Morocco has witnessed the establishment and commencement of numerous projects and workshops, with work progressing in all directions and across several cities, particularly prominent ones. These endeavors are aligned with the Kingdom’s policy and strategy to emerge as a frontrunner among nations, both on the African continent and globally.
At present, Moroccan officials are particularly focused on sports projects. A range of endeavors have been initiated, such as the establishment of football fields, indoor halls, and a specialized ice hockey facility. This demonstrates the prioritization of sports development within the nation.
Under the authorization of the Ministry of Sports, the National Agency for Public Utilities has commenced a consultation process to conclude the first phase of this project. The successful completion of this endeavor calls for an investment of around 246 million dirhams or 24,398,710.50 in us dollars.
Over the course of 18 months, the construction work for the new sports hall in Rabat is projected to be completed. Boasting an expansive area of 2,524 square meters, the ice hockey rink within the facility will hold the distinction of being the largest of its kind in all of Africa. Furthermore, the building will encompass a range of other sports facilities for a verity of sports.
In the heart of Baku, within the luminous glow of the ice rink, a momentous occasion unfolded, potentially heralding a new chapter in the realm of sports in Azerbaijan. On February 13, the Azerbaijan national ice hockey team, consisting of 18 enthusiastic players spanning various age groups, graced the ice for their inaugural open training session. This event held immense significance, not only for the players and their mentors, but for the entire nation. Under the guidance of Head Coach Aleksandr Bilinov, this endeavor signifies a burgeoning interest in a sport that, until now, had not garnered widespread attention in this region.
The atmosphere at the Ice Rink in Baku was filled with anticipation and a tangible sense of ambition as the newly established team displayed their talents. Among them were both young and experienced players, all sharing a common aspiration: to enhance Azerbaijan’s presence in the international ice hockey arena. The formation of this team serves as a testament to the growing popularity of ice hockey in the country, a trend that Coach Bilinov has been dedicated to fostering. “We have witnessed a remarkable surge in interest among the younger generation,” Bilinov commented, his eyes reflecting the sparkle of the ice. “More and more children are joining, eager to learn and progress. It is a promising sign of what lies ahead.”
The future of ice hockey in Azerbaijan is a topic of great interest. The aspirations of the national team go beyond the boundaries of the rink in Baku. Led by Bilinov and Coach Zaur Mammadaliyev, the team has set ambitious goals to compete in major international competitions within the next five years. This is a remarkable achievement for a newly formed team, but the determination and skill exhibited by the players indicate that these aspirations are not mere fantasies. Mammadaliyev expressed his confidence, stating, “Our primary objective is to foster the growth of ice hockey in Azerbaijan. We firmly believe that it will gain popularity, attracting more participants and fans.”
The establishment of the national ice hockey team and its inaugural open training session represents a significant milestone for the sport, serving as a symbol of hope for the future of athletics in Azerbaijan. As the team continues to train and develop, the growing interest in ice hockey among Azerbaijani youth becomes more evident. This increasing passion for the sport is a strong indication of the potential for ice hockey to become an integral part of Azerbaijani sports culture. With committed coaches, talented players, and a clear vision for the future, the Azerbaijan national ice hockey team is well-positioned to make its mark on the global stage, challenging the conventional norms and expectations of sports in the country.
The Azerbaijan national ice hockey team is on a promising path as they progress, with the ice of Baku marking just the start of their journey. Through perseverance, commitment, and the unwavering backing of the community, the team has the capability to reach their lofty aspirations. This tale of resolve and drive not only adds a significant chapter to the nation’s sports legacy but also motivates upcoming athletes in Azerbaijan and beyond. Keep an eye on the Azerbaijan national ice hockey team as they glide towards their goals, igniting hope and enthusiasm wherever they go.
In the “final match” of the Beijer Hockey Games on Sunday, Tre Kronor and Finland clashed to determine the ultimate winner. Both teams had emerged victorious in their first two games. However, Sweden faced a challenging situation with only eleven forwards available due to injuries and illnesses that had affected Anton Bengtsson, Max Friberg, and Jesper Frödén since the beginning of the tournament. Consequently, Tre Kronor struggled and ultimately suffered a 2-1 defeat against Finland, resulting in the Finns claiming the tournament victory in Karlstad.
