Month: September 2018 (page 2 of 2)

Ice Blacks claim historic series win over Australia in Queenstown

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Queenstown Ice Arena was the scene of a decisive victory for the New Zealand national ice hockey team on Friday night. The Ice Blacks triumphed 6-1 over the Australian Mighty Roos, earning New Zealand both their largest-ever margin of victory over Australia as well as their first-ever series win against their Trans-Tasman rivals.

NZ set the pace of play for the entirety of the game, coming out strong in the first period with an early goal from Matt Schneider – Australia had done well defending Schneider and linemate Alex Polozov in the previous day’s game, but their line had something to say about that in game two. Polozov, who assisted on the first goal, continued his dominant play, scoring at the halfway mark of the period.

Rather than coming out swinging during the second period, Australia frequently looked flat-footed and caught off guard. They could not seem to find an answer defensively for the duo of Polozov and Schneider, who combined for a third goal five minutes in. The goal went to Polozov, but Schneider had several more excellent opportunities as the game progressed.

It was only the hard work of goaltender Alexandre Tetreault that kept the Roos in it – However as the minutes ticked by, New Zealand worked Australia over hard in the corners, seeming to have a counterpunch for every strategy the struggling Roos employed.

Veteran Ice Blacks Dale Harrop and Jordan Challis, who normally play for intense NZIHL rivals West Auckland Admirals and Botany Swarm, both scored before the buzzer sounded, signalling the end of the second. Australia remained scoreless after a would-be goal was waved off immediately due to the officials’ decision that it was kicked in by a skate.

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The Roos finally found their footing in the third period, but it was too little too late, and every time they generated momentum, the Ice Blacks pushed back.

Australia got on the board within the first minute of play courtesy of a rocket shot from Lliam Webster that beat kiwi goaltender Rick Parry up high. Webster was a presence on the ice all night for the Roos, but New Zealand never sat back or buttoned off, and his goal ended up the lone tally for Australia.

As minutes raced off the clock, the Ice Blacks put one more on the board courtesy of a well-positioned shot from Chris Eaden that popped up and over Tetreault’s shoulder much to the delight of the hometown crowd.

MVP of the match for Australia was awarded to Kieran Webster and MVP of the match for New Zealand went to, very unsurprisingly, Alex Polozov.

NZ holds early advantage in test series

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By Sean Nugent – Otago Daily Times

The New Zealand Ice Blacks have drawn first blood in the three-game test series against the Australian Mighty Roos as part of the Winter Games, with a comfortable 4-2 victory thanks to some clinical finishing and outstanding goaltending by Daniel Lee.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult was on hand for the ceremonial puck drop before the start of the game.

The Ice Blacks were aggressive from the beginning, but it was the Roos who opened the scoring after five minutes.

But that lead did not last long as the home side hit back as Dale Harrop turned the puck in after some quick link-up play in the final third.

The home side was on the front foot and took the lead moments later, going into the first break with all the momentum.

The physicality ramped up in the second period and the Roos went searching for an equaliser, but were continually denied by some sharp work from Ice Blacks goaltender Daniel Lee.

After looking strong in the first period, the men in black hardly threatened the Roos’ goal in the second, until Alexandr Polozov found some space down the left flank and picked out Ryan Strayer waiting in the centre to easily turn it in and double their lead.

The Roos did not roll over, and got one back through Patrick Nadin right before the end of the period, leaving it all to play for in the final 20 minutes.

It was end-to-end play at the start of the third period, and the Ice Blacks increased their advantage through Benjamin Gavoille to give themselves a two-goal cushion with just seven minutes to play.

The home side continued to push for a fifth goal up until the final buzzer without success, but it did not matter as it took a 1-nil lead in the series.

The New Zealanders will be wary not to become complacent as a similar situation occurred in the first game of last year’s series, only for the Roos to hit back in games two and three to spoil the party.

Game two will be played tonight and game three tomorrow evening.

