The Ivan Hlinka tournament, held every August, is the unofficial beginning to the new hockey season. The scouting community flocks to the event as it's the first tournament of the year featuring players eligible for the next NHL Draft the following June.
More on this developing story after the jump.
We discussed all of this last night in the first segment of The Pipeline Show. (starts at 10:30 mark)
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As I explained in the segment, the idea first came to my attention earlier this season but at that time it was more of a rumor. It came from a very good source but still a rumor. Over this past weekend a media colleague and I were discussing it prior to an Edmonton Oil Kings game after he'd asked me if I'd heard of the rumor.
I decided to follow it up with someone who is definitely in a position to know if there is anything to the story and sure enough, there is. Not only did the source confirm that the idea was being explored but that wheels are very much in motion to make it a reality.
For some background on the Ivan Hlinka Tournament, here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:
"The Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament (also known as the U-18 Junior World Cup and formerly known as the Pacific Cup and the Nations Cup) is an annual event held each August for national under-18 ice hockey teams from around the world. Unsanctioned by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), the tournament is not granted official status by the sport's governing body. The IIHF's official under-18 tournament is held annually eight months later.
Beginning in 1991, the competition was held in 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 held in Canada for the first and only time. Beginning the following year, Slovakia and the Czech Republic began alternating as hosts, while the tournament became known as the Nations Cup. Between 1997 and 2002, the tournament grew from three participating nations to eight. Starting in 2003, Slovakia and the Czech Republic began co-hosting annually. The competition's current namesake, Ivan Hlinka, was one of the first superstars in Czechoslovak hockey - both domestically and internationally. The U-18 Junior World Cup took on its current name in 2007, after Hlinka's death three years prior."Obviously the idea of the tournament relocating to Canada, and more specifically to Edmonton, isn't exactly ground breaking since the event moved around a lot in its infancy.
I asked my most recent source what the main reason for moving the tournament would be; was the scouting community wanting it in North America? Was it to give it more fan exposure? As with most things, it really comes down to business and the opportunity to make a lot of money.
As mentioned on The Pipeline Show, I'm led to believe that the Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) is spearheading the movement to see the Ivan Hlinka move to Edmonton. This makes complete sense when you consider CEO Bob Nicholson's massive success with Hockey Canada in elevating the World Junior Championship to its current status.
Together with TSN, Nicholson and Hockey Canada have branded the WJC into a must-see event every holiday season generating considerable financial profit in the process. By comparison, I'm told the current organizers of the Ivan Hlinka Tournament "may even operate the event at a loss".
It's not hard to imagine Nicholson and TSN wanting to duplicate their WJC success in the summer and they could definitely do that with the Ivan Hlinka Tournament.
The OEG owned Edmonton Oilers and Edmonton Oil Kings are leaving Rexall Place and will be moving into their new downtown facility for the 2016-17 season. Should this plan see fruition, the Hlinka would make its Edmonton debut in the summer of 2017 and would then either rotate back and forth every year with the Czech Republic or potentially stay in the Alberta capital.
I reached out to OEG yesterday and extended an invitation to have Bob Nicholson appear on The Pipeline Show last night but with the Oilers in action at the same time, I'm sure he was busy. I have yet to hear back from OEG with an official statement but I am hoping to have Mr. Nicholson on TPS as soon as possible to discuss the story.
So what do you think? Would you like to see the Ivan Hlinka Tournament relocate to Edmonton? Leave me a comment or share your thoughts with me on Twitter. (@TPS_Guy)