Ivan Hlinka

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Ivan Hlinka
Born (1950-01-26)January 26, 1950
Most, Czechoslovakia
Died August 16, 2004(2004-08-16) (aged 54)
Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic
Height 6 ft 2 in (188 cm)
Weight 220 lb (100 kg; 15 st 10 lb)
Position Centre
Shot Left
Played for HC Litvínov
EV Zug
Vancouver Canucks
HC Dukla Trenčín
National team  Czechoslovakia
NHL Draft Undrafted
Playing career 1966–1987

Ivan Hlinka (January 26, 1950 – August 16, 2004) was a Czech professional ice hockey player and coach. He is considered to be one of the most important figures in Czech ice hockey history. A big center, his playing style was comparable to Phil Esposito, often scoring with shots from the slot.

Playing career[edit]

Hlinka began to play ice hockey at a young age. When he was six years old, he was playing HC Litvínov's youth team. He played in Czechoslovak league for the first time when he was 16.

At the age of 20, he became a captain Litvínov's men's team and played in the Czechoslovak national team for the first time. He played 256 games as a member of the Czechoslovak national team and scored 132 goals in international games. He also played in 544 games in Czechoslovak league and scored 347 times. Hlinka was named the Golden Hockey Stick winner as the country's top player in 1978.

Hlinka helped the Czechoslovak team to win world titles in 1972, 1976, and 1977. As a member of the Czechoslovak team, he won an Olympic bronze medal in 1972 and a silver medal in 1976.

He played in the inaugural Canada Cup tournament in 1976, the international tournament in which the best available players competed for their countries (most notably, players from the NHL). Canada defeated Czechoslovakia in the best-of-three final two games to nothing, with scores of 6–0 and 5–4. Darryl Sittler scored in overtime of the second game to secure Canada's victory. The following year, he was named the national team's captain, a position he held from 1977 to 1980.

In 1981, Hlinka and fellow Czech Jiří Bubla joined the NHL's Vancouver Canucks. This started the Czech migration to the NHL. They were the first Czechoslovak players to compete in the NHL with the permission of their country's authorities. (Jaroslav Jiřík played legally in NHL in 1969–70 season but only three games.)[1] Playing in his first NHL season, Hlinka set a Canucks record for the most points by a rookie with 60 (it was later tied by Pavel Bure in 1991–92).[2] During the subsequent 1982 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Canucks advanced to the Finals against the New York Islanders. In a losing effort (Vancouver lost the series in four straight games), Hlinka and Bubla became the first Czechs to ever play in the Stanley Cup Finals. The following season, Hlinka improved to 63 points over 65 games. In his two years in the NHL, Hlinka totalled 42 goals and assisted on 81 others in 137 games.

Hlinka returned to Europe to finish his playing career due to problems with his back in 1983. He played in Swiss team EV Zug until 1985, when he returned to Litvínov where he started his coaching career.

Ivan Hlinka
Medal record
Representing  Czechoslovakia
Men's ice hockey
Olympic Games
Bronze medal – third place 1972 Sapporo Team
Silver medal – second place 1976 Innsbruck Team
World Championships
Silver medal – second place 1971 Berne/Geneva Team
Gold medal – first place 1972 Prague Team
Bronze medal – third place 1973 Moscow Team
Silver medal – second place 1974 Helsinki Team
Silver medal – second place 1975 Munich/Düsseldorf Team
Gold medal – first place 1976 Katowice Team
Gold medal – first place 1977 Vienna Team
Silver medal – second place 1978 Prague Team
Silver medal – second place 1979 Moscow Team
Bronze medal – third place 1981 Gothenburg/Stockholm Team

Coaching career[edit]

After his return to Czechoslovakia, Hlinka began to coach in “his” Litvínov; later he coached temporarily in Freiburg, Germany.

He also became very famous for his trick in the 1986–87 season. Litvínov was in last place in the standings of the Czechoslovak league. Hlinka, already 37 years old, began to play again. Litvínov immediately improved its game and went unbeaten in Hlinka's first eight games (6 wins, 2 ties). Altogether, he played 19 games and got 23 points.

In the 1990s, he was coach of Czechoslovak and later Czech national teams. His teams won bronze medals at the Albertville Olympics and the World Championships in 1992 and 1993. He left the national team after an unsuccessful World Championship in 1994.

He came back in 1997 and his team won the bronze medal at the World Championship again. Hlinka became a national hero when his team won the gold medal at the Nagano Olympics; the first time that the NHL agreed to release its players for the Games. The triumph was celebrated by the whole nation. The dominance of the Czech hockey team in the world was confirmed one year later when Hlinka's team won the World Championship again.

In 2000–01, Hlinka returned to the NHL as head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He and Alpo Suhonen became the second and third Europeans to ever coach in the NHL (following Johnny Gottselig). His first season also coincided with Mario Lemieux's return to the NHL, and together they made a surprising run to the Eastern Conference Finals, knocking off the higher seeded Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres along the way before falling to the New Jersey Devils. The next season was not successful, as the struggling small-market Penguins had traded their superstar, Jaromir Jagr. Hlinka himself was criticized by Lemieux for not taking classes in the summer to improve his English and that contributed to the frosty relationship between them. He was fired four games into the 2001–02 season and returned to Europe.

In 2001–02, he worked as general manager of Czech national team and, in 2002–03, he coached Russian team Avangard Omsk for one season.