World Juniors: Slovakia Junior Hockey News

By Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com

Heading into the 2018 World Junior Championship, the Slovakian team was thought to have “the potential to emerge as a surprise contender,” according to SB Nation, and had “as good a chance as any of the lower clubs to sneak into the medal round.”

The Slovakian s never got past the quarterfinals, where they fell 3-2 to eventual silver medalist Sweden.

Roman Durny was solid in goal in that game, giving only three on 39 shots. The Anaheim Duck draft pick (147th, 2018) is a ‘98 and eligible for the 2019 tournament coming to Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. Durny was also in goal on Dec. 28, when the Slovaks upset Team USA 3-2. He had to make 43 saves for that win.

Two other goalies likely to be on the 2019 team are Dávid Hrenák and Jakub Kostelny, both of whom were on the 2018 squad. Hrenák is property of the Los Angeles Kings and will play his second season at St. Cloud State year. Kostelny is an undrafted 1999-born player. At 5’9”, 154 pounds, Kostelny doesn’t fit the mold of a modern goalie, but he did turn in a stellar performance in the 2017 U18 World Junior Championship, where he had a goals-against average of 0.58 and save percentage of .974 in a pair of games.

Defenseman Marek Korencik, also a ‘99, is an interesting undrafted prospect who will play another season in Sweden’s junior system. The big blueliner — he’s 6’3” and weighs more than 200 pounds — played five games in last year’s WJC, but recorded no goals or assists. He’s never put up big points. Will this be his breakout year?

Forward Filip Krivosik, who scored two of the Slovakian s three goals in their win over Team USA, is another fascinating prospect. He is also a ‘99, big (6’4”, 207), and undrafted. While he’s known for physical edge and corner worker, one preview noted before the 2018 WJC that he sometimes is able to make plays with the puck.

Milos Kelemen is another big forward who might impress at the 2019 WJC. He’s an undrafted ‘99 who could crack the top six in British Columbia. If he does, he’ll be expected to contribute more than just the single point — an assist — he put up last year.

Perhaps Slovakia’s most exciting player is 1999-born Milos Roman. The forward is only 5’11” and less than 190 pounds, but he is an elite playmaker. He had two goals and no assists in the last WJC, but another year of development with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League, and a bit of a “home-ice” inspiration, should lead to some far better numbers.

Slovakia opens the tournament on the day after Christmas against the U.S. The Slovakians will be wanting to show it was no fluke. They’ll have to get A+ efforts from everyone to do that.

Women’s Hockey is Growing Strong

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We’ve all heard those three little words a lot, to the point where it has started to become a somewhat monotonous mantra. We hear them sprinkled into half of the interviews we read and hear with players and league commissioners. We see the phrase everywhere on social media. Even the name of this very site was inspired by those three words.

Whether you like it or not, “grow the game” is attached to women’s hockey, and it’s not going anywhere soon.

The Global View

Women’s hockey is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. The evidence of that growth goes beyond the record-setting television audiences for gold medal games, the continued involvement of NHL teams with pro women’s teams, and the groundbreaking purchase of the NWHL’s Buffalo Beauts by Pegula Sports and Entertainment. We have the data to prove the women’s game is growing all over the world.

At the inaugural IIHF Women’s Ice Hockey Workshop in Copenhagen in July, IIHF Women’s Committee Chairwoman Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer shared that there are now nearly 200,000 women playing hockey across the world; in 2010 there were just over 170,000. That’s a growth of 17.64 percent in eight years.

Growth in the States

Thanks to USA Hockey’s public registration numbers, we have a better idea of what that growth looks like for one of women’s hockey superpowers. USA Hockey breaks down its registration numbers by gender, age group, and geography. The numbers paint a clear picture. There are more women playing hockey in the U.S. than ever before, and the numbers just keep growing.

In 2017-18 the rate of growth in USA Hockey’s women’s registrations was nearly 6.5 times greater than the growth in men’s registrations. There are still far more men than women playing hockey in the U.S. and across the world, but that is hardly surprising when we look at the big picture.

