Day: August 30, 2016

World Cup of Hockey summer check-in: Team Sweden

By Mike Johnston – Sportsnet

Training camp site: Scandinavium in Gothenburg, Sweden and Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Washington, Sept. 5-14.

Summer headlines:

Red Wings’ Henrik Zetterberg named Sweden’s World Cup captain
Jhonas Enroth added to Team Sweden roster for World Cup
Hampus Lindholm to replace Niklas Kronwall on Sweden’s World Cup roster
Rickard Rakell named to Sweden’s World Cup roster, replaces Alex Steen

Team captain: Henrik Zetterberg
Assistant captains: Undecided

Front-office refresher:
• Head coach: Rikard Gronborg
• Assistant coaches: Peter Popovic, Johan Garpenlov
• GM: Tommy Boustedt
• Other Staff: Nick Lidstrom, Mats Sundin, Daniel Alfredsson (team advisors)

Injury concerns:

Henrik Lundqvist. The 34-year-old is coming off a 65-game campaign with the Rangers, but did miss some time in the spring dealing with neck spasms. He is vital to Sweden’s success.

Henrik Sedin. The Canucks star is coming off one of the least productive seasons of his NHL career, but it was revealed he had been playing through a number of injuries, including a broken finger.

Key storylines entering camp…

1. Will they have enough firepower up front?
Sweden’s defence should be the envy of the tournament, but there are some questions up front. Filip Forsberg and Loui Eriksson are the only 30-goal scorers on the team and only one Swedish forward (Nicklas Backstrom) is coming off a 70-point campaign. Sweden has excellent two-way forwards but only a couple high-end offensive threats.

2. Can they perform on North American-size ice?
Even though this Swedish roster is comprised solely of NHL players, historically speaking, Team Sweden performs better on international-sized ice at these types of major tournaments. They won Olympic gold at Torino 2006 and silver at Sochi 2014, but finished fifth in 2010 when the tournament took place on the small ice in Vancouver. This Swedish roster doesn’t boast any heavy hitters and when there isn’t as much room to navigate it becomes more difficult to rely on your skill.

3. Lundqvist needs to stay healthy and be on his game.
The Swedes have a balanced roster, so it would be unfair to write them off if their starting netminder goes down. However, if Lundqvist isn’t 100 per cent or he struggles, success in this tournament could be an uphill battle. Having to turn to either Jacob Markstrom or Jhonas Enroth could impact the team’s collective confidence.

Exhibition/Preliminary round schedule:

** Sept. 8: Sweden vs. Finland at the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Noon ET.

** Sept. 9: Sweden vs. Finland at the Scandinavium in Gothenburg, Noon ET.

** Sept. 14: Sweden vs. Europe at the Verizon Center in Washington, 7 p.m. ET.

Sept. 18: Sweden vs. Russia, 3 p.m. ET

Sept. 20: Sweden vs. Finland, 3 p.m. ET

Sept. 21: Sweden vs. North America, 3 p.m. ET

World Cup of Hockey summer check-in: Team Canada

By Chris Johnston – Sportsnet

Training camp site: Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa, Sept. 5-12.

Summer headlines:
Sidney Crosby named Team Canada’s Captain for World Cup
Team Canada adds Sharks’ Couture to World Cup roster
Team Canada adds Bouwmeester to World Cup roster
• Price ‘100 per cent’ ready to go for World Cup of Hockey

Team captain: Sidney Crosby.
Assistant captains: Jonathan Toews, Shea Weber.

Front-office refresher:
• Head coach: Mike Babcock.
• GM: Doug Armstrong.
• Other Staff: Mark Bergevin, Rob Blake, Ken Holland, Bob Murray (management group). Claude Julien, Barry Trotz, Joel Quenneville, Bill Peters, Misha Donskov, Andrew Brewer (assistant coaches).

Injury concerns:
Carey Price. It has been more than nine months since the presumed No. 1 goalie last played a game after knee issues derailed his 2015-16 campaign. He is said to be in good health now, but will be monitored closely during training camp to see if there are any signs of rust in his game.

Claude Giroux. His participation was up in the air because of off-season surgery for hip and abdominal injuries. However, the Flyers captain recently received clearance to participate in the World Cup after a summer of recovery.

Tyler Seguin. A gruesome cut to the Achilles tendon above his right foot kept the forward from participating in Dallas’ playoff run – save for one game in the opening round. Seguin says he’s still feeling some affects from the injury, but is confident that it has healed enough to play.

