Category: Europe (page 1 of 10)

Powerhaus: Rise of German Hockey

GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA – FEBRUARY 25: Jonas Muller #41 of Germany celebrates with teammates after scoring in the third period against Olympic Athletes from Russia during the Men’s Gold Medal Game on day sixteen of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Hockey Centre on February 25, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea

By Ashley Glover – The Last Word on Hockey

Since placing second at the 2018 Winter Olympics, German hockey has been given much more respect on the world’s stage. They also appear to be becoming a somewhat new breeding ground for NHL talent. 100 point forward Leon Draisaitl has now become an elite player. Goaltenders Philipp Grubauer and Thomas Greiss are more than serviceable starters and Penguins winger Dominik Kahun can fill a role anywhere in the top-nine. These are just some of the key players who are providing a core and a pathway for the next wave of German hockey stars.

The Recent Boom in German Hockey

Recent Draft Successes

Moritz Seider, Dominik Bokk and Leon Gawanke are just some of the newer faces expected to grace NHL ice soon.

Seider, the sixth overall pick from the 2019 NHL Draft, was the DEL rookie of the year with champions Adler Mannheim. Seider also led Team Germany to a gold medal during the 2019 World Junior Division 1-A Championships. The six-foot-four defenceman projects to be a solid two-way, top-four defenceman in the NHL. He is now up to seven points (all assists) in 12 games with Detroit Red Wings AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins.

Drafted 25th overall by the St. Louis Blues in 2018, Bokk has since been traded to the Carolina Hurricanes as a part of the deal for Justin Faulk. Bokk is a highly-skilled winger with top-six upside, currently skating with Rögle BK in the SHL.

Gawanke, a 2017 fifth-round pick by the Winnipeg Jets, had a good break out last season collecting 57 points with Cape Breton in the QMJHL. The solid two-way defender is now with the Jets AHL affiliate the Manitoba Moose. The Jets are currently attempting a rebuild on their backend. If Gawanke continues to develop, he may be a player for the future.

The Prospects On The Way

Lead by potential top 10 pick Tim Stützle, the 2020 crop of draft-eligible Germans is yet again impressive. Stützle, who is a star of the DEL’s Adler Mannheim, is a smart and nimble offensive weapon playing either centre or wing. A fantastic skater with a quick release, Stützle has drawn stylistic comparisons to former NHL MVP Taylor Hall.

Lukas Reichel is one prospect who is shooting up the draft boards. Once considered a third or fourth-round pick, he is now playing his way into first-round consideration. With 11 points in 15 games so far this season with DEL club Eisbären Berlin, the crafty forward leads all German eligible prospects so far this season with six goals.

The third notable prospect is John-Jason Peterka. After a standout 94 point season in the Czech under 19 league last season and a great international output (27 points in 24 games) Peterka has made the transition into the DEL nicely. So far this season, the flashy winger has six points in 17 games with EHC München.

Germany Starting To Climb The Draft Boards

German hockey has two first-rounders in the two most recent NHL drafts (Seider and Bokk), with Stützle soon to continue their streak next season. This has been good enough to solidify Germany as the sixth-ranked country for first-rounders over three drafts. If Czech winger Jan Mysak also falls in the first round, that will see both the Czech Republic and German tied for sixth. Considering how far German hockey has come in such a short time, that would be a massive achievement. Reichel in-particular will have his chance to prove his first-round worth later this year. He will suit up for Germany in the Under-20 World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic. A good showing may just see him break that tie for sixth. With the DEL expanding in the 2021/22 season to a relegation league, the quality should improve even more.

New rinks are in the works and player numbers are back up. The Germans aren’t far away from being a regular international force. German hockey is on the rise.

Zubrus: “As a hockey nation we’re improving”

Dainius Zubrus captained the Lithuanian national team during the past two seasons and was elected president last year

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

22nd this year, 23rd last year – the Lithuanian men’s national team has only once been better in the overall placings of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program (19th in 2006) since the country’s return on the international stage after restoring independence in the early ‘90s.

Within these positions Lithuania was at the border between the second and third tier of world ice hockey. The team won the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in front of 10,170 fans on home ice in Kaunas when it beat Baltic rival Estonia for promotion.

On the roster were two legends with Dainius Zubrus and Darius Kasparaitis – playing for the first time together for their country. Kasparaitis just became eligible to represent the country of birth after having played four years of amateur hockey in Lithuania following a pro career that saw him play over 800 NHL games while representing the Soviet Union and later Russia on the international stage. For Kasparaitis it was a dream to end his career like that in the country of birth, while Zubrus came back on the ice for another year to follow up on promotion.

A year later, with a younger roster following several retirements, the Lithuanians didn’t succeed in staying up and finished the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in last place despite a surprise 2-1 win over Korea and nearly upsetting tournament favorites Belarus. The team didn’t win the games it needed to win the most, including a finale against a struggling Slovenian team that came back to life against Lithuania.