The NHL has existed for a century, whereas Title IX has only been in place in the NCAA for less than half a century. The first NCAA women’s hockey program was established at Brown University in 1965, and the National Collegiate Women’s Ice Hockey Championship began back in 2001. Even the prestigious Patty Kazmaier Award has only been around since 1998, which is the same year of the first women’s hockey tournament in the Winter Olympics.

In many ways, women’s hockey is still just getting started. But that doesn’t change the fact that this rate of growth is significant. And, if history has taught us anything, we are about to see another boom in registrations in the wake of Team USA’s gold medal victory in Pyeongchang.

After Sochi 2014

2013-14: 67, 230 female players registered

2014-15: 69,744 female players registered

After Vancouver 2010

2009-10: 61,612 female players registered

2010-11: 65,509 female players registered

After Torino 2006

2005-06: 54,162 female players registered

2006-07: 57,549 female players registered

Today, there are more than 79,355 women registered with USA Hockey. What’s even more noteworthy is the rate of growth in girls registering with USA Hockey. There are 33,236 girls 10 and under who are registered with USA Hockey. To put that number into context: there were 6,336 total female registered players in the United States in 1990.

The Next Generation

A closer look at the registration numbers — especially in youth hockey — tells us an even more promising story. USA Hockey’s numbers show that the growth of participation among girls 8 years and younger is growing at a historic rate. So, where is this growth coming from? One of the clear catalysts is the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL).

Growth of boys and girls U10

The NWHL’s inaugural season took place in 2015-16. In that same season the number of girls 8 years and younger who registered with USA Hockey went from 16,539 to 18,350 — that’s a 10.9 percent rate of growth. When we compare that number to the growth rates of the previous two seasons, we can safely say that the NWHL has changed the landscape of girls hockey in the United States of America.

National Growth of girls U8

When looking at these numbers it’s important to remember that they only reflect those players who have registered and paid fees to have a membership USA Hockey. There are a lot more women — in all age groups — playing hockey in America.

The future of women’s hockey is bright not just in the United States, but across the globe. According to the IIHF, there are 86,925 female players in Canada, 6,527 female players in Finland, and 5,505 female players in Sweden. An IIHF survey from 2017 tells us that 8.54 percent of all Finnish hockey players are women; that same ratio stood at 8.61 percent in Sweden. Whereas in Canada (13.7 percent) and the United States (13.5 percent), those numbers are significantly higher. So, there is still abundant room for the game to grow, even in countries that have a strong tradition in the sport.

Beijing and Beyond

It’s hard to know just how much the game is going to grow over the next four years, but it is exciting to think about.

In addition to the expected boom in interest after Team USA’s gold medal victory in Pyeongchang, there’s also the new frontier of women’s hockey in Asia. With Beijing 2022 on the horizon, China is investing in women’s hockey on a major scale. In June 2017, China announced plans to build 750 new rinks by 2022. Little girls in China also have the opportunity to watch members of Team Canada and Team USA compete against their own CWHL team in Shenzen, the Shenzen KRS Vanke Rays. Two years ago that sentence would have been complete fiction. What fruit will all these measures to accelerate the growth of the game in China bear? We will have an answer sooner than you might think.

The world map of women’s hockey continues to grow every year. Pyeongchang’s gold medal game between Canada and the U.S. had 3.7 million viewers (streaming and broadcast numbers combined). Oh, and that game wrapped up a little after 2:00 a.m. ET.

Hockey is one of the least accessible sports in the world because of how much it costs to even learn the game, let alone play it at a competitive level. Despite that significant roadblock — which, unfortunately, is just one of many — the game is still growing strong. And it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

“Grow the game” is a mission statement and a philosophy. But it’s also a constant reminder to appreciate the movement that is happening around us, all over the world.

Clara Rozier: Forging France’s Future in Women’s Hockey

By Nathaniel Oliver – The Hockey Writers

France’s Women’s National Ice Hockey Team is in the process of creating hockey history. After winning gold at the 2018 Women’s Division IA World Championship – played on their own home soil in the town of Vaujany – the French women have been promoted to the top division in women’s hockey for the first time ever. The 2019 Women’s World Championship will be played from Apr. 4 to Apr. 14, 2019 in  Espoo, Finland. All of the big names will be there – Canada, USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic and more. When France takes the ice against those countries, one of their young players will be 21-year-old Clara Rozier. She is one of the players who got France there in the first place, and rightfully so.