Steven Stamkos. He made a dramatic return for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final in May after missing eight weeks following surgery on a blood clot near his right collarbone. The Lightning captain has had another three months since to ensure he’s not at risk of bleeding to death should he be cut while playing.

Key storylines entering camp:

1. What to do with Weber?
The stingy Sochi Olympic team was driven by a top defensive pairing of Duncan Keith and Shea Weber – one that likely would have been reprised at the World Cup if not for an injury to Keith.

Given coach Mike Babcock’s preference to pair left- and right-hand shots, plus those that play on the same team, he’ll have to break up a built-in tandem to find Weber (R) a new partner: Either L.A.’s Jake Muzzin (L) and Drew Doughty (R) or San Jose’s Marc-Edouard Vlasic (L) and Brent Burns (R) or St. Louis’ Jay Bouwmeester (L) and Alex Pietrangelo (R).

2. Who plays with Sid?
Finding the optimal wingers to complement No. 87 rarely seems to be an easy task. Sidney Crosby finished the Sochi Games playing between Penguins teammate Chris Kunitz and Patrice Bergeron, but will find himself with a different unit on a World Cup team that doesn’t include Kunitz.

One intriguing possibility is Crosby with Steven Stamkos and John Tavares on an all-No. 1 overall pick line.

3. Winging It
The only natural winger on this roster is Brad Marchand, which means that several centres will be asked to play out of position during the tournament. This isn’t a new problem for Team Canada – the country features an embarrassment of riches down the middle – but it could result in some serious line juggling while everyone gets comfortable.

4. Patience with Price
The one thing this tournament doesn’t offer is margin for error. Each team gets three exhibition games followed by three preliminary round games which will determine who advances directly to the semifinals. With that in mind, it will be interesting to see how much rope Carey Price is given if he struggles in his first competitive action since last November.

Braden Holtby is waiting in the wings.

Exhibition/Preliminary round schedule:

**Sept. 9: Team Canada vs. Team USA, Nationwide Arena, 7 p.m.

**Sept. 10: Team Canada vs. Team USA, Canadian Tire Centre, 7 p.m.

**Sept. 14: Team Canada vs. Team Russia, Consol Energy Center, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 18: Team Canada vs. Team Czech Republic, 8 p.m.

Sept. 20: Team Canada vs. Team USA, 8 p.m.

Sept. 21: Team Canada vs. Team Europe, 8 p.m.

World Cup of Hockey summer check-in: Team North America

By Mark Spector – Sportsnet

For those who say that the Under-23 Team North America is just a World Cup of Hockey gimmick, we would ask you this:

Would you rather watch Team Switzerland, Germany, Slovakia or Latvia try to steal a win from the world powers of hockey? Because those countries make up the next group whose national teams are being replaced by Team North America and Team Europe in this tournament.

Led by Connor McDavid, this team will be as fast as any in the World Cup, and will be the dark horse in their pool, hoping to knock off two of Russia, Sweden and Finland in order to advance.

With the World Cup around the corner, here’s a look at Team North America.

Training camp site:

Montreal (Bell Centre): Sept. 5-7
Quebec City (Videotron Centre): Sept. 8-10
Montreal (Bell Centre): Sept. 11
Pittsburgh (CONSOL Energy Center): Sept 12-14

Summer headlines:

• The biggest story for Team North America actually happened this past spring, as Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray established himself as a Stanley Cup winner during the Penguins’ Cup run.

Remember, shortly after the U-23 concept was raised co-GMs Stan Bowman and Peter Chiarelli petitioned tournament organizers for an age exemption in goal, where they feared they wouldn’t have a candidate that would allow them to compete against the best players in the world.

Now, with Murray having stolen Marc-Andre Fleury’s job while becoming a Conn Smythe candidate, and Anaheim’s John Gibson (.920, 2.07 GAA) having taken over the No. 1 job in Anaheim, the kids might just have enough goaltending to make a run.

• At the time of this writing, neither Winnipeg defenceman Jacob Trouba nor Calgary winger Johnny Gaudreau have signed contracts with their clubs. Both are restricted free agents expected to sign soon, and each will be provided with insurance (by the NHLPA and NHL) should they remain unsigned when the tournament begins.

Both have committed to play in the tournament, but the contract situation will be a distraction for both — especially considering that short window between the end of this tournament (possibly Oct. 1) and the NHL regular season opener on Oct. 12.

• As it turns out, Auston Matthews first game at the Air Canada Centre won’t be in a blue and white uniform after all. The Toronto Maple Leafs No. 1 overall draft pick debuts in the black, grey and neon orange of Team North America, which might just provide a convenient break-in period for the pressure he’ll be feeling once the NHL season starts for real in Toronto.

“I think it’s great for Auston,” said Leafs and Team Canada head coach Mike Babcock on a Team Canada conference call. “I don’t know what his role is going to be, but he’s going to learn from this tournament and he’s going to get better every time out.”

• Perhaps the most intriguing part of this concept will be to see Matthews, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel potentially on the same powerplay. Particularly Eichel and McDavid, who spent their rookie seasons being compared to one another.

“I’m definitely excited to play with him and get to experience to be on the ice with him on the same team as opposed to playing against him,” McDavid told the Toronto Sun in August. “I think we’ve always been tagged as kind of rivals and all that but I definitely don’t see that or think that.

“It will be cool to play with him.”

Team captain: TBD
Assistant captains: TBD

Front-office refresher:
• Co-GMs: Stan Bowman and Peter Chiarelli
• Head coach: Todd McLellan
• Assistant coaches: Jon Cooper, Dave Tippett, Gerard Gallant, Jay Woodcroft

Injury concerns:
Sean Couturier sprained his shoulder on a hit by Alex Ovechkin in Philadelphia’s playoff opener and did not return in Round 1. He’s ready to go now, as is teammate Shayne Gostisbehere, who had hip and abdominal surgeries in May.

McDavid returned last season from his broken collarbone and is fine as well.

Key storylines entering camp:

1. The defence
Can a defence comprised wholly of 23-and-under players allow this group to compete against the best players in the world? Put it this way: Of the seven players named to the team — Aaron Ekblad, Seth Jones, Ryan Murray, Colton Parayko, Morgan Rielly, Gostisbehere and Trouba — how many would vie for a spot on their national team if this team North America didn’t exist?

With Murray having emerged in goal, the question becomes if this defence can weather the storm against pressure from the best veteran players on the globe.

2. Matt Murray
What if Murray was a “one spring wonder?”

What if, like Antti Niemi’s wonderful run with the Blackhawks in 2010, Murray can’t follow up with a sustainable level of play the following season? That would leave Gibson and Connor Hellebuyck to tend the North American twine, but in a short tournament, by the time you figure out your No. 1 isn’t good enough, it might be too late to recover.

3. The competition
Team North America finds itself in a bracket with Russia, Finland and Sweden, and only two teams emerge to face the top two clubs from the opposite bracket (Canada, USA, Czechs and Team Europe) in the two semi-final games.

Can this group pull off two victories to get through to the semis? They’ll have to use every ounce of their speed and youthful exuberance to make that happen.

Exhibition/preliminary round schedule:

**Sept. 8: Team Europe vs. Team North America, Videotron Centre, 8 p.m.

**Sept. 11: Team Europe vs. Team North America, Bell Centre, 6 p.m.

**Sept. 14: Team Czech Republic vs. Team North America, CONSOL Energy Center, 3:30 p.m.

Sept. 18: Team North America vs. Finland, 8 p.m.

Sept. 19: Team Russia vs. Team North America, 8 p.m.

Sept. 21: Team North America vs. Team Sweden, 3 p.m.

Claudia Téllez Arrives in CWHL With a Vision for the Mexican National Team

By Dustin Nelson – The hockey Writers

Claudia Téllez is the first Mexican player to work her way into the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL). The Mexican National Team alternate captain is looking to inspire and break new ground. She entered the 2016 CWHL Draft at age 32 with lofty ambitions. It’s not just about forging a spot in the league, but about a dream of getting the Mexican National Team into the 2018 Winter Olympics.

It’s a long shot, but being selected by the Calgary Inferno in the eighth round of the draft already says a lot about how far the national team program has come in Mexico.

First Steps

Mexico officially became an International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) member nation in 1985, but it wasn’t until 2012 that a women’s team was formed. The team was assembled from women who had been playing inline hockey, including Téllez. “I’ve always wanted to go to the Olympic games,” said Téllez through a translator, “and the only way to go is through ice hockey.”

It’s a long path, but Téllez took the challenge seriously, moving to Mexico City to focus on training full-time. Then, watching a CWHL game she had recorded, she decided to pursue more than an Olympic berth for Mexico. “One time I got invited to Spain to play inline hockey in the European League. But because of political problems with the inline federation, they didn’t let me go.

“So I got the opportunity to play ice hockey and I find out that there’s a professional league in ice hockey, and I decided that the next four years I’m going to work on the project for the Olympics and also to prepare for professional hockey.”

