Month: May 2017 (page 1 of 4)

Stanley Cup final preview: Nashville Predators vs Pittsburgh Penguins

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By Mike Zeisberger – Toronto Sun

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final between the Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins will be Monday, May 29 at 8 p.m. The two teams have never met in a playoff series.

TOP STORYLINES

1. THE FEAT TO REPEAT

In reaching the final for a second consecutive spring, the defending titleholders are attempting to becoming the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings accomplished the feat in 1997 and 1998. Of course, in order to go back-to-back, the Pens will have to do it without a true No. 1 defenceman after Kris Letang was lost late in the season. Since the Carolina Hurricanes won the Cup in 2006, every champ has sported a stud blueliner including: 2016, Letang, Penguins; 2015: Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks; 2014: Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings; 2013: Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks; 2012: Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings; 2011: Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins; 2010: Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks; 2009: Sergei Gonchar/Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins; 2008: Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings; 2007: Scott Niedermayer/Chris Pronger, Anaheim Ducks.

2. CAROLINA CONNECTION

When it comes to winning the Stanley Cup, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford and Nashville Predators coach Peter Laviolette are no strangers to each other. Back in 2006, Rutherford and Laviolette served in those same respective positions with the Carolina Hurricanes and helped bring the Cup to Tobacco Road. Since that time, Laviolette led the Philadelphia Flyers to the 2010 final where they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks; while Rutherford’s Penguins won the Cup a year ago.

3. JILTED JAMES?

One of Rutherford’s first acts as GM of the Pens came at the 2014 draft when he traded former 40-goal scorer James Neal to the Predators in exchange for forwards Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. The trade came within an environment of speculation that there had been chemistry issues within the Pens dressing room. Whatever the case, Neal would like nothing better than to gain retribution against his former team.

REGULAR SEASON

Penguins: 50-21-11, 111 points, 2nd, Eastern Conference.

Predators: 41-29-12, 94 points, 8th, Western Conference.

HOW THEY GOT HERE

Penguins

  • Defeated Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1
  • Defeated Washington Capitals 4-3
  • Defeated Ottawa Senators 4-3

Predators

  • Defeated Chicago Blackhawks 4-0
  • Defeated St. Louis Blues 4-2
  • Defeated Anaheim Ducks 4-2

2016-17 SEASON SERIES

(Tied 1-1)

Oct. 22: Pedators 5, Penguins 1 @ Nashville

Jan. 31: Penguins 4, Predators 2 @Pittsburgh

ALL-TIME SEASON SERIES

Penguins lead 12-10-2-1

STANLEY CUPS

Penguins: 4 (1990–91, 1991–92, 2008–09, 2015–16)

Preds: 0

THE BIG MATCHUP

Pens Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin/Phil Kessel Vs. Preds G Pekka Rinne

The Penguins obviously edge in this series comes up front, where the likes of Malkin, Crosby and Kessel can be difference makers on each and every shift they step onto the ice. But they’re up against a formidable force in the Preds crease in the form of Rinne, who has to be considered one of the leading candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy after leading Nashville to series wins over the Blackhawks, Blues and Ducks.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

GOALIE MATT MURRAY, PENGUINS

A year ago, Murray backstopped the Penguins to a Stanley Cup with just 13 regular season NHL games on his resume. Now, after taking over for Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final against the Ottawa Senators, can he do it again? A second Stanley Cup ring in less than two full NHL seasons would be an incredible way to start a career.

DEFENCEMAN P.K. SUBBAN, PREDATORS

Even though he was one of the most popular players among Habs fans we’ve seen in a long time, the Montreal Canadiens brass decided a shakeup was needed within the dressing room. Subban ended up being the fall guy, dealt in a blockbuster for Shea Weber. Now Subban is in the Stanley Cup final. This will be a huge story on both sides of the border.

THE SCHEDULE

G1: May 29 at Pitt

G2: May 31 at Pitt

G3: June 3 at Nash

G4: June 5 at Nash

G5: June 8 at Pitt

G6: June 11 at Nash

G7: June 14 at Pitt

Jamaica’s ice hockey dream includes Rangers blueliner

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By Josh Brown – Waterloo Region Record

Jamaica has produced the world’s best sprinters.

Now, the Caribbean hot spot is trying to ice a hockey team at the Olympics.

