Category: IIHF (page 1 of 2)

China set for Olympic ice hockey

By Martin Merk –

The 2018 IIHF Annual Congress has started with a first session in Copenhagen prior to the quarter-final games of the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship and will continue tomorrow.

The biggest news was the congress decision to allow host China to enter a men’s and a women’s ice hockey team in the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing. Like in the case of Korea for the recent 2018 Olympics, China as the host will not have to go through the qualification process and get an automatic entry.

More details on the qualification process will be announced at a later stage. The men’s ice hockey tournament is planned with 12 teams as until now while for the women’s ice hockey tournament discussions are going on between the IIHF, the IOC and the Chinese organizer to extend from eight to ten teams. In 2019 the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship will be played with ten teams for the first time.

Since being awarded the 2022 Olympics, promising changes have been made in China. The hockey program has gone through restructuring with an ice hockey federation that is separate from the ice sports centre and is now headed by Weidong Cao.

China has also reached out abroad for support both to players of Chinese origin abroad but also to other organizations. In men’s ice hockey China has a club team Kunlun Red Star, which participates in Russia’s top league KHL and China also has two teams in the second-tier VHL and a junior team in the top Russian junior league MHL. On the women’s side Kunlun Red Star and a second Chinese team played in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League last season and China also sent girls’ teams to compete in the United States.

The changes will be very welcome to make the Chinese teams more competitive. The men’s team is ranked 33rd in the world and the women’s team 20th. While the men’s team has never played in a top-level event, the women’s team has a history in elite ice hockey. China was fourth in the first Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament in Nagano 1998 and also participated at the Olympics in 2002 and 2010. China also played in the top-level IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship each time between 1992 and 2009 reaching fourth place in 1994 and 1997 and hosted the 2008 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Harbin.

Other Congress news from Day 1

Three changes in the IIHF membership have been approved by Congress. Kuwait and Turkmenistan have now full membership status after having played in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program this season.

In Portugal the ice sports federation has been integrated into the Portuguese Winter Sports Federation (FDI), which is now the Portuguese member in the IIHF with associate member status.

200 days to Olympics

By Andrew Podnieks –

Today marks exactly 200 days until the 2018 Olympic Winter Games will open. With the Olympic ice hockey tournaments in PyeongChang not far away, we take this summer day to look forward to what will be the pre-eminent event on the international calendar in 2017/18.

Where will games be played?
The 2018 Olympics features two venues for hockey, the 10,000-seat Gangneung Hockey Centre and the Kwandong Hockey Centre (capacity 6,000). Both arenas have an international ice surface. All ice sports will be played in the coastal city of Gangneung. The KTX high-speed train is being extended to PyeongChang and Gangneung. Travel time between Seoul and the Incheon airport to Gangneung will thus be reduced to 68 minutes.

When do the ice hockey games begin?
The game schedules are not final yet but ice hockey is planned during all days of the Olympics starting on 10th February, the day after the opening ceremony, with the women’s ice hockey tournament until 25th February, the day of the closing ceremony. The men’s tournament is proposed to start of 14th February.

What is the time difference?
Korean Standard Time in the winter is six hours ahead of Moscow time, eight hours ahead of Central European Time and 14 hours ahead of Eastern Time in North America.

What countries have qualified for the men’s tournament?
The top-eight countries from the 2015 IIHF World Ranking automatically qualified as well as three countries through qualifying events and the hosts from Korea. In all, 12 teams in three groups will play. Group A features Canada, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Korea. Group B includes Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, United States. Group C has Sweden, Finland, Germany, and Norway.

Will NHL players participate?
The NHL announced that it will not make a break for the Olympic Winter Games. All teams will have to create a roster using non-NHL players mostly from Europe and other leagues in North America. This marks the first time since 1994 that this will happen, but the tournament format remains the same. Teams will play a round robin series of games within their group, no team being eliminated at this stage. The top four teams receive byes to the quarter-finals while teams 5 to 12 play a qualification game, the winners also moving on to the quarters.

Who is the favourite?
Typically, Canada would have been considered the favourite as it has won the gold in three of the last four Olympics (except 2006), but the Russians must be mentioned as well because several top NHLers have returned to the KHL for the coming season to ensure they can play in Korea. There is most definitely an uncertainty for the other teams, a sense of the unknown, which will make the Olympics exciting in its own right, in a different way from the NHL years.