“We were inexperienced, there was a fatigue level. Altogether I’m happy with the way we played,” said Zubrus.

As a hockey nation we are improving. It’s a step into the right direction.
Dainius Zubrus
Lithuanian national team captain & president

Zubrus is sure that playing one year at Division IA level wasn’t a fluke. After all, the U18 and U20 national teams havereached similar heights in the rankings during the last few years.

Ice hockey has deep roots in the Baltic countries. In 1938 Lithuania joined the IIHF, playing in the World Championship in Prague that very same year where it finished in 10th place with a 1-3 record and a win against Romania. Then came World War II with Lithuania becoming part of the Soviet Union for almost five decades. During Soviet times ice hockey saw little development in Lithuania. Riga in Latvia was the centre for producing hockey stars in the Soviet republics of the Baltic region while Lithuania brought out world-class players in basketball.

Today Lithuania is still a basketball country, but ice hockey has won more fans in recent years also thanks to the country hosting regular IIHF tournaments in big basketball arenas in Vilnius and more recently Kaunas rather than at smaller venues on the countryside like in Elektrenai, which became the hockey hotbed of Soviet Lithuania and is the birthplace of both Zubrus and Kasparaitis.

A bankruptcy case of the old federation after hosting the Division IA in Vilnius in 2009 was a setback in the short term but created a new ice hockey federation, wider participation in league play and kids hockey, better structure and more transparent management.

Lithuania is surrounded by other countries with deep ice hockey roots: Belarus, Latvia, Poland, Russia and Sweden. That makes cross-border co-operation and opportunities for players bigger. Next week during the International Break Lithuania will compete in the Baltic Challenge Cup. After hosting the tournament last year in Klaipeda, it will take place in the Estonian capital of Tallinn from 7 to 10 November.

Two NHL legends from small countries at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A: Lithuanian captain Dainius Zubrus and Slovenian captain Anze Kopitar

One year ago Lithuania’s hockey legend Dainius Zubrus decided to run for federation president in order to take the game to the next level. The tall forward from the small town of Elektrenai, about halfway between the biggest cities of Kaunas and Vilnius, did not only play 1,293 regular-season NHL games for Philadelphia, Montreal, Washington, Buffalo, New Jersey and San Jose – he also tried to help his country in Division I play when possible. He scored his goals in the Lithuanian jersey as an active NHL player in 2005 and 2014, and came back after retiring as a professional player to defend the Lithuanian colours in 2018 and 2019. As a president he wants to leave a legacy also off the ice.

Growing the own garden

“We need more arenas, with that there will be more hockey players playing. I’m talking about kids. For us to compete at Division IA level, we need more players and we need our own players,” Zubrus said about what’s to be done. “Never mind some of these teams have players from Canada or the U.S. But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about growing our own garden at home and build a system with a competitive championship going on throughout the season from kids to men. That’s the big picture but that’s what we’re going to try.”

That’s a long way to go but today Lithuania has 2,466 players – three times as much than 10 years ago. More kids and adults in more cities are playing in the various leagues and in recent years they have been joined by female players with the Lithuanian women’s national team joining the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship program for the first time this season.

“We’re getting there slowly, small steps. We’re planning on building a couple of rinks in the big cities, in Kaunas for example there should be a rink soon that’s desperately needed. There’s a plan that will be executed fairly soon. Another arena will be built in Klaipeda, which is a port city. They have a pretty deep hockey culture there as well; even without a full-size rink there are quite a few kids playing hockey. There will hopefully be more cities like this to come,” Zubrus said. “That’s also a reason why I took on the presidency. I want these projects and developments not to be put away somewhere in the drawer. I hope politicians will do what they say and slowly we will grow.”

Lithuania will be back competing in the Division I Group B and travel to Katowice in neighbouring Poland where they will also face the teams from Japan, Estonia, Ukraine and Serbia in a battle for promotion.

Like one year ago the question will come up whether Lithuanian fans will see Zubrus once again on the ice.

“I’m not sure. Time will tell. Never say never. I’m 41,” Zubrus said.

Главное дерби страны. СКА — ЦСКА

Авторы материала: Виталий Нестеров, Денис Комаров
National Teams of Ice Hockey

23 сентября в Континентальной Хоккейной Лиге состоялось очередное армейское дерби. Забегая вперед, выскажу, что это не то дерби, что мы видели 10 дней назад — сейчас мы видели реально равную игру. А что касается буллитов, то это, конечно, мастерство + лотерея. Послематчевые броски хоккеистов СКА были однотипные, бросками в упор, без попыток обыграть вратаря. За это петербуржцы и поплатились и ЦСКА выиграл серию буллитов. Но обо всем по порядку.

Итак, NToIH представляет вам первую статью о матче КХЛ, которую я посетил в качестве журналиста.

АККРЕДИТАЦИЯ

Чтобы получить аккредитацию на матч, нужно было всего лишь на сайте КХЛ оставить заявку на посещение матча от своего имени в качестве журналиста. Проблем с получением аккредитации не было — аккредитация была одобрена за день до игры, а получил я ее часа за три до матча.
Вооружившись пропуском практически во все места, недоступные для обычного зрителя, я с моим напарником около часа обхаживали Ледовый Дворец, общаясь с болельщиками обеих команд, а также посетили пресс-центр, где на тот момент проходил сбор стюардов. Также мы застали разминку команды ЦСКА, а нападающий Кирилл Капризов, ошибочно (от волнения), названный мной Сашей, пообещал совместное фото. Фото, которое нам так и не досталось, так как Кирилла мы после матча уже не нашли.

Разовая аккредитация на матч КХЛ

МНЕНИЯ БОЛЕЛЬЩИКОВ ДО ИГРЫ

Странно, но за 40 минут до начала матча в Ледовом было очень мало народу и нас посетила мысль о том, что аншлага не будет. Но все сомнения развеялись уже ближе к началу матча — народ подоспел к стартовой сирене, а Ледовый собрал 12150 человек при вместимости в 12300.
Что удивительно, не все болельщики команды хозяев были настроены оптимистично — многие говорили о том, что ЦСКА сильнее, что игра будет тяжелая и как итог — поражение.
Попадались и болельщики СКА, которые верили даже в крупную победу своей команды.

Что касается болельщиков ЦСКА, то мы их практически не видели. Встретили лишь компанию молодых людей в форме ЦСКА и девушку, которая одиноко стояла возле своего сектора. В компании молодых людей мы нашли родственника Ванги, который предсказал, что шайбу забросит Шалунов (А он, кстати, единственный из ЦСКА кто забросил, оформив дубль), а также предсказал и точный счет. В той же компании присутствовала и «бесценная болельщица» по итогам прошлого сезона КХЛ Софья Морозова. И та компания, и «бесценная болельщица» твердили о том, что их команда победит. Чего не скажешь о болельщиках СКА. Некоторые верили в победу, а некоторые подтвердили наши опасения о том, что ЦСКА попросту сейчас сильнее. Но матч прошел в равной борьбе и закончился серией буллитов.

София Морозова (слева) — «бесценный болельщик» сезона 18\19 в компании друзей

Мы попали именно на то дерби, на которое хотели. Борьба, сейвы вратарей, упорство, непонимание того как действительно закончится матч — вот что мы увидели. В течении 60 минут мы не могли понять того, кто же станет победителем матча. И, как правило, в таких ситуациях вмешивается судьба — серия буллитов.

Все три периода прошли в нереальной борьбе. Первый период, невзирая на ничейный счет, можно оставить за армейцами Петербурга. 9-3 по броскам в пользу СКА дали нам понять, что результат последней очной встречи — чистая случайность.

На шайбу, заброшенную вторым броском Шалунова, СКА через две минуты ответил голом лучшего игрока матча — Владимира Ткачева, который также, как и Шалунов, оформил дубль.

Второй период прошел под абсолютным равенством во всех показателях, начиная от бросков и заканчивая шайбами в большинстве. ЦСКА вышел вперед, забросив в формате 5х4. СКА же ответил голом в большинстве через 5 секунд после получения оного — Владимир Ткачев на 16 минуте красиво прокатился вдоль пятака и протолкнул шайбу в домик Сорокину.

Третий период, наверное, оказался самым волнительным. По сути, должно было сработать старое правило из дворового спорта “Кто забил, тот и выиграл”. Но никто не забросил. Более того, СКА за минуту до конца периода получил преимущество в два игрока и все это время расстреливал ворота ЦСКА. Но все было тщетно.

Овертайм начался также в формате 5 на 3. Довольно редкая ситуация, когда овертайм играется в большинстве на два игрока. Но ЦСКА выстоял, честь и хвала Илье Сорокину и защите москвичей.

Что касается буллитов, то игроки СКА не пытались обыграть Илью Сорокина и бросали в упор, за что и поплатились. Единственный буллит реализовал Линден Вей. ЦСКА победил 3-2.

ПОСЛЕ МАТЧА

Досмотрев третий период, мы пошли в микст-зону ожидать игроков для интервью. Овертайм и буллиты мы смотрели уже с охраной Ледового в микст-зоне.

Первым к журналистам вышел Андрей Зубарев:

«Понадежнее сыграли в обороне, в отличие от матча с “Витязем”, потому что понимали, что любая допущенная ошибка приведет в пропущенному голу. Мы сразу после стартовой сирены пытались получить не только игровое, но и физическое преимущество, так как игра была силовая» — подытожил Андрей.