Finland displayed a strong start to the match, establishing their dominance and earning an early power play opportunity. Within the first five minutes, Eemeli Finland successfully scored, putting the Finns ahead with a 0-1 lead. As the game progressed, intense moments unfolded in both directions. Towards the end of the first period, Tre Kronor had an opportunity in the power play, but unfortunately, Marcus Sylvegård’s shot hit the post. Despite this, Finland maintained their lead after 20 minutes of play.
Emil Larmi showcased an exceptional performance, proving to be a key player for Finland
Throughout the tournament, it became evident that Finland posed the greatest challenge for Sweden. The Finnish team, known as the white “Lions,” displayed a strong start in the second half, creating numerous opportunities that tested Marcus Högberg, the Swedish goalkeeper. Under the leadership of Jukka Jalonen, Finland’s defense was formidable, effectively shutting down Tre Kronor.
Despite Sweden’s efforts, particularly during power plays, Emil Larmi, the Finnish goalkeeper, proved to be an impenetrable barrier. Larmi remained steadfast as Sweden applied pressure, ensuring a clean sheet for Finland. Capitalizing on their defensive strength, Finland executed a counterattack, resulting in a goal by Pekka Jormakka, extending their lead to 0-2.
Although Sweden dominated in shots on goal, with a score of 17-11 in their favor after two periods, they were unable to convert their opportunities into goals.
Hardegård’s influence diminished – however, Finland remained resilient
Finland commenced the third period with a strong performance, but ultimately Emil Larmi succumbed to Sweden’s intensified offensive. Malte Strömwall skillfully passed the puck to Marcus Hardegård, who successfully converted it into a goal, resulting in a score of 1-2. Notably, Luleåbacken has now scored in two consecutive games. Consequently, Tre Kronor established a connection and initiated a more aggressive approach in their pursuit of an equalizer.
At the midpoint of the game, Sweden had a golden opportunity to level the score through a power play. Despite creating several promising chances, Larmi’s exceptional saves ensured that the score remained 1-2. Tre Kronor continued to create scoring opportunities, but Larmi stood strong in the goal, denying them any chance of equalizing.
With two and a half minutes remaining, Sweden called for a timeout and replaced their goalkeeper with an extra attacker. However, Finland held their ground and emerged victorious with a 2-1 win, securing the title of champions in the Beijer Hockey Games. The third period saw an astonishing shot count of 19-2 in favor of Sweden, resulting in a total of 36-13 shots throughout the game. Nevertheless, Emil Larmi’s outstanding performance ensured Finland’s triumph.
During this season’s Euro Hockey Tour, Sweden has achieved one tournament victory in Switzerland, along with securing second place in both Finland and Sweden tournaments.
Belarus U20 wins the Future cup for the 2nd year in a row
By National Teams of Ice Hockey
Minsk-hosted traditional international Future Cup tournament has concluded. The final game witnessed a fierce competition between the Russian U18 junior team and the Belarusian U20 national team, as they battled for the top spot. With both teams boasting two victories each, the game was played with the motto “The winner takes all.”
It is intriguing that this particular game currently bore similarities to the previous one, where the Russian U17 and Kazakhstan U20 national teams clashed. Initially, the young players struggled to adjust to the style of their more experienced adversaries, resulting in their loss during the initial period. The sole distinction lied in the fact that the 18-year-olds conceded three goals within 20 minutes, as opposed to the 17-year-olds who only let in two. The penalties proved to be their downfall, as the Belarusians capitalized on the power play to score the first two goals.
The Russian juniors exhibited equal determination and inspiration during the second period, ultimately securing a victory and gaining a lead in the score by the break. A noteworthy aspect shared by both junior teams was the occurrence of a crucial event known as a “goal from the locker room”: Vadim Dudorov managed to score just 20 seconds after the game resumed (it is worth noting that the Russian U17 team took 31 seconds to achieve this feat in their match against the Kazakhstan team).