Does Korea have any hope at all?
Four years ago, one might have answered with an emphatic no! But under Jim Paek the nation has improved quickly and radically. Indeed, Korea qualified for the 2018 IIHF Ice World Championship in Denmark strictly on its own merit, earning promotion from the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A to the top this past spring by leaving countries like Hungary and Kazakhstan behind. Of course, a medal might seem a long shot, but the team is likely to be more competitive than many have thought a few years ago.

What about the women’s tournament?
The top-five teams of the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Ranking qualified automatically while two teams had to go through qualification tournaments and the Koreans got an automatic spot as hosts. The format will be the same as recent times. The top-four teams will be in Group A and all will qualify for the playoff elimination. The top-two will advance directly to the semi-finals while the 3rd and 4th-place teams will play the top-two teams from Group B in a quarter-finals round. Group A consists of the top-four seeded teams USA, Canada, Finland and Russia. Sweden, Switzerland, Japan and Korea will play in the “lower” Group B.

Who is the favourite?
It’s no surprise that the North Americans are still considered odd-on bet to make the gold medal game, but Finland’s stunning victory over Canada at this past Women’s World Championship in Plymouth is cause for optimism among the European countries. Between the North Americans, logic dictates that the U.S. is favoured because it has won the gold at the 2015, 2016, and 2017 Worlds, but, paradoxically, Canada has won the last four Olympic golds. In short, it’s a toss-up. Again.

What happens between now and February?
Canada and the United States have already started centralizing programs while the Europeans will place extra emphasis on training as a team as often as possible. Counties will play various exhibition games in the coming months to prepare for the Olympics.

IIHF adds eight to Hall

By John Sanful –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joint bid from Belarus & Latvia wins tight race

Martin Merk –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women’s Worlds grows

By Martin Merk –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New WW format proposed

By Martin Merk –

The IIHF Council recommended a proposal of the IIHF Women’s Committee during its recent meeting in March to extend the number of participating teams in the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship from eight to ten teams.

All national associations participating in the program have been informed accordingly about this idea following the meeting to ensure the teams are aware of the initiative ahead of this year’s tournaments.

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

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

Path to ten teams

The 2017 IIHF Annual Congress will discuss the proposal in May in Cologne during the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. If the IIHF membership accepts the proposal, the new format for 2018/2019 will be reached as follows:

  • No team in the entire 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship program will be relegated.
  • Teams winning their division in the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship program will be promoted to the next level as usual.
  • Similar like during the last Olympic year, the 2017/2018 season will not include a top-level Women’s World Championship due to the 2018 Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament while the other divisions will be played in 2017/2018. At all these tournaments the winning team will be promoted to the next level and no team will be relegated.
  • These steps will create a ten-team top division for the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Finland while the other divisions will operate with six teams as usual.

If the proposal will be approved, the IIHF Competition and Coordination Committee will work with the IIHF Women’s Committee to create the best possible playing format for the new ten-team IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship starting in the 2018/2019 ice hockey season.

No changes during 2017 IIHF WW

The proposal does for the moment not change anything in the events of the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship program meaning that the last-ranked team in each division is considered relegated until the eventual approval of the new format in May and the best-of-three relegation round will be played at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship currently taking place in Plymouth, Michigan, USA, knowing that there are two possible outcomes for next season pending Congress’ decision about the new format.

Challenge Cup of Asia begins

By Martin Merk –

A new season begins for the IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia with two tournaments being held in the Thai capital of Bangkok during the next two-and-a-half weeks.

Nine days after the end of the Asian Winter Games that involved 24 national teams in four tournaments more international tournaments await Asia. The Challenge Cup of Asia is mainly aimed at countries that do not, or not yet, participate in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program or do not fulfil the criteria to do so, and gives them the opportunity to compete against each other on an annual basis on their continent.

On Tuesday the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia begins in Bangkok. For most teams it will be the first tournament of the season as only Thailand participated in the Asian Winter Games’ women’s ice hockey tournament. The hosts enter the tournament as the top-seeded team. Singapore, Malaysia and Malaysia also return from last year’s event.