Андрей Зубарев

Следом вышел герой матча Владимир Ткачёв, который в своем 200-м матче в КХЛ отметился дублем.

«Я считаю, что мы были подготовлены и сыграли хорошо. Такие моменты, как игра 5 на 3, конечно, надо реализовывать. Будем работать на этим» — сказал Владимир в микст-зоне

Владимир Ткачев

ЧТО БЫЛО ПОТОМ?

Ожидая следующего игрока для интервью, в микст-зону вошел представитель СКА и спросил о наличии желающих посетить раздевалку команды и пообщаться с Алексеем Бывальцевым. Мы, конечно же, были в числе желающих. Немного подождав и пропустив симпатичных дам вперед, мы пообщались с нападающим. Он отметил, что игра была хорошая, СКА заставлял соперников ошибаться и удаляться. Однако реализация большинства хромает по двум причинам: невезение и доскональное изучение игры их большинства соперниками. Но Алексей пообещал, что команда поработает над большинством

ПРЕСС-КОНФЕРЕНЦИЯ

Если честно, то мы не планировали посещать послематчевую пресс-конференцию. По пути к выходу из Ледового мы встретили идущего на пресс-конференцию главного тренера ЦСКА Игоря Никитина. Договорившись о фото после матча, мы, конечно же, развернулись и прошли на свои места в пресс-центре.

Игорь Никитин: «Игра была хорошая, но тяжелая. В конце глупостей наделали. Но ребята молодчики (привет Андрею Скабелке) вытерпели»

Алексей Кудашов: «Первый и третий период были хороши по движению. Во втором периоде ЦСКА нас немного зажал, но мы выстояли. А в конце третьего периода, конечно, надо было реализовывать свои моменты. Что касается исполнения буллитов, то хоккеисты сами решали как их исполнять, требований к ним не было»

НАШЕ ВПЕЧАТЛЕНИЕ

Мы, естественно, бесконечно довольны походом на главное дерби страны в качестве журналистов. Фотографии и впечатления останутся в нашей памяти навека

Спасибо командам за прекрасный хоккей, а пресс-службу СКА за предоставление аккредитации на самый важный матч регулярного чемпионата

Plans for new Isle of Wight ice rink submitted

The group behind the plans hopes the new centre could open within the next 12 months

By BBC.com

Plans to build a new sports centre with an ice rink on the Isle of Wight have been submitted.

The island has not had an ice rink since the Ryde Arena closed in 2016, leaving skaters and ice hockey teams with nowhere to train.

A proposed indoor multi-sports facility would be built next to Smallbrooks Stadium and include tennis courts, a climbing wall and soft play area.

The group behind the plan hopes it could open within the next 12 months.

The Smallbrook Ice and Leisure Centre (SILC) group is made up of Ryde Arena Community Action Group (RACAG) – which has campaigned to re-open the old derelict ice rink – Ryde School, the Isle of Wight Council and other sports clubs.

It is in the process of applying for various grants, including Sport England, to raise funds for the project.

SILC is now trying to raise funds for the new centre by applying for various grants, including Sport England

Malcom Marshall, from RACAG, said he was “delighted”, adding it “will bring back skating and ice-hockey to the island along with a wide range of other activities for all islanders”.

As well as a full-size ice rink, the plans include two multi-sports courts for netball, volleyball, basketball, badminton or croquet, three tennis courts, a cafe and sports shop.

Ryde Arena, on the seafront, was shut by bailiffs 18 months after being taken over by a community group.

Leasehold owner AEW UK said Ryde Arena Ltd owed about £200,000 in rent arrears and terminated its lease.

This was condemned by Isle of Wight Council, which owns the freehold of the building, which has been left “mothballed”.

German ice hockey continues upward trajectory

By Deutsche Welle

Germany’s hopes of reaching the semifinals of the Ice Hockey World Championship were dashed at the hands of the Czech Republic. However, there were signs that the national team remains on an upward trajectory.

Having beaten one of the traditional ice hockey powers in the form of Finland in their final group-stage game at this year’s IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, Germany rightly hoped for much more ahead of Thursday’s quarterfinal match against another top-six team, the Czech Republic.

After all, wasn’t it just 15 months ago that the Germans stunned the hockey world by getting to the gold-medal game in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

“The Czechs were the team that we all hoped for (in the quarterfinals),” said Dominik Kahun, who was coming off of his rookie season with the Chicago Black Hawks. “This is an opponent we can beat.”

Through two periods, Kahun and Germany’s hope, or even confidence, that they could get past the Czech Republic and reach their first World Championship semifinal since 2010 looked more than justified.

