January 26, 1950|
|Died||August 16, 2004
Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic
|Height||6 ft 2 in (188 cm)|
|Weight||220 lb (100 kg; 15 st 10 lb)|
|Played for||HC Litvínov
HC Dukla Trenčín
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.
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.
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.) 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). 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.
|Men's ice hockey|
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.
|Team||Year||Regular Season||Post Season|
|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)|
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
- 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
Regular season and playoffs
|1978–79||HK Dukla Trenčín||Czech||8||2||3||5||0||—||—||—||—||—|
Career coaching statistics
- World Championships: 1 gold (1999), 4 bronzes (1992, 1993, 1997, 1998).
- Olympics: gold (1998), bronze (1992)
- “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
- “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.
- Biographical information and career statistics from NHL.com, or Eliteprospects.com, or Eurohockey.com, or Legends of Hockey, or The Internet Hockey Database
- Ivan Hlinka at Find a Grave
- Hockey History: Ivan Hlinka
|Golden Hockey Stick
|Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins