Through the inspiration of the Frenchman, Louis Magnus,
the "Ligue Internationale de Hockey Sur Glace" was formed on May
15/16, 1908 in Paris. In attendance were representatives from
France, England, Switzerland and Belgium. Magnus was elected first
president and Robert Planque was named secretary. Bohemia was also a
member that year and Germany followed in 1909.
The new federation made a motion to hold a European championship,
but it was decided not to stage a world tournament so as to avoid
Canadian intervention. There was also an LIHG/IIHF tournament to be
held each year. The first European Championship took place in 1910
at Les Avants, Switzerland. Four teams competed for the title:
Belgium, the Prince's Club-London, Germany and Switzerland. In order
to add international flavour to the event the Oxford Canadians were
added to play an exhibition series within the tournament. The team
was composed of Canadians studying in England.
On March 14, 1911 the IIHF adopted the Canadian Ice Hockey Rules
for amateurs at all levels of play. At the 1912 Congress in Brussels
Oxford was referred to as Canada although the country was not
officially a member.
In 1914 Bohemia won the last European championship held
before World War One and England captured the gold medal at the St.
Moritz Olympics. A world Championship was held for the first time in
1920 with the Antwerp Olympics providing the venue. Both Canada and
the United States entered, although they were not accepted as
members until the IIHF Congress met halfway through the tournament.
At this time Max Silling of Switzerland was elected president and
eight member nations were confirmed.
W.A. Hewitt helped bring the CAHA into the federation while
arranging for the Oxford Canadians to be removed as the country's
representatives. The next year the IIHF sanctioned a European
championship at Stockholm. In 1922 the tournament and Congress was
held in St. Moritz where Paul Loicq of Belgium was sworn in as
president. Loicq held the position for seventeen years and steered
international through its formative years. In 1923 the Spengler Cup
debuted in the permanent host city of Davos, Switzerland.
The 1924 Olympics at Chamonix saw changes to the structure of the
competition. That year the European Championships were held
separately in Milan and for the first time the IIHF Congress was
held prior to the opening face off in the tournament. At these
meetings Austria and Hungary were readmitted after their exclusion
during World War One. This was also the first time a "Winter
Olympics" was separately from the Summer games. In 1926 Germany was
brought back into the federation.
The IIHF instituted the Fair Play Cup in 1927. It was donated by
the organizers of the European tournament in Vienna that year and
was first won by Belgium. In 1930 Japan was admitted and the U.S.
rejoined after a two year absence to bring the IIHF membership to
Ten nations took part in the 1931 World Championships in Poland.
After the 1939 tournament in Switzerland the IIHF was shelved until
1947 because of World War Two. During the war years a number of
countries continued to squeeze in exhibition contests when possible.
The 1940's saw a new era of communication between the
European and North American IIHF members. New IIHF president Dr.
Fritz Kraatz and general-secretary John F. Ahearne were strong
believers in a strongly unified international hockey community. They
accepted an invitation to the CAHA meetings and worked out several
new policies to benefit federation members. It was decided that
representatives of each side of the Atlantic would alternate as
president of the IIHF, while the first vice-president would
alternate and become the next president.
The 1948 IIHF Congress in St. Moritz examined the findings of a
commission to study regulations, referees, fair play and finances
and incorporated the results into the federation's structure.
Germany and Japan were readmitted to the IIHF in 1951 and that same
year the World Championship was divided into two groups for the
first time. The first group consisted of the top seven ranked
nations and the lower group had the remaining six countries. Prior
to this all teams competed at the same level and were divided into
groups for manageability.
With the Soviet interest in ice hockey growing they applied for
membership in 1952 and were admitted a few months later. At the 1953
World Championships only four nations in group A attended, and
Czechoslovakia left early due to the death of their president. For
the 1955 World tournament in West Germany, IIHF president Bunny
Ahearne proposed that the field be divided into three equal groups.
This did not occur until 1959 in Prague when three groups of four
played. The top two teams in each played for the Championship and
the rest played in B competition. In 1961 this setup was abolished
and a three group ranked system was established. Twenty teams
entered with eight being in group A and six each ranked in B and C.
Cold War politics disrupted IIHF events a number of times during
the 1960's. In Switzerland in 1961 West Germany protested the
raising of the East German flag by refusing to play against them.
The following year at Colorado Springs the USA would not issue East
Germany travel visas because they did not officially recognize them
as a separate country. This caused a schism in the IIHF over whether
or not to switch the venue of the competition. The USSR and
Czechoslovakia withdrew when IIHF president Robert Lebel of Canada
sanctioned the event.
Throughout this period Bunny Ahearne had a profound influence on
the IIHF. A British delegate since 1934, he straightened out the
federation's financial matters, brought about co-operative relations
with the International Olympic Committee and fostered the
development of the game in countries such as Italy, Japan, Norway
and the Netherlands.
At the 1965 IIHF Congress in Tampere, Finland, Dr. Gunther
Sabetzki organized a European clubs' cup which he ran each year
until 1975. In 1967 two important tournaments were inaugurated. The
European Junior Championships and the Izvestia Tournament in Moscow
were created with the latter initially intended to be a warm up for
the World Championships.
During the Soviets' domination in the 1960's, the question of pro
status eligibility was raised. The issue came to a head in 1969 when
Canada attempted to use six professionals at the World
Championships. Initially they received the support of Ahearne but
when it was put to a vote the IIHF was deadlocked and he cast the
deciding vote against Canada. This resulted in the withdrawal of the
Canadian national squad from IIHF competition.
Sabetzki organized a world cup for club teams in 1971 at Berne,
Switzerland. It matched the two Euro Cup finalists in a round robin
tournament with the US amateur champions and Canada's Allan Cup
winners. This tournament was only held in 1972 and 1973 with CSKA
Moscow triumphant on both occasions.
Gunther Sabetzki was elected president of the IIHF in 1975. He
worked out a deal that brought Canada's national program into
international competition on the condition that the top European
nations participate against the top Canadian professionals in the
inaugural Canada Cup.
Up until Sabetzki's election to the presidency the IIHF did
not have an official headquarters and was run on a strict budget. He
soon established a home base for the organization in Vienna.
In 1974 the Soviet Union won the first World Junior Championship
even though it was not sanctioned by the IIHF until three years
later. The Soviets won gold every year until Sweden triumphed in
1981. Regarded the World Championships the regulations governing the
use of professionals were softened to facilitate the return of
Canada. This allowed players eliminated before or during the early
stages of the Stanley Cup playoffs to represent their national team.
The IIHF developed greater responsibilities through the 1970's.
It established international coaching and officiating symposiums in
an effort to play and active part in improving the game worldwide.
Despite Sabetzki's involvement with the IOC's tripartite commission,
he resisted the trend to put the IIHF under the influence of the
Olympic movement, maintaining a strictly independent path for the
During the 1990s the growth of hockey's global appeal combined
with the restructuring of the political map in Europe to produce the
largest total of IIHF member countries since the organization was
founded. Kuwait, Mexico and Brazil were just three recent additions
while Ukraine, Slovakia and Slovenia were just three of the many new
entities joining the IIHF independently for the first time.
The present configuration for World Championship play is four
ranked divisions with eight teams in each. Every four years the
Olympic ice hockey tournament is held with twelve teams
participating. These nations are selected by the IIHF according to
the rankings from the previous year's World Championship.