Ivan Hlinka

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 centre, his playing style was comparable to Phil Esposito, often scoring with shots from the slot.

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
Dukla Trenčín
National team  Czechoslovakia
NHL Draft Undrafted
Playing career 1966–1987

Playing careerEdit

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 age 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.[1]

Hlinka 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 National Hockey League). Canada defeated Czechoslovakia in the best-of-three final two games to nothing, with scores of 6–0 and 5–4. 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 the NHL in the 1969–70 season, but only in three games.)[2] Playing in his first NHL season, Hlinka set a Canucks record for the most points by a rookie with 60 (later matched by Pavel Bure in 1991–92).[3] 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.

Coaching careerEdit

After his return to Czechoslovakia, Hlinka began to coach in "his" HC Litvínov. Later, he coached temporarily in Freiburg, Germany.

Hlinka 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 (six wins and two ties). Altogether, he played 19 games and scored 23 points.

In the 1990s, Hlinka was head 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.

Hlinka returned 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 in May 1999 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, Jaromír Jágr. 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 recordEdit

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


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 age 54 when his car collided head-on with a Daewoo Avia driving the wrong way on the E48 highway only 200 yards from the town of Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic.[4][5][6][7] He had gone to Karlovy Vary to ensure that Jaromír Jágr would participate in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.[8][9] The truck suddenly appeared in Hlinka's lane.[10] The truck driver claimed that 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, but according to experts, it would not have prevented his death.

Acknowledgement and awardsEdit

  • 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


Career statisticsEdit

Regular season and playoffsEdit

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1966–67 TJ CHZ Litvínov TCH 14 4 0 4
1967–68 TJ CHZ Litvínov TCH 32 15 14 29
1968–69 TJ CHZ Litvínov TCH 36 21 17 38
1969–70 TJ CHZ Litvínov TCH 33 17 17 34 20
1970–71 TJ CHZ Litvínov TCH 36 20 18 38
1971–72 TJ CHZ Litvínov TCH 36 31 23 54
1972–73 TJ CHZ Litvínov TCH 36 24 11 35
1973–74 TJ CHZ Litvínov TCH 42 27 27 54
1974–75 TJ CHZ Litvínov TCH 44 36 42 78
1975–76 TJ CHZ Litvínov TCH 30 25 18 43 6
1976–77 TJ CHZ Litvínov TCH 43 39 23 62
1977–78 TJ CHZ Litvínov TCH 43 32 39 71 30
1978–79 TJ CHZ Litvínov TCH 23 15 17 32 14
1978–79 ASVŠ Dukla Trenčín TCH 8 2 3 5 0
1979–80 TJ CHZ Litvínov TCH 33 14 16 30 8
1980–81 TJ CHZ Litvínov TCH 40 21 31 52 38
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 CHE II 41 46 43 89
1984–85 EV Zug CHE II 39 30 43 73
1986–87 TJ CHZ Litvínov TCH 9 3 9 12 12
TCH totals 532 346 325 671
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 statisticsEdit

Quotes about HlinkaEdit

  • "It's not that he was just a coach, but he was sort of like Herb Brooks was for America." – Tomáš 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 HlinkaEdit

  • "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. ^ Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill; et al. "Ivan Hlinka". Olympics at Sports-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on December 4, 2016.
  2. ^ International Hockey Legends: Jaroslav Jirik
  3. ^ Sportak, Randy (August 17, 2004). "Crash claims Czech coach". Calgary Sun. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
  4. ^ Trenér Hlinka zemřel po autonehodě iDNES.cz, August 16, 2004
  5. ^ Former Penguins Coach Hlinka Dies After Car Accident Washington Post, August 17, 2004
  6. ^ Former NHLer Hlinka killed in crash CBC Sports, August 17, 2004
  7. ^ Ivan Hlinka, 54, Czech Coach Of Gold Medal Hockey Team New York Times, August 17, 2004
  8. ^ Ivan Hlinka: Czech ice hockey idol who took revenge on the Soviet Union The Guardian, August 24, 2004
  9. ^ Coach made the Czech team a hockey power Globe and Mail, August 17, 2004
  10. ^ Tréner českých hokejistov Ivan Hlinka zomrel pri autonehode Pravda, August 16, 2004

External linksEdit

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