The first step has been taken toward the latter goal. On Aug. 25 she was drafted by the CWHL’s Calgary Inferno. “I was very excited, very emotional,” she said.

“When I decided to apply for the draft last year, I was watching a Calgary game. So, I fell in love with the team, and I said I want to be there. I want to play there.”

She’s supported along those first steps by the Comisión Nacional de Deportes, which offers a stipend to female athletes in Mexico who are training. They will help fund Téllez for CWHL camp. She also has a sports management team helping her to raise money. It’s yet another challenge for Téllez, as the CWHL doesn’t pay players a salary, though they somtimes offer support finding housing or jobs.

A Big Year

It will be a whirlwind fall for Téllez. First, she heads to Calgary’s camp in an effort to turn being a draft pick into being a roster player. “I think that my game is to create opportunities. I am a playmaker. That’s my strength here on the Mexican team. I play for the team. I’m a team player… And I score,” she says with a smile.
She will return to Mexico City in October, where the first round of Olympic qualifications is being held. From that qualifier to PyeongChang, South Korea, where the 2018 Olympics will be held, is a difficult slog — it starts with this qualification round, pitting the 26th ranked Mexican team against Turkey and Hong Kong.

“It’s very amazing to be at home,” says Téllez of the opportunity to play the first qualifier in Mexico City. “The number of fans of the Mexican hockey team has grown… they’re very excited to attend the game from all over the country.”

If Mexico comes out of that qualifier, they’ll head to Spain in November, where they will need some major upsets to continue. They would be berthed into a group against Kazakhstan, Great Britain and Poland where eight teams will compete for two spots in the next round of qualifications. After Spain, there are still two more qualification rounds where the competition gets even more challenging.

The Future of Hockey in Latin America

Olympic qualification for Mexico is unlikely, but Téllez and teammates are inspiring the next generation of players in Latin America, where only three countries have women’s national ice hockey clubs. Among them, only Mexico will compete to qualify for the Olympics. But she understands that making into the CWHL is another way to inspire teammates and future players at home.

“Of course [teammates are inspired], but they are in the process of finishing university,” she says. “There are four players that aspire to go to the professional league, especially the goalkeeper. I hope they have the time and development to grow and get the same opportunity that I am getting.”

She hopes to inspire and to bring pride to her national federation, but she’s a determined athlete. She’s also striving to show she belongs among the best in women’s hockey. “I hope to prove myself,” she says of what could be a defining year in her career and the history of the Mexican national team.

Belarus bids to host IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship 2021

belarus ice hockey
By Belarus News

Belarus’ Ice Hockey Federation as submitted a bid to host the IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship 2021, BIHF Secretary General Yaroslav Zavgorodny said in an interview with the Belarus 5 TV Channel. According to him, the official documents have been sent to the International Ice Hockey Federation. Belarus will know who it will compete with at the upcoming IIHF Congress. In case the Belarus bid fails, the country intends to apply to host 2022 IIHF World Championship. Belarus plans to hold the world championship in two arenas Minsk Arena and Chizhovka Arena which were the venues of the 2014 IIHF World Championship. “The necessary infrastructure for the world championship is already in place. The previous world championship cemented Belarus’s image as a truly hockey country capable of hosting high-profile events at the highest level,” the federation said. The BIHF is well aware that it will be very hard to win the bid at the first attempt because among the bidders is also Finland.

Belarus win Cup of Three Nations

By National Teams of Ice Hockey

The Belarus national ice hockey team won the Three Nations Cup  which took place in Minsk.
Belarus claimed victory in two games. The Belorussian won 5-2 over France and then defeated Germany 3-2.  Belarus claimed the Cup, with Germany and France placing second and third respectively.

The Three Nations Cup was an important preparatory stage for the Belarus team ahead of the 2018 Olympic qualifying tournament, which is due to take place at Minsk Arena on September 1-4. Four teams will complete for the Olympic berth in Group D. Slovenia and Poland will take to the ice on September 1st. Belarus will face Denmark on the opening day of the tournament as well. On  September 2nd Slovenia will go against Denmark, while Belarus will face Poland. September 4th will feature Poland vs Denmark and Belarus vs Slovenia. The winner in Group D will secure a place in the 2018 Winter Olympics. The Belarus national team took part in the Olympics three times (in Nagano in 1998, Salt Lake City in 2002 and Vancouver in 2010). Belarus played in the Olympic qualifying tournaments four times. In 1997 and 2001 the Belarus team secured its berth in the Olympics Games of 1998 and 2002. In 2005 and 2013 Belarus finished second behind Latvia and Slovenia respectively.