Missed opportunities

However, Germany’s first bona fide NHL star Leon Draisaitl, who had a golden opportunity to take the lead on a breakaway in the first, coughed up the puck in the second, allowing the Czechs to take the lead. Still, the Germans, who have proven more than once that they are now capable of coming back from a deficit, capitalized on a mistake by the Czech goalie to even the score just four minutes later.

The Czechs, though, took control in the third, striking first on a counterattack to take the advantage – then converting another. As if to emphasize that all luck had deserted Germany on the night, the Czechs converted another two goals to make it 5-1. It was a scoreline that by no means reflected the actual game, as Germany’s new head coach Toni Söderholm noted.

‘All according to plan’

“Through 40 minutes things were going according to our game plan, and we created some good goal-scoring chances. After that, we were a bit unlucky, and a good opponent will take advantage of this,” Söderholm said.

While Germany’s relatively inexperienced Finnish coach and his players were understandably disappointed by what now may seem like an early exit, there are a number of positives to be taken from how the Eishockeynationalmannschaft fared in Slovakia.

Best finish since 2010

First, based on Germany’s history at the worlds, this was actually no early exit. Eighth-ranked Germany finished sixth at this tournament, their highest placing since they reached the semifinals on home soil in 2010.
Another positive is the fact that by getting to the quarterfinals in Slovakia, they have already qualified for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. This is significant for a country that failed to make it to the Olympics not so long ago.

Newfound confidence

Perhaps most impressive, though, is the fact that the Germans actually believed they could beat the Czechs, a team they have a terrible record against and haven’t beaten in 25 years.

“The fact that all of us are so disappointed, shows how close we were,” said captain Moritz Müller of a team that prior to the Marco Sturm era would have been happy just to have reached the quarterfinals.

“We’ve proven that we are a top-eight nation. And our aim now must be to beat the big teams,” he added.
This newfound self-confidence was on display throughout the tournament – apart from Germany’s 8-1 drubbing against Canada. To their credit, the Germans bounced back from that debacle with a credible performance against the United States, another one of the traditional hockey powers.  

Early on in the tournament, German Ice Hockey Association (DEB) President Franz Reindl even noted that the atmosphere around the team “reminds me of Pyeongchang”.

Powerplay 2026′

But Reindl and the DEB have long been looking far beyond this tournament. After he took office in 2014, the DEB launched “Powerplay 2026”, a program meant to broaden ice hockey’s base in Germany and improve the development of youth players. The aim is to get German ice hockey to the point where the national team will be capable of credibly challenging for medals at the worlds on a consistent basis.

One player who could be part of reaching that goal is 18-year-old Moritz Seider, a defenseman just coming off his first full professional season with Adler Mannheim, with whom he won the DEL championship, Germany’s top hockey. Seider was one of Germany’s bright lights in Slovakia and is widely expected to go in the first round of the NHL draft next month.

And while it may be too early to pronounce Powerplay 2026 a success, what looked a far-fetched goal prior to February of last year now looks a bit more realistic – even after losing 5-1 in a World Championship quarterfinal. 

Texier making history

French forward Alexandre Texier celebrates after scoring his first IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship goal in the game against Slovakia

By Andrew Podnieks – IIHF.com

Twelve came before him. Twelve players who have appeared in an NHL game were born in France. Three were really Canadian – Maxime Sauve, Paul MacLean, Pat Daley – so the true number is nine.

The most famous are surely Philippe Bozon and Cristobal Huet. Andre Peloffy is retired, and six are active – Stephane DaCosta, Antoine Roussel, Xavier Ouellet, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Yohann Auvitu, Kalle Kossila.

And then there is Alexandre Texier. As of 5 April 2019, he is lucky number 13. Born in Grenoble, the 19-year-old is already important in French hockey because he is the first from his country to be drafted out of the domestic league, the Ligue Magnus.

Two years ago, the Columbus Blue Jackets selected him 45th overall, and since then his career has taken off.

“It’s great for the French league, but for me I just want to play in the NHL,” Texier began. “It’s great for the young guys in France. You have to follow your dream. But you have to work hard, no matter how much talent you have.”

Texier played for the Grenoble Bruleurs de Loups, the same team his father played for 30 years ago. But after being drafted he moved to Finland to accelerate his development. He put on weight and gained strength and worked on skills and every aspect of his game.

I didn’t expect anything about the draft. I was just playing in the French league, trying my best, and good things happened. I enjoyed that moment, but it’s only one step.
Alexandre Texier
French forward

For two years Texier played for KalPa Kuopio, scoring 63 points in 108 games between 2017 and 2019. He led the team in scoring in that second year, and after the season that’s when things started to take off.

Because the European regular season finishes much earlier than the NHL, Columbus signed him just a couple of months ago and assigned him to their AHL team, the Cleveland Monsters. It was a welcome, but completely unexpected, promotion.