While France has never really been considered a “hockey hotbed”, Rozier is not only incredibly proud of what she and her teammates accomplished, but also very proud of all hockey players who have come from France and made the spotlight. Appreciating today’s current stars, her fellow countrymen hold a special place in her heart.

“Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Cristobal Huet, Antoine Roussel, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare,” Rozier rattled off some of her favorite names. “Crosby and Ovechkin because they are the best players in the world, for me. They have a lot of qualities. Crosby with his stick is very amazing – he can do everything he wants. And the others because they are French players and they played in NHL. Huet is an example. At the last World Championship (2017), he was very impressive at 40 years old!”

THW talked one on one with Rozier recently. We learned more about how she got started playing hockey and her story up until now. Perhaps more importantly, we got a sense of her aspirations for the upcoming Women’s Worlds in April 2019.

Learning the Game in France

Too often when North Americans think of France, we typically imagine only places like Paris or maybe the French Riviera locations like Cannes or Nice. We tend to overlook the more mountainous or colder climates of the country. Locations in the French Alps such as Chamonix, Grenoble and Albertville have each played host to a Winter Games. The mountain terrains also happen to be where Rozier is from, and it is where she learned to play hockey.

“I live in Morzine, a ski resort in the French Alps,” Rozier explained. “In this little town most of the children are skiing, playing ice hockey or both. I’m very happy to live in mountains! I started hockey at seven years old. Nobody in my family plays ice hockey. It was my best friend who was playing hockey and gave me the desire to play.”

However, chances to play the game in Morzine were quite sparse. The town itself has a population of not even 3,000 people, and hockey opportunities were slim, particularly for girls. Enough so that as Rozier got into her teenage years it was necessary to move to a more populated portion of the Alps. Rozier’s residence during her formative years had approximately 56,000 more residents.

“There are not a lot of opportunities to play hockey because it is a little city and they don’t have a women’ hockey team,” Rozier stated. “So I played with the boys when I was young, and at 15 years old I left Morzine for Chambéry to play with Pôle France. It is a women’ hockey team which gathers the best girls in France in sports studies. I stayed in Chambéry during five years, and this year I came back to Morzine because I’m ski instructor too. But I still play with the Pôle.”

Playing for Pôle France Féminin

The goal of Pôle France is to bring together the best female players in the country and centralize them in Chambéry. Although Crozier just entered her early 20s, she and a number of players her age have continued to play for Pôle in competitive hockey throughout France. Because France has a limited number of female players, it promotes better overall development and competition by having a team mixed with teenagers and young adults, and having them compete against younger male teams.

Crozier explained a bit more about how Pôle works:
“Like I mentioned before, Pôle regroups women from 15 years old and we play in the U17 French Men’s Championship because the women’s league is too poor to progress, and playing against boys is very good for us. They skate faster, shoot harder so it’s not so bad. We are just 2,408 girls playing hockey in France, whereas in the USA you have 75,832. So it’s difficult for us, but a lot of little girls are coming now and I think we have good players to take over of French hockey in the future.”

Through 75 career games with Pôle France, Rozier has scored 26 goals and 23 assists for 49 points. Her finest season offensively was this past 2017-18 campaign when she scored 16 goals and eight assists in only 20 games to lead the squad in scoring. Rozier is a winger with a right-hand shot. At 5-foot-3 and close to 140 pounds she possesses quickness, but is more of a heady, cerebral player. Rozier is also modest too, and found it difficult to speak about herself when asked what her best attributes are as a hockey player.

“For playing ice hockey, you have to be very strong in your head because it’s a very hard sport!” she stated. “For me I think I have a good vision. It’s difficult for me to speak about myself. I think I’m a complete player, but I have to work hard for becoming stronger everywhere. When you play ice hockey you have to be good in a lot of attributes – it’s a difficult sport.”