The United Arab Emirates are back in the competition after a break last year while the Philippine women’s national team will have its international debut. For the first time New Zealand will participate with the U18 women’s national team. It will be their debut in an official event after having previously played exhibition games against Australia and against club teams.

The women’s tournament will be held as a seven-team round-robin tournament from 7 to 15 March and once it’s over, the rink will be busy with men’s hockey for the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia from 17 to 23 March.

The men’s top-division tournament includes the United Arab Emirates, Mongolia, Thailand, Singapore, Kyrgyzstan and Malaysia who will play a six-team round robin. All teams recently participated in the Asian Winter Games where Thailand had most success of these teams winning the men’s Division I tournament ahead of Chinese Taipei, the United Arab Emirates and Mongolia.

Both tournaments will be held at international-size The Rink Ice Arena, which is located on the seventh floor of the CentralPlaza Grand Rama 9 shopping mall in the Ratchadapisek area of Bangkok.

The third tournament will be the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia Division I to be held 22-30 April in Kuwait City. Seven teams will battle for promotion to the top division here. Macau, Qatar and India return from last year’s event, host Kuwait and Oman stage their comeback after missing last year’s event and Turkmenistan and the Philippines will play their first IIHF-sanctioned games. Both teams will travel to Kuwait with high hopes after their international debut in February in the men’s Division II tournament of the Asian Winter Games that was won by Turkmenistan while the Philippines reached third place.

Challenge Cup of Asia Schedule

Barkov confident about future of Chinese hockey

By Alistair McMurran –

China’s surprise 2-1 loss to Turkey in the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division III final will not dint the confidence of new head coach Alexander Barkov.

The experienced Russian coach, who also played and coached in Finland and is the father of Finnish national team and NHL forward Aleksander Barkov, was hired late to become the head coach of the Chinese men’s under-20 side that was expected to win the U20 Division III gold medal.

China was demoted from Division II Group B last year and was desperate to get promotion back to the higher grade.

There is an air of expectation in Chinese ice hockey circles that the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022 will lift the profile and standard of the sport in their country.

China is currently ranked 37th in the world. If it stayed at this level they would be easy beats at the Olympic Games. Therefore there are ambitions to make China Olympic-ready.

“We don’t want to go there at the level where hockey in China is now. We are determined to improve the hockey standard in China,” the 51-year-old Barkov said.

Barkov and his assistants have only been working with the Chinese under-20 national since being appointed late in December. In that short time he has improved the speed on the ice and the attitude of the Chinese players. But there remains a lot of work to do.

But his ambitions for Chinese hockey go further than this. He wants China to be competitive at the 2022 Olympics Winter Games in Beijing.

The surprise 2-1 loss has shown Barkov that there is work to be done to get his team winning tight games when there is sustained pressure from their opponents.

The job at the moment for Barkov is to build a hockey system in China that will lift the ranking of China from 37th where it stands at the moment. He has a contract to work with Chinese hockey until the Winter Olympics in 2022.

“This was just a first step because many of these players will be in the Chinese Olympic team then,” Barkov said.

“It is our long-term project to bring these kids to a higher standard. It starts with work ethics and attitude and ends with the coaching skills from the team staff.”

The Chinese team demonstrated sound team work on the ice and the speed of the players on the ice has improved.

“We’ve been training to get speed on skates and everything else,” Barkov said. “We spend time on all the basics – shooting, and tactics.”

They play a European style of hockey and know how to use every part of the ice rink.

“We always use as much of the ice as is possible,” Barkov said. “We try to use the skills that the players have. We are not asking them to do anything they cannot do.

“We ask the players to follow the coach’s instructions on the ice but still leave room for the players to use their own skills and imagination.”

Barkov, a former centre, had a long career in the Soviet Union with his hometown team Sibir Novosibirsk and Spartak Moscow. After a short stint in Italy he later played for Tappara Tampere in Finland for ten years.

He represented Russia at three World Championships (1992, 1997, 1999) and then started coaching.

He was an junior coach at Tappara Tampere and an assistant coach for the senior team, then worked for Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Ak Bars Kazan and Amur Khabarovsk in the Kontinental Hockey League for four years.

He then had a short stint with the Finnish under-20 team where the entire coaching staff was replaced during the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship before becoming the Chinese coach afterwards.

