These rankings were established in 1997 as the "Top Level International Ice Hockey All Time World Rankings" in order to rate, from an historical perspective, the performance of countries competing in "Best-on-Best" ice hockey. As such, these rankings are not intended as an indicator of any national program's current strength or stature (such as the IIHF World Rankings). Rather, they are meant as a cumulative measure of each country's success in Top Level international competition through time.
By "Top Level" we are referring to competitions held at the highest echelon of men's international ice hockey in which all countries (at least in theory) are fairly allowed to field what they deem to be their best possible teams.* Such competitions include: the World Cup of Hockey (formerly known as the Canada Cup) and all Olympic Ice Hockey Tournaments from 1998 onwards. Excluded from these rankings are the IIHF World Championships (held during NHL playoffs), pre-1998 Olympic tournaments (held without NHL players), and the Canada-Russia Summit Series of 1972 and 1974 (prohibiting WHA and NHL players respectively), as well as any exhibition/all-star games or club matches (such as the NHL Super Series or Rendez-vous '87).
The TLH rankings utilize a very simple, yet effective point system*: As tournament competitions such as the World/Canada Cup and Olympic Games place greatest emphasis on final standings (as opposed to individual wins, losses, and scores), points are accordingly derived from the final standings of each team per competition in relation to the number of teams competing. So, for example, the Czech Republic finished first in the 1998 Olympics and 14 teams competed, therefore the Czech Republic is awarded 14 points, plus 1 bonus point in recognition of their championship achievement. Russia finished second so they are awarded 13 points with no bonus. Finland placed third and receives 12 points, Canada placed 4th to receive 11 points, and so on.
*For further clarifications please consult our list of Frequently Asked Questions