And Kitchener Rangers defenceman Elijah Roberts hopes to be there if it happens.

“Being the first to play on the team and making history would be great,” he said. “It would mean the world.”

To be clear, the chances of Jamaica sending a team to the Winter Games any time soon are about as likely as snow falling on the white sandy beaches of Montego Bay.

The tiny island nation — population

2.7 million — doesn’t even have an arena and only became an associate member of the International Ice Hockey Federation five years ago.

To gain full status, the country needs a barn and a development program in place.

But the sunny destination has produced winter miracles before.

Jamaica — seemingly against all odds — first qualified a bobsled team for the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary. The underdog story resonated with spectators and went on to inspire the movie “Cool Runnings” years later.

This is different.

Unlike the bobsled entry, Jamaica’s shinny stars — currently an Under-20 team — are trained hockey players that skate in credible outfits such as the Ontario Hockey League. Most players are Canadian or American, but all have Jamaican heritage.

Roberts was recruited by associate coach C.J. Bollers about a year ago. The Brampton native’s dad, Shelton, is from Trinidad and his mom, Vivene, hails from England; but her parents are Jamaican.

“I was pretty interested right away and wanted to get involved,” said Roberts, who has also represented Canada at the U17 World Hockey Challenge.

And he wasn’t alone.

Other up-and-comers, including five-year OHL veteran Jaden Lindo, also joined the club that is coached by Graeme Townshend, who was the first Jamaican-born player to reach the NHL.

The team plays reggae music in the dressing room and brings an easygoing attitude to the rink; but takes things seriously on the ice.

The U20 bunch headed east to Dartmouth, N.S., recently for a game against a squad made up of players from the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads and other area standouts and won 5-1.

“I think people are really surprised about the caliber and that’s good for the future and getting a rink in Jamaica,” said Roberts, 18.

And the team’s success has hockey fever heating up on the island.

“They’ve showed us examples of little kids back in Jamaica watching the game,” said Roberts. “We saw kids with Jamaican flags and that’s pretty cool. Before, they never really looked at hockey. They have embraced what we’re doing.”

Growing the game is the main goal.

“It’s important for us to get the opportunity to open the gates for Jamaicans to play hockey,” said Roberts.

If all goes right, one day that might mean a chance to play in the Olympics.

Q & A With Monica Arias

By National Teams of Ice Hockey

Not too many people knew about ice hockey in Chile until the last few years. This year Chile will take part in the Pan American Ice Hockey tournament for the first time, ahead of the Pan American Ice Hockey Tournament we had an opportunity to speak with the President of the  Federación Chilena de Hockey en Linea y en Hielo.

How did ice hockey start in Chile?

Ice hockey started in Chile in Punta Arenas and Santiago both at the same time.

When did you become President of Federación Chilena de Hockey en Linea y en Hielo?

On February 2005, the Chilean Ice Hockey Federation, an affiliated member of IIHF, was legally constituted. I was president until 2009.
Then, in 2014 we reactivated the functions of the Federation after being closed from 2009 to 2014, without activities and without a directions.

Why has the game of ice hockey taking so long to developed in Chile?

Firstly, because in Chile inline hockey is played and the other reason is the lack of ice hockey rinks in the country.
Very little ice hockey is played because inline hockey players are not attracted to the game of ice hockey.

How many ice rinks are there in Chile?

We have no Ice rinks in Chile only recreational ice rinks.

How many ice hockey players are there in Chile?

In Santiago approximately 30 ice hockey players. In Punta Arenas, there are more players because they have been entering the school system and motivating the children to play ice hockey.
The equipment is expensive. The people that bring equipment have to recover there investment and expenses. It is very expensive sport to play.

What Changes are you going to try to make to improve Ice hockey in the country?

To promote ice hockey after participating in the Pan American Ice Hockey Tournament.

Motivate children to play ice hockey.

Obtain sponsorship to develop ice hockey.

Create competitions

Find support in the diffusion of ice hockey.

Promote ice hockey in schools for all ages.

The Copa Invernada Tournament is a annual 3 on 3 Tournament played in Punta Arenas, Chile, Do you have any plans to improve this tournament in the future?

Until there is a ice rick with official measurements or bigger than the one’s we have in Chile, we will continue playing 3×3.
Hopefully, someone wants to invest in ice hockey in our country, on a bigger ice rink where we can play and promote the game in schools.
In Chile, investing in individual sports and new sports have to continue to wait for someone to wake up and be interested in investing.
Right now We would have to win something big to be considered as a profitable investment.

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Ice Hockey in Punta Arenas.

Chile Men’s National Ice Hockey Team is going to make their debut at this years Pan American Ice Hockey Tournament. How did this come about?

The Chilean team that competes for the first time in the Pan American formed with players from Punta Arenas, Santiago and Chilean players living outside Chile.
Many good players turn us down and decided not to go they believe that they were not prepared for this challenge.

Will the Men’s National Team team be all inline hockey players or will it feature some local ice hockey players?

Many of the ice hockey players are inline hockey players but we have some who have only played ice hockey.

Are there any future plans to a Chilean ice hockey League?

The plans to make a league in Chile are very difficult …. Punta Arenas ice rink is very far from Santiago. We did a championship with inline hockey players who have been playing hockey for a longer time rather than the ice players, it was very entertaining.
Playing strategies are dominated by inline hockey for years they have been practicing.
I think it would be the great motivation to be in constant leagues or championships, so that the training would have a purpose.

When you are done being President what do you hope Chile ice hockey will look like?

When I am  finish being president of the federation, I hope that the leaders and players of inline hockey and in ice hockey can unite and work together with the same aim over the personal interests.

I think there is a lack of unity and interest in a common good.

I hope that hockey continues to grow, that more professionals are willing to invest time in obtaining the resources.

That there are more schools and more rinks where children can skate.

Personally, I hope to continue to teach ice hockey and train players who can then become trainers themselves.

Also, I hope we can have a bigger Ice rink with the proper facilities.

That hockey does not die and continues to grow so that we can have a lot of hockey for many years.

May this Pan American Tournament be the first of many.

A dream that will be …. we have wanted to play in a championship for at least one year.

 

“We only have one way to go and it’s up! “

By Confederação Brasileira de Desportos no Gelo

The 35-year-old American, Jens Hinderlie, lives in Rio de Janeiro and has been coach of the Brazilian Ice Hockey Team since 2015. In the first campaign, he led the country to the unprecedented bronze medal at the Pan American Games in the City from Mexico. Now, about to participate in another edition, he details his experience alongside the Brazilian team, the challenges of the sport and expectations for the competition, which takes place between June 5 and 11 in Mexico again.

In 2015, Brazil won its first medal in ice hockey. Can we expect results as good or even better?

It seems like every year is evolving. In 2015, our best year, we had full support, structure and a plan to build a competitive hockey team – and we won the bronze medal. Last year things changed. Some of our best athletes could not go. We struggled to score and finished fourth. I did not have that much talent, but in many ways I think we’ve improved. This year we have made several recruitment’s and tried to convince some of the best players to go to Mexico. I am very confident in the list of athletes we are bringing in this year. The challenge is how fast we can become a team – it’s our next hurdle. We have only a few days to prepare. I’m very excited. I think we have a great chance of competing for gold.

What are the main challenges for the advancement of ice hockey in Brazil?

The biggest obstacles are infrastructure, organization and culture. We do not have ice to practice and train. If we had, even for a month, it would help a lot! We also have to be well organized to plan for the future. Brazil is hungry for something new in sports. Ice hockey can feed this hunger, but we have to start slow. We have to be patient, but at the same time keep spreading what we are already doing.

What can ice hockey do to grow in the country?

We must continue to share our history. We have a great documentary produced last season and we have to be successful when we play international matches. We get a lot of interest from people in the United States and Canada. Thus, aid from outside of the country will be the key. Besides, who knows even a Hollywood movie can be made about us? We only have one direction to go and it’s up!

What are the main objectives in preparation for the Pan American Ice Hockey?

Our focus will be on team play. Hockey is a great collective sport and we have to have everyone on the same page. Trust, responsibility, sacrifice, and work ethic: all of these components are crucial to successful teams. And, finally, train the brains of these players to think about ice hockey. It’s a different sport than inline and we have a very short time to prepare ourselves.

Who are the main rivals for Brazil and what does our team need to do to beat them?

I would say that Mexico’s U-20 team is our biggest rival. We had some great games against them last seasons. Of course, Argentina is also a great opponent. But we get better every year and I’m very proud to train these athletes. We hope to have the support of all Brazil!

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Jens Hinderlie coaching Brazilian players

Sweden wins gold over Canada in shootout at world championship

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By The Canadian Press

COLOGNE, Germany — Nicklas Backstrom and Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored in the shootout for Sweden as it beat Canada 2-1 on Sunday to capture gold at the world hockey championship.

Victor Hedman scored late in the second period shorthanded to give the Swedes a 1-0 lead. Henrik Lundqvist picked up the win in net with 42 saves.

Ryan O’Reilly tied the game at 1-1 with a power-play goal early in the third. Calvin Pickard stopped 40 shots and took the loss.

The win is Sweden’s first in four tries against Canada since the IIHF instituted the playoff system in 1992, and their first since 2013. Sweden stops Canada from being the first team to three-peat since the Czechs accomplished the feat between 1999 and 2001.

Just like in Saturday’s 4-2 semifinal comeback win over Russia, there was no scoring in the first period. After competing in separate groups in the preliminary round, the Swedes and Canadians went through a feeling-out process. Shots were 12-10 for Sweden in the first, with Canada easily able to kill off two penalties against the ninth-ranked Swedish power play.

Hedman got Sweden on the scoreboard with Nicklas Backstrom serving his second penalty of the game. Hedman’s bouncing shot from the point off a broken play eluded Pickard with 20.8 seconds left in the period.

The Canadians once again used their lethal power play to get back into the game in the third with Elias Lindholm whistled for high sticking at 1:48. It took just 10 seconds for O’Reilly to tie the game at 1-1 by flipping a Mitch Marner rebound over the right shoulder of Lundqvist. It was the first special-teams goal that Lundqvist had surrendered in five tournament games.

Canada tested its tournament-best penalty kill when Mike Matheson took a tripping penalty with 3:18 to play in the third period, but the Swedes matched them with an untimely too-many-men penalty with 1:24 left on the clock.

Sweden had a slight territorial edge in overtime by outshooting Canada 11-10. Sean Couturier was whistled for tripping with 10:51 left in overtime but the Canadian penalty killers were up to the task.

Alex Killorn fed Matt Duchene with a nifty spin-o-rama pass late in overtime, but his shot was stopped by Lundqvist.

Sweden called a timeout to set up an offensive-zone faceoff with 21 seconds left to play in overtime. Claude Giroux won the crucial draw to allow the Canadians to get the puck out of danger and set up the shootout.

In the shootout, William Nylander was denied by Pickard, then Nathan MacKinnon couldn’t slip his shot through Lundqvist’s five-hole. Backstrom, Sweden’s second shooter, beat Pickard low to the stick side before Brayden Point’s attempt was snagged by Lundqvist’s glove. Oliver Ekman-Larsson caught Pickard moving to put Sweden up 2-0, then Ryan O’Reilly was denied by Lundqvist. Pickard kept Canada alive by stopping his Colorado Avalanche teammate Gabriel Landeskog before Lundqvist stopped Marner to secure the gold for Sweden.

William Nylander capped his first appearance at the World Championship with both a gold medal and MVP honors.

The young forward led his country in scoring with 14 points in 10 games, and his seven goals tied for first among all players.

 

Russia outlasts Finland to earn bronze at worlds

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By Flip Livingstone – the score

The Russians proved to be too much for Finland on Sunday at the World Championship in Cologne, Germany, as the Red Machine pulled out a 5-3 victory to earn the bronze medal.

Nikita Gusev continued his hot streak with two goals and an assist, Valeri Nichushkin added three helpers, and Andrei Vasilevski made 26 saves in the win.

Despite scoring three goals, the Finns were never really in the game and have the Russian’s sloppy play to thank for the trio of tallies. Mikko Rantanen had a goal and an assist and 19-year-old Sebastian Aho chipped in with two apples in the losing cause.

Russia broke out to a formidable 4-0 lead – chasing Finland goalie Joonas Korpisalo from his net – before allowing the Finns to score three unanswered goals. The comeback effort would be for naught, however, as Nikita Kucherov sealed the victory with just under 12 minutes to play with his seventh goal of the tournament.

Finland fails to medal for the fifth time in eight years, while the Russians earned some hardware for the fourth consecutive tournament.

IIHF adds eight to Hall

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By John Sanful – IIHF.com

The event, hosted by international hockey broadcaster Gord Miller, inducted eight members whose contributions to the sport have helped transform the game as they have served as hockey ambassadors for their respective countries. The IIHF Hall of Fame opened in 1997 to celebrate a century of the game being played. Inductees have included some of the biggest names and international contributors to the sport.

Saku Koivu won eight medals on the international stage, including leading Finland to its first ever World Championship gold in 1995. Koivu would play for the Montreal Canadiens and, later, the Anaheim Ducks. He would become the first European captain of the Canadiens. Koivu is also known for his courage off the ice. He battled Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that kept him out for almost an entire season, including the 2002 Olympics.

“It seems like I’ve come full circle coming back to Germany and being honoured for my career,” Koivu said, reflecting that he made his senior men’s debut with the Finnish national team at the 1993 World Championship in Germany.

Angela Ruggiero was a world-class defenceman and competitor for Team USA. Her contributions in hockey continue to this day as she continues to break down barriers. She earned four Women’s World Championship gold medals and gold at the 1998 Olympics. In 2015, Ruggiero was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Ruggiero could not make the event when her father Bill passed away suddenly but her brother Billy was on hand to accept the honour and pay tribute to his sister.

Dieter Kalt was a star player in the 1960s in the Austrian league and has been the face of Austrian hockey for half a century. He represented Austrian at the 1962 World Championships in Colorado Springs and in every major IIHF event from 1962-1972.

After retirement, Kalt was a referee and coach and then President of the Austrian Ice Hockey Federation from 1996-2016.

“This is an honor and I accept this for all that we have done for the development of our federation. We organized world championships and Olympic qualification games. We did this because we had big support from the IIHF, president, council, and delegates.”

Joe Sakic had an illustrious career with the Quebec Nordiques and then the Colorado Avalanche when the team moved to the United States. He captained the Avalanche for 17 years making him one of the longest serving captains in NHL history. Sakic is also the NHL’s all-time leader in playoff overtime goals. Winning World Championship and Olympic gold, along with the Stanley Cup, Sakic is a member of the prestigious triple gold club.

“It was always very humbling playing for your country,” Sakic said. “To be able to play in the World Championships, Olympics, World Cup, there is nothing like it. I am very fortunate for my teammates. I’ve had the good fortune to play with some of the best to play the game and learn from them.”

The Richard “Bibi” Torriani award was presented to Tony Hand, the greatest player in Great Britain’s modern hockey history. The Edmonton Oilers selected Hand 252nd overall in the 1986 draft, the first British player ever taken. When Hand attended training camp, Edmonton general manager Glen Sather announced that the Scottish Wayne Gretzky would try out for the team, which some might have led to think that a player who trained and played in Great Britain would be a curiosity.

“Turns out he was more than just a curiosity; he was a terrific player there and everywhere he played,” Miller said. “It is fair to say that very few players were better longer than Tony Hand.”

Hailing from Edinburgh, Scotland, Hand played professional hockey in the BHL as a 14-year-old and finally in the English Premier Ice Hockey League at the age of 47.

The Paul Loicq award was presented Patrick Francheterre. Francheterre has been involved with French hockey for the better part of half a century. As a pivotal builder of French hockey, Francheterre has overseen the development of the sport and his country’s ascension into the top division of the World Championships.

Teemu Selanne said today’s honour means so much because as a boy, his hope was to play in the top league in Finland and, maybe if things went well, the national team. The NHL was not a thought at the time. Selanne, known as the Finnish Flash, scored 684 goals in 21 NHL seasons and won the Stanley Cup in 2007 and silver medals at the World Championships in 1999 and Olympics in 2006.

“It has been an honour to put this jersey on,” Selanne said pointing to the legendary Finland blue. “You can’t describe this feeling of what it means to put this jersey on and play for your own country. I am so very thankful.”

Finally, Cologne’s own Uwe Krupp gave an emotional presentation about receiving this honour in his hometown. First noticed by Scotty Bowman, Krupp was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres and would go on to an NHL career that spanned 14 seasons with honours that included being the first German to score a Cup-winning goal and the first German player to win the Stanley Cup.

“I am privileged and fortunate to know so many people who were able to take this awkward kid from Cologne, Germany, the first German to come to North America to help him on his way and help him learn to play hockey in the best league in the world.”

He spoke fondly of Franz Reindl and how he was an important person in his career and the next step in his career that has included coaching the German junior and senior teams.

Day Fourteen At The Worlds

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By

Canada completes comeback to eliminate Russia, will play for gold

It’s not over until it’s over.

Team Canada put together a four-goal effort in the third period for a 4-2 comeback victory over Team Russia in semifinal action Saturday.

The two sides were scoreless through the first 20 minutes, but goals by Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nikita Gusev helped Russia take a 2-0 lead into the final frame.

Vadim Shipachyov, who recently signed with the Vegas Golden Knights, drew an assist on Gusev’s goal, marking his 13th point of the tournament.

Canada got on the board just 17 seconds into the third with a goal from Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele, who tipped a shot by Russian netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon drew an assist on Scheifele’s goal, then added a tally of his own from the slot with less than five minutes remaining in the third to bring the score to 2-2.

Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O’Reilly completed the comeback just 1:51 later, registering his fifth goal of the tournament to put Canada ahead. The team would tally again, with Sean Couturier adding an empty-net goal.

Canada will advance to the gold medal game to face the winner of Saturday’s match between Finland and Sweden.

The country has won gold the past two years, defeating Russia in 2015 and Finland in 2016.

Sweden downs Finland to advance to gold medal game

By Sean O’Leary – The Score

Sweden defeated rival Finland 4-1 on Saturday to advance to the gold medal game of the 2017 IIHF World Championship. The Swedes will battle Team Canada for international supremacy.

Just 1:49 into the first period, Nicklas Backstrom‘s faceoff win was one-timed by defenseman Alex Edler past goaltender Harri Sateri to give Sweden an early lead.

Three minutes later, Joonas Kemppainen pounced on a loose puck and pushed it by Henrik Lundqvist to tie things at 1-1, but that’s as close as Finland, who will take on Russia in the bronze medal match Sunday, would get.

Sweden’s power play took over in the middle frame, with goals from John Klingberg and William Nylander, who leads the tournament with seven tallies in nine games and is tied for second with 14 points.

Joakim Nordstrom added a fourth goal late in the third period, which was a suffocating 20 minutes from Sweden’s talented blue-liners, as the final shot count finished 41-23 in favor of Tre Kronor.

Sweden hasn’t played for gold since 2013, when they defeated Switzerland on home soil. The Swedes and Canadians last met in the final in 2004, with Canada winning the title.

Puck drop for the deciding game is set for 4:45 p.m. ET.

Joint bid from Belarus & Latvia wins tight race

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Martin Merk – IIHF.com

After a tight race between two strong applicants the 2017 IIHF Annual Congress allocated the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship to the joint bid of Minsk, Belarus, and Riga, Latvia.

The joint bid of the two neighbouring countries won by a tight margin against the Finnish bid with the cities of Tampere and Helsinki. The proposed dates are 7-23 May 2021.

The two countries decided a few months to join together for the bid with the slogan “Passion. No Borders” that seeks to show a good relationship between a country in and another outside of the European Union, which they symbolically did at yesterday’s presentation with a video sequence from a space shuttle, and without borders. And it emphasized that the passion of the hockey fans from both countries is well known despite the fact that the two countries are neither among the biggest ones in population in Europe nor among the very top nations in the World Ranking. Belarus will be ranked 10th in the new IIHF World Ranking, Latvia 12th.

Minsk is the Belarusian capital, with almost two million inhabitants and 3.4 million in the region. In 2014 it broke the World Championship attendance record that was reclaimed by the Czechs in 2015. For 2021 the 15,086-seat Minsk Arena, with two practice rinks on site, would be used as the primary venue.

Minsk is the cultural centre of Belarus with numerous events and activities. The bid presentation recalled the great atmosphere of 2014, with its downtown fan village and fan zone as well as the convenience of Minsk Arena being just 15 minutes from the city center and the airport.

“We learned a lot from organizing the 2006 World Championship in Riga and the 2014 World Championship in Minsk and with that experience can make things even better in 2021,” said Belarusian Ice Hockey Association General Secretary Yaraslau Zauharodni.