Coaching record[edit]

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
G W L T OTL Pts Finish Result
PIT 2000–01 82 42 28 9 3 96 3rd in Atlantic Lost in Conf. Finals
PIT 2001–02 4 0 4 0 0 (69) 5th in Atlantic (fired)
Total 86 42 32 9 3

Hlinka's death[edit]

Hlinka was supposed to be once again head coach of the Czech national team in the 2004–05 season. However, he died on August 16, 2004, at the age of 54 near Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, when his car collided with a truck while driving above the speed limit (about 110 km/h, speed limit is 90 km/h). The truck suddenly appeared in his lane. Its driver claims he had to avoid a collision with an animal. More likely (the court was inclined to believe this), he turned from the main road and made a left at an intersection where it was prohibited. Hlinka was not using a safety belt. According to experts, the safety belt would not have helped him.

Acknowledgement and awards[edit]

  • Czechoslovak Player of the Year (1977–78)
  • All-Star Centre at the 1978 IIHF World Championship
  • Inducted to the IIHF Hall of Fame (2002)
  • Czech Ice Hockey Legend (2004)
  • Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament for national U18 ice hockey teams named after him
  • Ivan Hlinka Stadion, arena of HC Litvínov is named after him


Vancouver Canucks team record for most points by a rookie (60). – Tied with Pavel Bure

Career statistics[edit]

Regular season and playoffs[edit]

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1966–67 CHZ Litvínov Czech 14 4 0 4
1967–68 CHZ Litvínov Czech 32 15 14 29
1968–69 CHZ Litvínov Czech 36 21 17 38
1969–70 CHZ Litvínov Czech 33 17 17 34 20
1970–71 CHZ Litvínov Czech 36 20 20 40
1971–72 CHZ Litvínov Czech 36 31 23 54
1972–73 CHZ Litvínov Czech 36 24 11 35
1973–74 CHZ Litvínov Czech 39 27 27 54
1974–75 CHZ Litvínov Czech 44 36 42 78
1975–76 CHZ Litvínov Czech 30 25 18 43 6
1976–77 CHZ Litvínov Czech 42 39 19 58
1977–78 CHZ Litvínov Czech 43 32 39 71 30
1978–79 HK Dukla Trenčín Czech 8 2 3 5 0
1978–79 CHZ Litvínov Czech 23 15 17 32 14
1979–80 CHZ Litvínov Czech 33 14 16 30 8 2 1 1 2 0
1980–81 CHZ Litvínov Czech 40 21 31 52 38 28 5 15 20
1981–82 Vancouver Canucks NHL 72 23 37 60 16 12 2 6 8 4
1982–83 Vancouver Canucks NHL 65 19 44 63 12 4 1 4 5 4
1983–84 EV Zug NDB 41 46 43 89
1984–85 EV Zug NDB 39 30 43 73
1986–87 CHZ Litvínov Czech 19 5 18 23 12
Czech totals 544 348 332 680 30 6 16 22
NHL totals 137 42 81 123 28 16 3 10 13 8


Year Team Event   GP G A Pts PIM
1970 Czechoslovakia WC 4 0 0 0 2
1971 Czechoslovakia WC 10 4 2 6 2
1972 Czechoslovakia OLY 6 5 3 8 2
1972 Czechoslovakia WC 5 2 3 5 0
1973 Czechoslovakia WC 8 2 1 3 0
1974 Czechoslovakia WC 10 9 4 13 2
1975 Czechoslovakia WC 6 2 4 6 2
1976 Czechoslovakia OLY 5 3 3 6 7
1976 Czechoslovakia WC 10 7 8 15 4
1976 Czechoslovakia CC 7 2 2 4 12
1977 Czechoslovakia WC 10 9 3 12 5
1978 Czechoslovakia WC 10 4 10 14 4
1979 Czechoslovakia WC 8 3 5 8 6
1981 Czechoslovakia WC 8 0 3 3 0
Senior totals 107 52 51 103 48

Career coaching statistics[edit]

Quotes about Hlinka[edit]

  • It's not that he was just a coach, but he was sort of like Herb Brooks was for America.” – Tomas Vokoun
  • Ivan Hlinka was a tremendous ambassador for the game of hockey.” – Craig Patrick, general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins
  • He was a real high-quality player. He probably never got the billing over here he should have. You look back on his hockey career on both sides of the pond and he had quite a resume.” – Tiger Williams

Quotes of Hlinka[edit]

  • We had a small problem that we didn't know whether Jarda Jágr would go fifth or Vláďa Růžička would go fifth but then, I would say, a respect overpoised because when Vláďa Růžička said he wanted to go fifth, then Džegr said he would go fourth. Patýs was a bit surprised when we democratically elected him to go because he hadn't played at the end and I believed he can score with a techniques somewhat.” – About a penalty shooting against Canada at Nagano Olympics.
  • It doesn't happen very often at us but we had a bigger will to win than Canada had.” – After a win against Canada at Nagano Olympics.
  • I got information about numbers of people standing at various places at home in the beginning of the game. So we thank them that they crossed their fingers for us, it was probably somehow worthy and we will be proud again that we are Czechs and it will not be just because of the hockey.” – After a win of golden Olympic medals at Nagano Olympics.


  1. ^ International Hockey Legends: Jaroslav Jirik
  2. ^ Sportak, Randy (2004-08-17). "Crash claims Czech coach". Calgary Sun. Retrieved 2011-12-24. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Milan Novy
Golden Hockey Stick
Succeeded by
Vladimír Martinec
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Herb Brooks
Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins
Succeeded by
Rick Kehoe