Representing Her Country on the International Stage

During Rozier’s teenage years, she represented France in IIHF U18 tournaments for three different World Championships at the Division I level and one qualification tournament. With her on their roster, France won the 2013 Women’s Division I qualification tournament outright, before going on to win the bronze medal at the corresponding World Championship. Rozier ensured that the French followed that up with a silver at the 2014 tournament and then gold in 2015. She served as an alternate captain for the gold medal team, but may have had her finest performance at the U18 level in 2014. There she was a point per game player with three goals and a pair of assists in the five tournament games.

“When I put the jersey on to represent my country I feel very proud,” Rozier shared. “It is real pride to put this jersey on and a dream! I think a lot of people want to represent their country and not all can do it. So it’s a privilege and I’m very proud of this. I feel really excited because I’m going to play an international game.”

Since the U18 level, Rozier has played for France Women’s National Team at three World Championships at the Division IA level and at an Olympic qualifier, beginning in 2016. While she would go goalless for her first two Worlds and the Olympic qualifier, she saved her first goal at a Women’s World Championship for just the right time. Played in Vaujany, France, the 2018 Women’s Division IA World Championships were held and the French were at the top of the podium – winning gold and advancing for the first time ever into the top tournament. Rozier scored the second goal of the game, which held up to be the decisive game-winner in the final game of the tournament, a 7-1 win by France over Slovakia.

“It’s amazing – I have no words to explain it,” Rozier said when asked what advancing to the top division means to her. “It’s one of the best days of my life. I already know this feeling because three years ago we won the World Championship with the U18 French team (at Division I). But my generation (1997), it was our last year with the U18 team so we won but we did not have the opportunity to go to the top division the following year. But today I can go to the top division, so it’s not really the same feeling. I can see what is happening at the top, and I really look forward to being there! It’s just a perfect moment with an amazing team. And we won in France! The ice rink was full, a lot of noise, my family was here, so it was perfect!”

They’re Not Done Yet!

The work of Rozier and the French National Women’s Team is not done yet. Yes, they have made history and have reached a distinct pinnacle. However, it is not the pinnacle. Rozier has no intention of falling out of the top division and facing demotion once the 2019 Women’s Worlds take place in April. Furthermore, she and France are focused on Olympic qualification as well.

“With the team, the goal is to try to stay in top division next year and be qualified to the next Olympics Games,” Rozier explained. “Personally, I want to progress in the speed of my skating and my shots. To become stronger, and have more playing time – have a more important role on the team and on the ice.”

 

There is no question that Rozier will be able to accomplish her personal goals for skill improvement. She has the drive and the motivation to continuously improve. In terms of her role and value to the team, France needs her more than ever right now. This is no easy road that the French are going down. At the 2019 Women’s Worlds they are in Group B, which includes Sweden, Japan, Czech Republic and Germany. In order to avoid relegation Rozier and her teammates will need to finish better than at least two of those teams. Rozier is fully aware that anything can happen – she is embracing it and making the most of her chances.

“The most important thing I’ve learned about life from playing hockey is that anything could happen,” she said. “And it could all go away in an instant. So you have to push yourself up until the end, whatever happens!”

Lithuania’s Bosas upbeat of future

By Henrik Manninen – IIHF.com

“Everything is possible. Just look at what Great Britain did this year winning a place at the top level of the World Championships. Every player in our national team will come back stronger in the new season and you never know what can happen. Hockey is a magical sport,” said Lithuania’s Bosas as a big season looms around the corner.

Having penned a deal with the Bayreuth Tigers of Germany’s DEL2, Bosas hopes to keep up his flying form and scoring touch in a season culminating with Lithuania competing at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A played in Astana, Kazakhstan, starting at the end of April next year.

With his trademark beard and an uncanny eye for a goal, Bosas played an integral role in Lithuania’s recent rise-up in the hockey world. The tall and powerful forward returned to his native Kaunas in April and netted half-a-dozen goals in five matches as Lithuania in emphatic fashion rolled on to win the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B.