It is worth mentioning that the Russians’ resurgence in the game commenced with the goalkeeper. Pyotr Andreyanov initiated the offensive move, culminating in Dudorov’s successful goal. Subsequently, everything fell into place seamlessly, as Mark Slivchenko and Timur Kol managed to nullify the opponents’ lead in just over eight minutes. Furthermore, in the 33rd minute, Ivan Ryabkin propelled the Russia U18 team into the lead.
In the final period, the Russians were finally granted their first opportunity to play with a man advantage, and Kol capitalized on it, scoring two goals. The Belarusians effectively shut down any further chances for the Russians to level the playing field, resulting in the juniors maintaining a 100% success rate on power plays. Unfortunately, the game while shorthanded left much to be desired. It was now the Belarusians’ turn to turn the tide of the game and they did so by scoring two goals in the last seven minutes, one of which came during a power play. As a result, three out of the five goals conceded by the Russians during regulation time were a direct consequence of penalties.
Dmitri Tukach secured the victory for the Belarusians, along with the coveted championship trophy for the second consecutive year, during the final minute of extra time in the game that went into overtime.
The initial third of the game is characterized by a sense of openness and equilibrium. Prior to launching their offensive maneuvers, the French had to withstand a Danish powerplay, which was a result of a penalty called against Kévin Spinozzi just 14 seconds into the game. Julian Junca, who started the game, displayed strong defensive skills. Subsequently, the French initiated their attack, with Anthony Rech having the first opportunity. Aurélien Dair took advantage of a well-executed play between Kévin Bozon and Florian Chakiachvili to take his chance. Although this action did not result in a goal, a few minutes later, the young forward found the back of the net. During a powerplay, France relentlessly pressured the Danish goal, and Charles Bertrand’s third attempt in a minute caused chaos. Consequently, Aurélien Dair, who had already scored two goals for the French team on the previous day, capitalized on the situation. Unfortunately, Denmark equalized shortly after through Patrick Russell. The remainder of the third period witnessed both teams taking their chances, including an impressive solo effort from Anthony Rech.
After an initial scare in front of Julian Junca’s goal early in the third period, Kévin Bozon successfully manages to scoop the puck in the Danish defensive zone and delivers a perfect pass to Aurélien Dair, who confidently scores with a shot into the right corner. Just like in the first period, Denmark quickly equalizes. And once again, it’s Patrick Russell who responds to Aurélien Dair. Philippe Bozon’s players gain a powerplay and opportunity, but unfortunately, they fail to capitalize on it. The game sees a series of clear chances: Thomas Thiry hits the post with a shot from a difficult angle. Kévin Bozon, who breaks away, lacks precision in his one-on-one encounter during the middle of the game. Who better than the captain to lead his team back on track? In the 35th minute, Sacha Treille skillfully intercepts an opponent’s pass and charges towards the goal. It’s a perfect setup for a goal on George Soerensen of Denmark.
The third period begins with a double Danish superiority to manage. Unfortunately, the French will not be able to resist and will concede two goals in quick succession from Joachim Blichfeld and Mikkel Aagaard. The French team needing a goal to tie the game go on the attack with an attempt from Anthony Rech which touches the top of the net The French team misses the opportunity to equalize. Tomas Simonsen ventures into the Danish defensive zone and manages to equalize at close range of the cage to tie the at four goals a piece.. Push by a pro French crowd Vincent Llorca scores a fifth goal! After good work from Tim Bozon and Enzo Guebey. With two victories, the French team won the Epinal 4 Nations Tournament and now will start preparing for the World Championships.
Anikó Németh took up the position of goalkeeper for the Hungarian team, while Helga Milibák served as the backup. Hayley Williams and Petra Szamosfalvi were not included in the match-day squad.
The national team had a fantastic start, with Alexandra Huszák, who was celebrating her 100th game, scoring a goal just one minute into the match by skillfully maneuvering the puck past the opposing goalkeeper. The first period presented limited opportunities, but as the game progressed, the Hungarians gained the upper hand. However, they were unable to extend their lead. Despite being at a disadvantage, the defense performed admirably, with Anikó Németh making crucial saves.