Riga, Latvia’s capital, is just a one-hour flight away. It has 640,000 inhabitants and 1.4 million people living in a 100-kilometre radius. Latvia is renowned for its passionate fans traveling to World Championships all around the world, and the country hopes to recreate the great atmosphere of 2006 when the 10,300-seat Arena Riga was opened to host the Worlds. And they promise that a new practice arena will be built next to it.

“I truly believe in a Europe with no borders and with passion. It would be a fantastic experience to show that Europe is about passion, not about borders. I truly believe in social responsibility. And that also means the prices for fans. They will not have to pay a lot. It’s just €2.20 for a beer and in Minsk it’s even cheaper,” said Riga Mayor Nils Usakovs in his speech. And Minsk Mayor Andrei Shorets added that in Minsk it’s even less, just one euro.

New LHF President Aigars Kalvitis remembers the 2006 Worlds in Riga well. At that time he was the Prime Minister.

“Hockey is loved so much in our country and we are thankful that our Belarusians friends invited us. In Cologne we had at least 7,000 to 8,000 Latvian fans who supported the team. We hope with this championship we will develop hockey in the region,” he said.

Both arenas were opened to host the first-ever World Championship in each county, the Arena Riga for the 2006 Worlds and the Minsk Arena for the 2014 edition. The two venues also hosted the Final Olympic Qualification stages in 2016 as well as World Championships in the U20, U18 and women’s categories and the IIHF Continental Cup. They are currently mainly used by the local KHL teams, Dynamo Minsk and Dinamo Riga. Dynamo Minsk has the highest attendance in the KHL and the second best in Europe.

“Ice hockey is number one in our countries. You would give us the biggest honour possible and the greatest event our countries can host,” said IIHF Council Member and BIHA Vice President Sergej Gontcharov.

The upcoming IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships:
2018: Copenhagen & Herning (Denmark) – Website
2019: Bratislava & Kosice (Slovakia)
2020: Zurich & Lausanne (Switzerland)
2021: Minsk (Belarus) & Riga (Latvia)

Women’s Worlds grows

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By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

The 2017 IIHF Annual Congress unanimously approved to extend the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship from eight to ten teams as of 2019.

The change was recommended by the IIHF Women’s Committee and by the IIHF Council and today ratified by the IIHF’s member national associations to give women’s hockey another boost.

“We started the discussion three years ago within the committee because we felt that since the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 women’s hockey has developed so much,” said IIHF Council member Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer.

“We still can feel the gap between the North American teams and the rest of the world. However, the gap between the third and 15th team is not that big anymore. This is the next step to promote the women’s game.”

With the increasing number of participating teams – 37 countries were entered in the Women’s World Championship program in six tournaments – and the increasing competitiveness the proposal was to extend the number of teams in the top-tier event to ten teams as of the 2018/2019 ice hockey season and with this step aim to discuss with the International Olympic Committee to have ten teams at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.

The top division has been played with eight teams ever since the first tournament in 1990, the only exception being the 2004 edition that featured nine teams (when one team was promoted but no team was relegated in 2003 due to the cancellation of the top tournament in China because of the outbreak of the SARS disease).

The IIHF Statutes & Bylaws will have to be amended by the 2018 IIHF Annual Congress in one year to formally implement the change and by then a playing format for the ten-team Women’s World Championship will be established and proposed by the IIHF Competition and Coordination Committee in co-operation with the IIHF Women’s Committee.

With the IIHF membership accepting the extension, the new format for 2018/2019 with ten teams will be reached as follows:

– No team in the entire 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship program for all divisions will be relegated. This also means the last-ranked team Czech Republic will stay in the top division for 2019 and be joined by Japan as ninth team, which recently earned promotion. The tenth team will be determined next season.

– Similar like during the last Olympic year, the 2017/2018 season will not include a top-level Women’s World Championship due to the 2018 Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament while the other divisions will be played in 2017/2018. At all these tournaments the winning team will be promoted to the next level and no team will be relegated.

– These steps will create a ten-team top division for the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Finland while the other divisions will operate with six teams as usual and be aligned accordingly with teams being promoted in 2017 and 2018 while no teams will be relegated.

The 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship will take place in Finland, which confirmed its readiness to host ten teams. The dates and cities will be announced later. The lower divisions of the Women’s World Championship will be played in the 2017/2018 season and the hosts will be determined during the Congress this week.

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