While the big attention was on the former NHL stars Dainius Zubrus and Darius Kasparaitis, who gave a short comeback for the country’s biggest-ever ice hockey tournament, Bosas had six goals in five games, more than anyone else, and was named Best Forward of the tournament.

Thriving to play in front of boisterous home fans inside the Zalgiris Arena, he formed a prolific first line together with veteran Zubrus and 19-year-old prospect Mark Kaleinikovas as Lithuania thundered upwards to go undefeated and lived up to lofty set expectations.

“Yes, it was a historical win for Lithuania and also for me. We were all very excited but also worried not to win. Everybody called us ‘dream team’ and only expected us to win gold. It was really hard but we did it in the end and I hope it can make our sport more popular,” he said of a tournament where their final-day win against Baltic rival Estonia was played in front of a vociferous crowd of 10,170 carrying their home favourites to a comfortable 4-1 win.

Following the euphoria in Kaunas, the current crop of national team players now hopes competing at a higher level might generate more exposure to foreign suitors. Having played a meandering career which has so far taken him to Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Poland, Great Britain and Germany, Bosas has become well accustomed to being the odd one out thanks to his nationality.

“Most of the time people don’t know anything about Lithuanian hockey and sometimes don’t even know where Lithuania is on the map. So every year it is the same story because of my passport and nationality,” said Bosas, who last season proved his worth in Germany’s third tier at Regensburg. An initial short-term deal was soon extended with the Bavarian team as he finished as top scorer to get his reward and a move to Germany’s second-highest level, DEL2.

Born and brought up in the basketball town of Kaunas, Bosas got hooked on hockey as a first grader after a coach introduced the sport at school. While in his teens, a player agent got him a move to Sparta Prague’s junior set-up, which offered him invaluable years of progress within Czech hockey.

“It is big hockey country and I got a lot of good experience first from junior hockey, but later also from playing for my first men’s team. I remember this being the first step in starting a career abroad and leaving my parents home. It was not a bad start,” he said.

But if a stint in Central Europe helped him bridge the gap from junior to senior level, his most lasting memory from his ongoing hockey odyssey comes from Central Asia. Four seasons in Kazakhstan at the start of his decade playing for Arystan Temirtau, Gornyak Rudny and HK Almaty toughened him up considerably.

“There is a quote I’ve learnt from Kazakhstan, that if you’ve been there you have seen everything in hockey, and I think that is true. For me Kazakhstan was the biggest development for me, but also the hardest hockey life so far,” he recalled.

Bosas will be able to reacquaint himself with his former stomping ground as Lithuania will travel east to face a string of stern challenges at the World Championship Division I Group A. Contested inside the magnificent 12,000-seater Astana Arena in Kazakhstan’s capital between 29 April to 5 May 2019, they will take on Belarus, Korea, Hungary, Slovenia and hosts Kazakhstan.

Seemingly a gargantuan task, Lithuania can be greatly inspired by the recent upward ascent of Great Britain. While the Brits enjoyed two consecutive promotions, they were beaten twice at the tail end of last season by Lithuania during exhibition matches on British soil. One player able to share his experiences of taking Lithuania to the brink of top division is Mindaugas Kieras, who played 20 senior World Championships for his country between 1999 to 2018.

At the end of April 2006 and with Kieras on the blueline for his country, Lithuania narrowly lost out a chance to compete against the top nations courtesy of a 5-3 reversal against Austria at the 2006 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I event in Tallinn, Estonia. Despite having been in front three times against the Austrians, Lithuania succumbed to three straight power-play goals and in the end finished second of the group, which meant missing out a place at the 2007 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship played in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

“It would be very hard to reach that level again and it would also depend on what kind of players we would have. But if we would have played in Division IA this year, we would have been close, very close to stepping up the top,” said Kieras, who announced his retirement from the national team duty in the direct aftermath of winning gold in Kaunas.

With Kieras having hung up his skates, Lithuania lost not only one of its natural leaders out on the ice but gone is now also one of the best moustaches in the hockey world. Thankfully Bosas is well-suited to step in and continue the legacy, both in terms of leading the way out on the ice, but also by holding on to his trademark facial hair despite disapproval from close quarters.