Newly elected Council meets with delegates

By Martin Merk –

Delegates from most of the 77 IIHF member countries came together for the 2016 IIHF Semi-Annual Congress to discuss about the upcoming season but also about the future.

It was the first Congress for the IIHF Council that was newly elected for a four-year term in May and the International Ice Hockey Federation’s executive body wanted to use this opportunity to interact with the delegates in workshop sessions led by IIHF President René Fasel.

The planned committees were presented to the delegates by their chairpersons and the delegates and guests had the opportunity to ask questions and give their inputs. It was a session and opportunity that was visibly appreciated and used by the IIHF membership.

The session started with A like Asia. With the next two Olympic Winter Games in the Far East, the session started with the Asian Committee led by IIHF Vice President Thomas Wu.

“Asia is a big market of growth. We have more than 20 members but the standard of hockey is at a very different state in the various countries and grows at different speeds. We work among the countries but also with the entire hockey world to get support from the bigger countries,” Wu said.

Asked about the new KHL team in Beijing, Wu praised the initiative to bring that calibre of hockey to China and to make people interested in hockey.

During the next winter, the Asian Winter Games will also be on the list. 20 countries expressed the interest to play with 20 men’s and seven women’s team at the event in Sapporo, Japan.

Next was IIHF Council member and former world-class goalie Vladislav Tretiak with the Athletes Committee.

“We think about safety, about respect. Some parents don’t want to send the players into the game because they’re afraid of injuries,” Tretiak expressed one concern specifically mentioning head injuries. Another is the position he used to play himself.

“Today we have very big goaltenders who are up to two metres tall. We need to think about changing the equipment or making the goals bigger. Nobody wants to see 0-0 games. We will keep thinking about how to improve the game for the public,” he said.

It’s this but also many other topics the committee members will discuss to make sure the athletes’ voice is represented within the IIHF.

“We have to listen to athletes about their concerns on food, accommodation, formats and other topics. It’s our mission to listen to them. We have to promote hockey especially in the field of player safety,” he said.

That’s a good buzzword since there will be a Player Safety Committee in place as well. It will be a committee with wide representation with experts from different areas.

“It’s about rules, equipment, facilities, coaches. We will be working with all other committees to get inputs,” said IIHF Vice President Bob Nicholson, who will chair the committee. “To recruit and retain players you need a safe game for top players, young girls and boys. We need to have rules and an environment in place to have the safest possible conditions.”

Newly elected Council member Franz Reindl will chair the Competition & Coordination Committee where he has previously served as a member. As the title says it’s about competitions but also to coordinate the efforts with representatives from different stakeholders – IIHF, national associations, leagues and clubs.

“It’s more than 100 games for the best players, it’s incredible,” the Olympic bronze medallist of 1976 said. “We need to co-ordinate it. It’s homework on one side but on the other side we have to bring people together on one table to find solutions. To fulfil the mandate we need the right people to do it and we need to listen. Then we can create something together. We have a lot to talk and we have a lot to solve.”

The IIHF goes a slightly different way for the Coaching Committee where Hockey Canada President and CEO Tom Renney will be the co-chair. He’s not a Council member but his experience in this area is second to none working with grassroots program to top-level hockey in Canada and having been a top-level coach with the Canadian men’s national team and NHL clubs until just a few years ago.

“I see opportunities for ice hockey to do exceptional things through our great game. The leadership of coaches is very important in the children’s lives,” he said.

He also thinks about a certification program that’s harmonized globally, but first about auditing around the world where the countries and their philosophies are. “Once we understand where people are in the game of coaching development, then we can think about what to do. In today’s world coaching couldn’t me more important in any sport. It’s important for the lifestyle of people.”

The Event and Evaluation Committee will be led IIHF Vice President Kalervo Kummola, who talked in his speech about the immense development in the last decades that can also be seen in the World Championship program with many new venues that have been built. “Getting new facilities is important not only to host championships but also the leave a legacy and help the local people,” he said and hopes that there will be more applicants for top-level events in the future.

The Ethics and Integrity Committee has been newly established for the new four-year term and will be led by outgoing IIHF Council member Beate Grupp and as an external person Michael McNamee.

“If you hear the word ethics, it’s not always associated with good thoughts,” Grupp said in reference to other organizations making headlines. “When we sit here in four years we want to have positive thoughts about ethics and integrity. It’s educational, advisory instruments that will have a positive impact in our family. We will have a lot of success and positive impact,” she said.