In the opening of the third period, the Slovaks managed to reverse the situation. Hlinkova scored the first goal with a power play, capitalizing on a rebound. Istocyova then skillfully maneuvered and fired a shot from to the short side corner. Seizing another opportunity, the home team extended their lead in the 52nd minute when Kubekova knocked in a puck that had been returned from behind the goal. However, the Hungarian team refused to surrender, and within a little over a minute, Boglárka Báhiczki-Tóth narrowed the gap with a precise shot. Determined to equalize, the national team relentlessly pressed forward, even enjoying a man advantage in the second half. Finally, in the midst of a scramble in front of the goal, Regina Metzler successfully leveled the score.
In the game, there was a sense of caution due to the additional time. Lotti Odnoga’s shot posed a threat, while on the opposing side, they had the opportunity to secure a win with an extra player, but Németh managed to save their attempts.
Réka Dabasi successfully converted the penalty Shot for Hungary, and Fanni Garát-Gasparics scored in the winning shot resulting in a 4-3 victory for Hungary.
With this win in Bratislava, the national team has now accumulated six points in the tournament, just like they did in Budapest back in December. This serves as a promising indication ahead of the World Championship in April.
Canada has once again made an impressive comeback from a 3-0 deficit to emerge victorious in the Rivalry Series against the United States for the second consecutive year.
Natalie Spooner and Emma Maltais played a pivotal role in this triumph, contributing two goals and one assist each, as Canada dominated the U.S. with a resounding 6-1 victory. This remarkable win not only secured Canada’s fourth consecutive victory in the series but also showcased their exceptional teamwork and skill. The match took place on Sunday, solidifying Canada’s position as a formidable force in international ice hockey.
Marie-Philip Poulin and Ashton Bell contributed goals for Canada as well. Sarah Nurse displayed her playmaking skills by providing three assists, while Anne-Renee Desbiens showcased her goaltending abilities with 24 saves.
Maltais expressed her thoughts on the team’s resilience and determination, emphasizing their commitment to their game plan even in challenging situations. She believes that their performance today demonstrated their strong character, and they will continue to progress forward. Being involved in the Series this year brings Maltais great excitement, especially since she wasn’t part of the comeback last year.
The U.S. emerged victorious in three consecutive matches against Canada, with scores of 3-1 on November 8th, 5-2 on November 11th, and a thrilling 3-2 overtime win on December 14th.
This impressive performance gave the U.S. a commanding 3-0 series lead. However, Canada started their comeback with a 3-2 shootout victory on December 16th, followed by a 4-2 win on Wednesday, and a convincing 3-0 win on Friday.
Spooner expressed, “The Canada-U.S. games are consistently thrilling and the kind of games that ignite your enthusiasm.” she further added, “Considering that we were trailing in the series, each game became a make-or-break situation for us.
Game 7 felt like our ultimate challenge, our pinnacle moment, similar to a gold-medal game or a Super Bowl. Hence, we were filled with anticipation for the game.”
Spooner was responsible for the solitary goal in the first period. She skillfully redirected a rebound into the net, eluding Hensley after Brianne Jenner’s shot missed its mark at 12:06 during the power play.
Poulin extended Canada’s advantage on the power play just 57 seconds into the second period, unleashing a powerful wrist shot from the point.
At 10:41, Bell extended the lead to 3-0 by capitalizing on a beautiful backhand pass from Maltais in the slot, outsmarting Hensley on the glove side.
Zumwinkle managed to put the Americans on the scoreboard with a short-handed goal at 2:31 left in the second period. However, just 58 seconds later, Spooner skillfully lifted a wrist shot over Levy for her second goal of the game.
At 4:21 into the last period, Maltais joined the action by scoring a short-handed goal, defeating Levy with a well-placed low shot during a breakaway.
Later, at 7:58, Maltais secured her second goal of the game. Spooner skillfully located her in the slot, and Maltais successfully beat Levy with a backhand shot below the pads.