“My mum hates it and my wife-to-be loves it, so I will keep it,” said Bosas.

Ice Hockey’s flagship event exceeds expectations and results in another successful season for IIHF

By Infont Sports

Culminating in a tight 3-2 win by Sweden over Switzerland after a penalty shootout, the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Denmark marked another record-breaking season for the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).

Infront – the exclusive media and marketing partner of the IIHF for the World Championship – joined forces with the IIHF and the Local Organizing Committee to deliver a spectacular tournament for fans in the stadium and those watching on TV.

Thanks to this collaboration, winter sports’ biggest annual event also became the biggest event (sport or non-sport related) to be hosted in Denmark to date.

Exceeding expectations

More than 520,000 people headed to the ice rinks to witness first-class live ice hockey action, marking the sixth-highest attendance in the history of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

Once again, Infront guaranteed extended TV coverage, ensuring broadcasting in over 160 territories. This resulted in over 8,000 hours of coverage worldwide and a cumulative audience of 1.237bn, making it the third highest audience figure in the history of the tournament.

The final between Switzerland and Sweden notched a peak of 2.5m viewers on Swedish TV3, for a sensational 80 per cent viewing share. Swiss fans tuned in to keep the dream alive of seeing Switzerland crowned champion with the average viewership peaking at around 1.5m, a clear record number for the Alpine nation.

These figures position the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, staged in Copenhagen and Herning from 4 – 20 May 2018, as one of the most successful to date for the International Ice Hockey Federation.

Bruno Marty, Infront Senior Vice President Winter Sports: “It is the third year in a row that we have reached such numbers at the World Championship and doing so with a first-time organizer like Denmark means even more. We are very proud of the tournament we have delivered along with the Organizing Committee and the IIHF. This motivates us even more to keep working hard to grow the sport of ice hockey worldwide, also through the organization of world-class events like the one in Denmark.”

Henrik Bach Nielsen, President of the Danish Ice Hockey Federation and IIHF Council Member: “It is a great achievement for the Danish Ice Hockey movement, especially if we consider that it was the first time that Denmark was hosting this major tournament. We had a great response from the people, a lot of enthusiasm and great attendance. I would like to thank the whole team working on the World Championship, including the valuable support of Infront as our Joint Venture partner and the IIHF. With this success, we can start dreaming and we look forward to hosting the World Championship again in the future.”

Virtual advertising

One of the biggest highlights of the tournament was the introduction of virtual advertising brought by Infront in partnership with tech-company Vizrt for the first time in the history of the World Championship. Four rink boards of four meters each at the Royal Arena in Copenhagen were virtually overlaid using an innovative, machine-learning driven solution. Spectators in venue saw green IIHF branded boards, while fans watching on TV in Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus saw a completely different sponsor message. This initiative outlines the potential of virtual advertising, which allows brands to regionally market messages on a global level, delivering new value to sponsors – and more relevance for fans.

Increased fan engagement

To improve fan engagement, Infront integrated new partners into the media offering. The results brought added value to the tournament with WSC, for example, automatically producing over 5,000 professional quality videos. The best of those videos were shared across IIHF social platforms combining to reach over 12 million views.

This year, IIHF and Infront’s digital team also introduced a completely new, redesigned IIHF event website to complement a more engaging social media strategy. Using a new tone of voice and more live content, over 4,200 posts (including over 1,400 videos) were published across all social media channels.

Slovakia 2019 – Already focused on the future

The focus is already on next year’s tournament in Slovakia from 10 to 26 May 2019 in the cities of Bratislava and Kosice. It will be the second time (after 2011) that Slovakia hosts the World Championship independently. The game schedule was released earlier in August and will see Group A play in Kosice and Group B in Bratislava.

Get a complete overview of the schedule through the link below:
http://2019.iihfworlds.com/en/games/

Looking further ahead, after Slovakia the next World Championships are already set to take place in Switzerland in 2020, Belarus and Latvia in 2021 and Finland in 2022.

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