Hlinka had been hospitalized with serious injuries after his car collided with a truck Sunday night about 70 miles west of Prague. According to local media, the truck had mechanical problems. Local olice are investigating the accident.
He was re-appointed head coach of the Czech national team in May, which is about to open training camp for the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. In a ceremony during the 2004 IIHF World Championship in Prague, Hlinka was named the best Czech player of all time. A few weeks later, Hlinka replaced Slavomir Lener as Czech coach.
In an earlier tenure as Czech head coach, Hlinka led the Czech Republic to its greatest achievement, the gold medal at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano. A year later, Hlinka was behind the bench when the Czechs won the 1999 IIHF World Championship in Norway.NHL stints in Vancouver and Pittsburgh
As a player, Hlinka represented Czechoslovakia in 256 national team games while capturing the IIHF World Championship gold medal three times: 1972, 1976 and 1977. He also played in the 1972 Olympic Winter Games in Sapporo (winning bronze) and in the 1976 Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck, where the Czechoslovak team won the silver medal.
Hlinka, who also played in the inaugural Canada Cup in 1976, joined the NHL Vancouver Canucks in 1981 and he played 137 games with Vancouver. Hlinka returned to the NHL in 2001 as head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, leading them to the third round of the playoffs. He was replaced four games into the 2001-02 campaign with a 42-32-9 record.
A year later, Hlinka was the GM of the Czech Olympic team in Salt Lake City 2002. He was also inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame that same year.Tremendous ambassador for the game of hockey
Hlinka's death came just more than a year after another gold-medal winning coach, Herb Brooks, died in a car accident. Brooks, who coached the U.S. hockey team to the "Miracle on Ice" victory over the Soviet Union at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, died Aug. 11, 2003, when his minivan rolled over after he lost control while driving near Minneapolis, Minnesota.
In a statement, Penguins general manager Craig Patrick called Hlinka a "tremendous ambassador for the game of hockey."
"He was a great hockey player, a player that many of the current Czech players idolized growing up," Patrick said. "He brought a wealth of hockey knowledge and enthusiasm with him to the rink every day."
Szymon Szemberg (International Hockey Federation IIHF) / Frank Johne