Head coach Troy Ryan expressed his thoughts on the completion of the series, acknowledging the challenges it poses for player selection in the upcoming Worlds. He emphasized the significance of mounting a comeback and highlighted the positive aspect of such achievements. However, he also emphasized the need to recognize that success in the Rivalry Series does not always translate to success in the World Championship. Breaking this trend is a goal that the team aims to achieve.
Finland’s women’s team showcased their dominance in the final match of the Czech EHT competition against Germany, securing an impeccable 4-0 victory. This triumph not only sealed their victory in the entire competition but also highlighted their exceptional performance. Despite a tough challenge from Germany, Finland emerged victorious against Switzerland and the Czech Republic in the earlier matches. Although they narrowly lost to Sweden in a thrilling shootout, their overall success in the tournament remains commendable.
Petra Nieminen (3+3) emerged as the most skilled player in Finland throughout the entire competition. Noora Tulus (2+2), Michelle Karvinen (1+3), and Ronja Savolainen (0+4) all concluded the competition with 4 points. Additionally, Karvinen was selected as the competition’s top forward.
According to Saara Niemi, the coach of the Ladies’ Lions, the team’s focus during the competition was on playing a strong defense and dominating the area. Niemi believes that these strategies were also effective in the match against Germany. However, in Niemi’s opinion, the overall performance and atmosphere did not quite measure up to Friday’s game against the Czechia.
Niemi states that the team’s grip on the game improved towards the end, accompanied by a solid fundamental game, resulting in a triumph over Germany.
In the match against Germany, captain Jenni Hiirikoski (scoring two goals), Noora Tulus, and Julia Liikala completed the scoring for the Finnish team.
The path of the female lions persists as they advance towards the World Championships, scheduled to take place from April 3 to 14 in the USA.
Tereza Vanisova emerged as the top scorer of the tournament, accumulating eight points in four games. Meanwhile, Mrazova, Petra Nieminen, and Sapovalivova shared the second position with six points each.
NHL will launch a new tournament from February 12-20, 2025, featuring the USA, Canada, Finland and Sweden, strictly only the with the participation of players playing in the NHL.
At the press conference which was attended by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Marty Walsh, executive director of the players’ union (NHLPA), as well as one representative of each of the four national teams, Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Sebastian Aho and Elias Pettersson.
The new tournament kicks off on February 10th, 2025. Each team plays three games in a traditional round-robin format. The games will be played on NHL ice rinks according to NHL rules, but an important change is that a victory in regular time will be worth three points. Two points are awarded for a win in overtime or a shootout, one point for a loss in overtime or a shootout, and no points for a loss in regular time. At the end of round robin play the two teams with the best records advance to the one-game final.
In round robin games, a 3-on-3 sudden death overtime will be played 10 minutes, followed by a three-round shootout. There is no restriction in the final, the game they will play until one of the teams score the winning goal.
As for the squads: each team will have 20 players and 3 goalkeepers. All players included in the national team must have an NHL contracts for the 2024/25 season and be on the team’s roster on December 2nd, 2024. The timing of roster announcements is determined by the NHL and NHLPA, but each participating national association must name its first six players in the summer before selecting the full roster later in the year.
McDavid, MacKinnon among stars relishing opportunity to compete internationally
Connor Hellebuyck was part of the electrifying under-23 Team North America squad at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
But having just completed his rookie season and with only 26 games of NHL experience to his name, Hellebuyck didn’t see the ice.
Now eight years later, the American goalie still hasn’t competed in a best-on-best tournament.
“I’ve just been waiting to throw that jersey on. My window’s now, I’m in my prime and I’d love to be part of it,” the Winnipeg Jets goalie said at NHL all-star media day on Thursday.
On Friday, commissioner Gary Bettman announced that NHL players would return to the Olympics in 2026 and 2030. The 2026 Games will be held in Italy, while it is expected that France will be chosen to host the 2030 Games later this year.
The NHL also announced a four-team international tournament for 2025 that will include Canada, the United States, Sweden and Finland. The Four Nations Face-off will be held next February in two yet-to-be-named cities in Canada and the United States.
