By Brian McLoughlin
In many ways hockey is a life-blood to Canadians, whether it be at the hometown minor level, the elite junior leagues that make up the Canadian Hockey League or at the pinnacle of professional hockey in the National Hockey League. It is a year-round sport; played, talked about and thought about on a daily basis. And this year the Hlinka Gretzky Cup is providing Central Albertans with plenty to discuss.
On Aug. 4th, Canada lost 4-3 to the Czech Republic.
The Hlinka Gretzky Cup is an annual event named in part for the late Ivan Hlinka, arguably history’s greatest Czech player. The tournament is held each August and features the best under-18 ice hockey teams from around the world.
This year Hockey Canada announced that the 2018 edition of the tournament featuring Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States, would be played in Edmonton and Red Deer. The year’s tournament is guaranteed to provide fans, especially in Central Alberta with even more excitement as they begin gearing up for the upcoming season.
The tournament is a showcase for upcoming hockey talent and many of the tournament’s alumni have gone on to become stars in the National Hockey League, including Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin and Carey Price and today’s Edmonton Oilers Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, Jesse Puljujarvi, Kris Russell and Zack Kassian have all played for their countries in the tournament. Most recently, the tournament featured Swedish defenceman Rasmus Dahlin, the first overall selection in the 2018 NHL Draft.
This year’s tournament kicked off with four Saturday exhibition games in Sylvan Lake, Penhold, Lacombe and the featured game between Canada and the Czech Republic at the brand-new Servus Arena in Red Deer. The full tournament will feature 18 games over six days played at both Rogers Place in Edmonton (Group A – Canada, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland) and Servus Arena in Red Deer (Group B – Finland, Russia, Czech Republic and the United States).
Further information about the tournament is available at hlinkagretzky.com.