“I started the year in Finland and just wanted to get better with every game,” Texier said. “I didn’t have any special expectations, just play a physical game. I didn’t want to think too much.”

Whatever adjustments he may have had to deal with – smaller ice, more physical game, new culture – he made them immediately. In seven games with the Monsters, he scored five goals.

“I cannot compare between Finland and the AHL,” he continued. “It’s different hockey. There are a lot of young guys in the AHL, so I tried to keep things simple.”

Impressed, GM Jarmo Kekalainen called him up to the big club, and on 5 April he was in the line-up for a road game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden in New York. The team won, 3-2, in a shootout, and Texier had 11:49 of ice time.

A day later, in Ottawa, he scored his first goal. It came on a two-on-one, and it was an international goal. That is, Dane Oliver Bjorkstrand made the pass to the Frenchman Texier, who ripped a nice shot past Swedish goalie Anders Nilsson.

“I was so happy to play in that first game,” he smiled. “My family was there, and the next game I scored. The puck is on my wall now. It was a great experience for me.”

Texier relishes his past and is proud of what he’s done, but it’s clear his ambitions are far greater. What’s done is done, and it’s the future to which he sets his sights. That means keeping France in the top level of the World Championship, and becoming an even better player in the NHL next season.

“It was a great year for me this year,” he said, “so I’m happy, but now I’m here at this World Championship and this is my focus. The work comes first, if you want to play in the NHL. This is the first step for me, but it’s going to be hard. I have to prepare and be ready for next year. I have to be way better, on the ice and off the ice. I have to work on my shot, on my skills, my physical game, everything. This is just the beginning.”

Latvia lifted by NHL rookies

Latvia’s Rudolfs Balcers and Teodors Blugers after the 3-0 win over Italy

By Andy Pottts – IIHF.com

For the Latvian national team, adding NHL talent to the roster is always a big deal. The Baltic nation punches above its weight in international hockey and when representatives of its relatively small player pool get to make it in the big league, it can bring a huge lift for the whole team.

So this year, with two youngsters making their NHL debuts, there’s a sense of excitement in the Latvian camp. Rudolfs Balcers (Ottawa Senators) and Teodors Blugers (Pittsburgh Penguins) have picked up favourable notices across the Atlantic – and made an impressive start to life in Bratislava.

Balcers was the immediate impact guy. Just like last season, he got Latvia’s first goal in the championship, responding quickly after Austria snatched the lead against the run of play in Saturday’s opening game. And his evening got even better with three assists as Latvia moved to a 5-2 victory. Further helpers in the 1-3 loss to Switzerland and Monday’s 3-0 win over Italy took him to 6 (1+5) points for the championship and kept him in touch with the tournament scoring leaders.

Then there was Blugers, better known as Teddy in Pittsburgh, who had two assists in that opening game despite recovering from a leg injury that restricted his training in the build-up to the championship. The pair started off on a line with team captain Lauris Darzins and looked impressive, although the decision to separate them for the Swiss game did not pay off so handsomely. However, head coach Bob Hartley was in no doubt about their importance to his team.

“Balcers is a magician with the puck,” he said of the 22-year-old. “He finds the puck and the puck seems to find him. He was a real strength for us against Austria, along with Ronalds Kenins and Rodrigo Abols.”

As for Blugers, 24, Hartley added: “He’s a great two-way centre and he’s growing into a great professional with Pittsburgh. He understands the importance of the defensive game but offensively he is much more skilled than most.”

Balcers impressed last season as Latvia reached the quarter-finals in Denmark and he immediately looked comfortable back on the World Stage. His six-point haul from 2018 made him the team’s leading scorer, but that mark is already under threat with five from two games in Bratislava. However, he remains modest in assessing his progress after a big year in his fledgling career.

“There some things I got better at, at least I think so, but there’s still stuff I’ve got to work on,” he said. “That’s true in this tournament too. It’s just the start, I’m trying to get the feel for the game and try to get better every time.”

Certainly, a return to Europe’s larger ice is doing no harm for the forward. “You get the puck and you have that little bit more time, you can make that extra play or hold on for a second. That’s maybe the biggest difference. But I don’t know if it’s simpler, a lot depends who you play too.”

Others are happier to blow Balcers’ trumpet for him. Kenins, who picked up a goal off a feed from the Senators rookie, was delighted to work with a player who reads the game so well. “He’s a great player,” he said. “I just needed to make a sound and he saw me in the slot and picked me out there.”

Back in Ottawa, coach Guy Boucher has spoken of his man’s ability to adapt, citing the way Balcers learned from a juddering experience in his first road game and bounced back the following night to counter the physicality of the NHL.

And Blugers is also a fan of his fellow rookie. “He’s a very good player. His game always consists of finding opportunities. He can get away one-on-one and he can see the game very well. I think he was our best player against Austria.”

