The World Junior Ice Hockey Championship (World U18 Championships) is a world championship in which national teams of players under 18 participate, has been held under the leadership of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) since 1999.
The championship in the Highest Division takes place in April and 10 teams participate in it. The team with the worst result goes to the First Division, from where, in turn, the best team goes to the TOP Division. There are also championships in the Second and Third divisions.
Until 1998, the International Federation held the European Junior Championships (European Junior Championships). Until 1976, teams of players under 19 years old took part in the tournament, and since 1977 the age was lowered to 18 years old, as they began to hold the World Youth Championship where teams under 20 years old played. The first official European Junior Championship was held in 1968, but in 1967 Yaroslavl hosted an international tournament with the participation of 8 teams, organized by the USSR Ice Hockey Federation and the Czechoslovakian Hockey Union.
The tournament is held annually, with the exception of the years of the Winter Olympic Games.
Women’s national ice hockey teams are allowed to participate in the tournament.
The tournament is organized according to a system divided into several divisions – the TOP division, as well as several lower divisions, in which teams of lower sportsmanship take part in the games. The number of lower divisions depends on the number of applications submitted for participation. Each division has its own tournament. Between divisions there is an annual rotation of teams – the best teams move to a higher division, the worst ones drop out to a lower one. The winner of the tournament in the TOP division is declared the World Champion among women’s teams.
The first international women’s ice hockey tournament was held from 21 to 26 April 1987 in North York (Flag of Ontario.svg Ontario, Canada). 7 women’s national teams took part in the tournament, including the national team of the province of Ontario as the host team. The tournament was won by Team Canada. During the tournament, representatives of the participating parties met to develop a lobbying strategy for the IIHF to organize the Ice Hockey World Championship for women’s teams.
The first official tournament was held March 19-25, 1990 in Ottawa (Canada). 8 teams took part in the tournament: teams from Canada and the USA, as well as the Japanese team that won the Asian qualifier and 5 teams that qualified in the European zone. The role of the qualifying tournament for the European teams was played by the 1st European Ice Hockey Championship among women’s teams, held in 1989. Games at the first official world championship were held only in the TOP division.
Initially, the tournament was held every two years. However, after three tournaments, the system failed – in 1996, instead of the World Cup games, the 2nd (and last) Pacific Rim Championship tournament was held, in which European teams did not play. In 1998, the championship was not held due to the Winter Olympic Games. From now on, the World Championship is not held in the year of the Winter Olympic Games.
The next World Championship was held in 1999. Since this year, it has become an annual event and acquired its current format.
Only in 2003 the World Championship, which was supposed to be held in Beijing, was canceled due to the SARS epidemic.