Major Competitions

The IIHF World Championship Held annually and usually involves around forty national teams. Sixteen of these teams comprise the main group and the rest are split into a first and second division. A third division is added if more than forty teams participate. The main group is split up into four groups, who then play against each other in smaller tournaments. The three highest placed teams in each group qualify. The remaining twelve teams are divided into two divisions and once again participate in two separate tournaments. The three most successful teams in each division are permitted to proceed to the next round. All surviving teams eventually proceed to a knockout round, culminating in the Grand Final. Match reports, statistics and news can be found on the IIHF World Championship website.

The Winter Olympics An eagerly awaited event in the international ice hockey calendar. Like the Summer Olympics, the Winter Olympics are held once every four years. The best source of information about past and present competitions is the IIHF website, which gives details of preliminary rounds and playoff fixtures, as well as results and news.

Six prominent national teams are usually permitted to proceed to bypass the preliminary round and automatically qualify for the tournament. Other national teams wishing to be considered for the two remaining places in the tournament must participate in a preliminary round by playing in one of two divisions. The winners of these divisions are permitted to compete with the teams which have already qualified. Eight teams are included in the final tournament. The competition then proceeds on a knock-out basis and gold, silver and bronze medals are eventually awarded to the first, second and third finishing teams respectively.

The National Hockey League (NHL) The most important competition in American and Canadian ice hockey. Both Canadian and American teams play in the NHL and are divided into two conferences which are further divided into three divisions, each containing five teams. Each team is expected to play eight games against each team in their division, forty games against other teams in their conference and ten games against teams in the other conference every season. The most successful team in each division is declared to be the division champion.

These teams, in addition to five other highly scoring teams from each conference, are allowed to progress to a knockout tournament called the NHL Playoffs. The prize is the coveted Stanley Cup. This historic trophy was donated by Lord Stanley of Preston, who was the Governor General of Canada in 1888. Stanley was a great admirer of the game of ice hockey and intended for the Cup to become the prize for an annual competition including the amateur ice hockey teams of Canada.