As for his own progress, Blugers insisted that there were no ill-effects from that injury – and more than 22 minutes on the ice suggests that the youngster is fully fit and raring to go. Hartley is keen to get as much use as possible from him. “He has a good face-off and he can also play power play and penalty kill. It’s important for us that he’s recovered from his injury.”

Liam Kirk is the 19-year-old who could put British hockey on the map

Nineteen-year-old Liam Kirk and his Great Britain teammates will open play in Group A against Germany on May 11 at the Ice Hockey World Championships in Slovakia

By Emily Kaplan – ESPN

GROWING UP IN Maltby, England, Liam Kirk dreamed of playing for the Sheffield Steelers, the local professional hockey team.

Though there were a few rinks nearby, ice time for hockey teams was scarce. Kirk’s junior team played only 19 games a season and trained just once a week. He often practiced outside his house with rollerblades. At 17, Kirk made the Steelers and began playing among grown men. The forward was tall and thin but had soft hands and a quick release, and international scouts took notice. That’s when Kirk realized there was an even bigger hockey world out of his purview. “Everything after that is kind of a whirlwind,” Kirk says. “My new dream was to make the NHL.”

Last June, Kirk was selected by the Arizona Coyotes, in the seventh round, to become the first English-born-and-trained player to be drafted into the NHL. At 5 a.m. the day after being drafted, Kirk was on a plane to Phoenix to participate in the Coyotes’ development camp. He spent this past fall living with a billet family in Peterborough, Ontario, as he played for the Petes of the Ontario Hockey League, one of the top junior leagues in North America where he could compete with some of the best players in his age group.

Living in Canada, Kirk was in awe of hockey’s popularity. “You don’t get questions like I did growing up, like, ‘Oh, you play ice hockey?'” he says. “The passion was so present. There are rinks everywhere. You walk around, you see hockey; you turn on the TV, you see hockey.”

When the season was over in March, Kirk returned home and trained with the national team to prepare for the Ice Hockey World Championships (May 10-26). Now the 19-year-old has an even bigger dream: “I want to help put British hockey on the map.” Kirk’s North American exposure means he could be the talent who raises the profile of hockey in Great Britain. He could also give young British players hope — and a new dream to strive for. And the Worlds will be his first test toward achieving all of that.

In regular-season play with the Peterborough Petes, Kirk scored 26 goals, the third-highest tally on the team. The top scorer had 29

GREAT BRITAIN IS competing in the top division of the World Championships for the first time since 1994. In the tournament, Team GB will be in a group with world superpowers such as Canada and the United States, meaning it will face NHL superstars like Patrick Kane, Jack Eichel and John Tavares.

The Brits won promotion last spring by winning the World Championship Division A in Hungary. That team’s slogan? “Livin’ the Dream,” a mantra it will take to Slovakia.

“I think there’s a lot of pessimistic people in the UK, who believe now that Great Britain is in the top flight, they’re going to come down,” says Andy French, Ice Hockey UK’s general secretary. “Great Britain isn’t a hockey country. It’s a football country, it’s a rugby country, it’s a cricket country. But I think we might surprise a few people. What they don’t realize is, we’ve been building up for a while, and everything is going in the right direction.”

The most noticeable change: Of the 23 players on the 1994 roster, 15 of them were dual nationals, mostly Canadian. Now? There are only five dual nationals on the roster — and the rest are purely homegrown. What’s more: Kirk is the only player who doesn’t play in the UK’s Elite Ice Hockey League (where the Sheffield Shields play), a testament to that league’s growth.

The men’s national team won bronze at the 1924 Olympics and gold in 1936, but the sport never really took off the way it did in other European countries — mostly due to the lack of available ice and popularity of other sports. When Great Britain qualified for the 1994 World Championships, it was its first appearance since 1951, but it failed to even earn a point.

At the World Championships, Great Britain will compete in the top division for the first time since 1994.

There have been encouraging signs recently. French says youth hockey numbers are growing year to year at approximately 80 to 100 registrations among males and females. The country is at around 12,000 registered players across all age levels, including university and recreational men and women. (For context, Finland, a country with less than a 10th of the UK’s population, has more than 70,000 registered players.)

Once the Great Britain men’s senior national team qualified for the World Championships last spring, interest spiked. Companies began calling. “We managed, for the first time in the history of the team, to secure major sponsorships throughout the GB program,” French says. “Not only for the men, but for the U18 and women’s team, too.” The company Lucas is the main sponsor, and will have patches on the team’s sweater. Ice Tech UK is the team’s helmet sponsor.

Even Kirk landed a personal deal with the travel pillow company Trtl — something rare for a seventh-round pick playing in juniors, who is probably still a long shot for the NHL.