“We know how important international competition is to our players. We know how much they love and want to represent the countries from which they’re from, and we think this ia great stage for the best on best in what obviously we all believe is the best sport,” Bettman said.
NHL players haven’t participated in either of the last two Olympics. Nor has there been a World Cup since that 2016 edition, and even that tournament featured two gimmicky teams, with North America consisting of under-23 players and a Team Europe covering most of the continent except a few countries.
Eager to compete alongside fellow stars
In the meantime, the NHL is reportedly putting together a four-team tournament for 2025 between Canada, the U.S., Sweden and Finland. It’s still not a true best-on-best — not without the Russians or the Czechs — but it’s closer.
Speaking on Thursday, Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid said he wants to compete at the Olympics “extremely badly.”
“I would say that a lot of other guys in my age group would feel the same way,” he said. “I think about the U-23 team, a lot of guys that are here, Nate [MacKinnon], guys like Cale Makar and Jack Eichel and Auston [Matthews, all these guys that haven’t had a chance to represent their country at a best on best. I think it’s something that we’re all hoping to do.”
MacKinnon, the Cole Harbour, N.S., native from the same hometown as Sidney Crosby, echoed the sentiment.
“I’d love to go. I grew up idolizing Team Canadas and we’ve all missed two or three now, so definitely want to get one in, or hopefully a couple before I retire,” he said.
“We have the best player in the league with Connor and hopefully get another one out of Sid. I still think he’s ageless, so I’d love to play with him and trying to win with him would be pretty special as well.”
Hockey Canada president and CEO Katherine Henderson said representing your country at the Olympics is the “pinnacle” of the sport.
“We are excited to begin the process of building teams that include the best Canadian NHL players from across the country for the first time since the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, and to surround those athletes with high-quality management, coaching and support staffs that will do everything they can to help our athletes achieve their goal of winning Olympic gold medals,” Henderson said.
Indeed, multiple factors have kept the best men’s players in the world out of the Olympics, from insurance issues between the NHL, NHLPA and IIHF in 2018 to the pandemic in 2022.
On Thursday, Columbus Blue Jackets NHLPA representative Boone Jenner expressed hope of a deal coming together for 2026.
“I know the [Players’ Assocation is] working really hard behind the scenes with the league to find something of a solution there, hopefully get something set in stone,” said Canadian Boone Jenner, the captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets and the team’s PA representative.
Now one day later, it’s official.
“We know that hockey fans worldwide have long been anticipating the next best-on-best international competition, and now they can finally see some of their favourite players represent their countries and line up together,” said NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh.
“We made it,” IIHF president Luc Tardif added. “That’s two years work and more intense the last six months.”
‘Everybody would be excited’
Minnesota Wild star Kirill Kaprizov is one of just a few NHLers remaining with Olympic experience, having played for the Russian team in 2018 before jumping over to North America.
In Pyeongchang, Kaprizov scored the golden goal in overtime.
“Of course I’d like to play at the Olympics for the Russian team, as any Russian NHL player and any player that plays in Russia. Definitely would be happy to represent the national team,” Kaprizov said.
The Russian flag was excluded from each of the past two Winter Olympics due to sanctions over doping and the invasion of Ukraine.
Drafted in 2015, Kyle Connor is another player, like his Jets teammate Hellebuyck, who’s missed out on the opportunity to play best-on-best internationally.
Though he said he and Hellebuyck don’t talk about it too often — they are NHL players who may not want to jinx their spot on the team two years out, after all — he said he is itching for the opportunity.
“I think everybody would be excited even if it’s a different format with the four teams, whether it’s exhibition tournament or however they’re going to format it, you know there’s gonna be some competition and everybody’s going to want to win that game,” Connor said.
By the time the Olympics come around, most of that original U-23 team will be at least 30, having missed out on a decade of top international competition.
There’s no getting that time back now. But with Friday’s news, at least all those fantasy Team Canada lines are closer to reality.
Growing up in Canada I was a huge hockey fan, but it wasn't until the 1972 summit series and the 1976 Canada Cup that I became a big fan of international hockey. The best players in world all playing on a sheet of ice.
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