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IIHF History
Louis Magnus 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.

Tournament 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.

1924 Olympic Poster 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.

Spengler Poster 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.

Fair Play Cup 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 eighteen.

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.

Bunny Ahearne 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.

Izvestia Poster 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.

Gunther Sabetzki 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.

WJC Poster 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 federation.

Rene Fasel & Trophy 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.