The Ice Hockey World Championships are an annual international men's ice hockey tournament organized by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). The World Championships was first held at the 1920 Summer Olympics and has since been considered as hockey's highest profile international tournament.
The World Championships features 16 teams in the championship group, 12 teams in Division I and 12 teams in Division II. If there are more than 40 teams, the rest compete in Division III. The teams in the Championship group play a preliminary round, then the top eight teams play in the playoff medal round and the winning team is crowned World Champion.
Canada was the tournament's first dominant team, winning the tournament 12 times between 1930 and 1952. The United States, Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Great Britain and Switzerland were also competitive during this period.
The Soviet Union first participated in 1954 and soon became rivals with Canada. From 1963 until the nation's breakup in 1991, the Soviet Union was the dominant team, winning 20 championships. During that period, only three other nations won medals: Canada, Czechoslovakia and Sweden. Russia first participated in 1992 and the Czech Republic and Slovakia began competing in 1993.
In the 2000s, the competition became more open as Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden, and the United States – as well as Slovakia became more evenly matched.
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