Team GB is one of the few ice hockey federations that has a fan support club; French has been assisting fans with travel and ticket allocation for Slovakia. He says there will be close to 1,000 fans on site to cheer on the Brits.

PETER RUSSELL WAS appointed as the men’s national team coach in 2015 and created a five-year plan to bring the team back to relevancy. He achieved it in four.

It helps that Russell came up through the ranks, coaching the country’s U18 team, then U20.

“There’s no pressure on [the team],” French says. “We’re coming in obviously as the underdog. We are ranked 22 in the world, even though we are in the top 16 obviously at the World Championship. So we’re just going to take them as it comes and see what happens. We’re really just living the dream.”

Still, the team has its work cut out. “Our main goal is to stay in the group,” assistant coach Adam Keefe said. Keefe is a Canadian who came to Northern Ireland in 2011 to play for the Belfast Giants, and then stayed to coach them when he retired in 2017. His brother is Toronto Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe.

“Pete has the mentality that we’re not going to change our style now that we’re playing up,” Keefe says. “We’re aggressive; we’re a work-ethic team. It’s going to be tough to skate with these teams, but we’ll have to be an extreme work-ethic team [to] make sure these teams have to beat us. Our guys have a lot of pride in their nation and in their group. Any time you have that buy-in, you have a chance. Sure, we’re going to need a little luck, but we have something special here.”

The tournament is an international showcase for Team GB, but also a passing of the guard. “Liam Kirk is obviously the future of this team, but Colin Shields is the highest-scoring British national team player. He’s 39,” Keefe says. “He just retired from my team [the Belfast Giants], and he’s played 19 years for this nation and now he gets the chance to play at the highest level. So you have the youth coming in and the veteran leadership going out.”

Shields, born in Scotland, played for the University of Maine and was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, but he never made it past the ECHL in North America before returning to the UK.

There are other players with UK roots sprinkled in North America. One of them is Chicago Blackhawks forward Brendan Perlini, who was born in England and lived there until he was 11 before moving to Canada. Perlini has played for Canada internationally, but his brother Brett is on Team GB for the World Championships.

If Team GB gets a smidge of success in the World Championships, Perlini figures it could be huge for the growth of ice hockey. “I know how patriotic they are with football — the whole country is behind them,” Perlini says. “Then you have someone like Mo Farah, the long-distance runner, everyone loves him. Anyone who does decently there is important. If [Team GB does] well in this tournament, it’s a huge step for them.”

Adds French: “This is a huge moment for British hockey and really important for hockey in the UK. All the little kiddies, they obviously look up to the NHL players. But they’re actually going to see Great Britain players — that they can see domestically, week in and week out — play against NHL superstars, and that will make them seem like superstars.”

And maybe inspire some new hockey dreams. After all, it’s hard to dream what you can’t see.

National ice hockey federations of Russia and Uzbekistan sign cooperation agreement

 

By Russian Tass News Agency

The Russian Ice Hockey Federation (RHF) and the Ice Hockey Federation of Uzbekistan (IHFU) have inked a cooperation of agreement, the RHF press service announced on Monday.

The cooperation agreement between the national ice hockey federations of Russia and Uzbekistan was signed by RHF President Vladislav Tretiak and IHFU chief Bakhtiyor Fazylov,

The agreement stipulates a calendar of friendly matches between the national teams of both countries as well as bilateral encounters between the youth teams of Russia and Uzbekistan.

The deal also envisages cooperation in the implementation of programs regarding training schools for coaches and referees as well as the organization of educational and training conferences.

Dmitry Chernyshenko, the president of Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), announced earlier in the year that the Russia-based league was likely to expand the current number of its participating clubs and confirmed information that an ice hockey club from Uzbekistan voiced intentions joining the league.

The Kontinental Hockey League was founded in Russia in 2008 and currently lists 25 professional ice hockey clubs from Russia, Belarus, China, Finland, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Slovakia.

International experts deem the KHL as the premier ice hockey league in Europe and Asia ranking it as the world’s second most important right on the heels of the US-based NHL (the National Hockey League).

KHL President Chernyshenko stated in September 2018 that the league chalked up 3.5 billion rubles (over $50.3 million) in revenue for the 2017/2018 season.

Ice Arena and Swimming Pool will be built in Batumi

By National Teams of Ice Hockey

A new ice arena and a swimming pool will be built in Batumi. According to Ramaz Bolkvadze, consultations are underway and to be completed by September 1st, 2019.  It is known that the ice arena should be designed to carry out training- processes and different levels of competitions specifically figure skating and ice hockey .

As well as for massive skiing, cultural-spectacular and entertaining events, holidays, concerts and exhibitions. The swimming pool should be designed for swimming, water polo and mass swimming competitions.

Total approximate cost of the project is 46 million GEL. Construction must be completed within 2 years after the contract is concluded.

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