6-0 against Finland this morning and will be back in action tomorrow (9:30 am against Switzerland and Wednesday 1:00 pm against the Czech Republic).

Michael Dyck of the Vancouver Giants succeeds Quebec’s André Tourigny this summer and is the team’s head coach. Dyck is supported by Quebec’s Mario Duhamel, assistant coach with Tourigny for the Ottawa 67’s.

On the ice, Canada is counting on five QMJHL players, including strikers Hendrix Lapierre and Théo Rochette of the Chicoutimi Saguenéens and Mavrik Bourque of the Shawinigan Cataractes, as well as defenders Jérémie Poirier of the Saint John Sea Dogs and Lukas Cormier, a native of the Maritimes, who is lining up with the Charlottetown Islanders.

21 of the 22 players on the Canadian team are eligible for the NHL Entry Draft in June 2020, including the Sudbury Wolves’ big Quinton Byfield centre. Byfield, 1st choice in the 2018 OHL, is considered Alexis Lafrenière’s most serious rival for the NHL auction in Montreal. 61 points were scored by Byfield in 64 games in Sudbury last winter.

The Canadian team is counting on 19 players selected in the first round of the OHL QMJHL and WHL selection sessions, and several of the members of the Canadian team are leading prospects for the 2020 NHL selection session.

The two semi-final matches will take place on Friday with the Grand Final taking place on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. In addition to the 22 Canadian gold medals, Russia has won this tournament three times (1991-1993-1995), while the United States (2003), Sweden (2007) and the Czech Republic (2016) each claim a championship.