Michael McNamee is an expert in sport ethics and a professor at the University of Swansea in Great Britain.

“The principles of good governance, accountability, transparency and so forth are nowadays taken very seriously by international organizations,” he said and praised that “the IIHF doesn’t wait for a crisis but takes an active approach in topics like anti-doping, match fixing and player safety.”

Two newly elected Council members will co-chair the Officiating Committee with Sergej Gontcharov from Belarus and Marta Zawadzka from Poland.

“One of the several tasks we have is to create a library of educational resources also to encourage young players to become referees and stay in the family, grow the pool of female referees, help also the smaller nations with their officiating programs,” said Gontcharov. Zawadzka will bring in valuable on-ice experience as a long-time referee and from the women’s hockey side.

The Youth & Junior Development Committee will be chaired by new Council member and former Czech national team goaltender Petr Briza, who recently led the successful 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship organizing committee and is the owner and chairman of Czech club Sparta Prague.

“We want to help the development process, what happens at the clubs with the kids between 6 and 15,” Briza said. “During the last five years we have had 250,000 more players who play around the globe, especially more female players. Everybody needs a long-term plan. More players means better quality of hockey. We have to make the work right because mistakes we do now will be felt in 15 years.”

The growth of women’s hockey remains in focus and the Women’s Committee will be co-chaired by the two female Council members, long-time Hungarian national team player Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer and Marta Zawadzka.

“Women’s ice hockey is still one of the fastest growing female sports in the world and the development globally is very fast,” Kolbenheyer said. “The North American countries are still far ahead and we need to support the other countries to develop women’s hockey. It’s a special committee since it touches many aspects of hockey and other committees as well.”

While many committees deal with core aspects of the sport there are also several committees dealing with other important topics surrounding it.

Kalervo Kummola will chair the newly created TV/New Media/Marketing Committee with his business background from television in Finland and his role in the negotiation process of the new marketing contract with Infront Sport & Media.

“It’s a fast-moving world and we want to be at the top,” he said about the current development. “We want that people are following ice hockey every day.”

With Don DeGregorio an person with vast legal experience from USA Hockey will lead the Legal Committee as well as the new IIHF Governance Reform Group. He and IIHF General Secretary Horst Lichtner outlined that in 2018 it will be the next time to make changes to the IIHF Statutes & Bylaws, so the work is starting soon and the membership can start thinking about proposals for the period changes can be suggested next summer.

IIHF Council member Luc Tardif will continue as Treasurer for the new four-year term and also chair the Finance Committee while Henrik Bach Nielsen will continue as chairman for the Medical Committee. IIHF President René Fasel will chair the Executive Committee and the Historical Committee.

The Disciplinary Committee will continue with Gerhard Mosslang as an independent chairman. “We have to deal with rule violations, anti-doping infractions and ethics and we need inputs from both sides, judges and players,” he said reflecting the tendency to get more former players involved.

Frank Gonzalez will continue with the Facilities Working Group.

“It is important to work with the countries and also other committees such as the Asian Committee with China having the ambition to build 1,500 new ice rinks,” he said but mentions also other examples as regions of potential growth such as South America and Turkey. “For new facilities it’s important not to do the same mistakes that others experienced before.”

Like in the past Beate Grupp will be responsible for Environmental & Social Activities. Her work in the past terms included environmental initiatives but also cooperation and promotion of sledge ice hockey. “There can be a lot of win-win situations for the federations not only money-wise when they think of the environment and social aspects,” she said.

There were many committees to introduce and many topics to discuss. After the committee structure has been determined, the composition of the various committees is being worked on. The full list of committees and members will be published on at a later date and a kick-off meeting for the committees is planned in Zurich in December.

Developing hockey


By Martin Merk –

Some steps away from the ice rink at the Sport Institute of Finland in Vierumaki other programs of the 2016 IIHF Women’s High-Performance Camp took place in classrooms. It’s here where administrators from 15 countries visited the Long-Term Development Planning program to learn more about converting dreams to plans and on strategies to hopefully make them come true.

While the team program with the players and team staff focused on Olympic-prospective countries, this program was open for all IIHF member countries and covered a wide range of topics.

“You’re looking for things like goals, objectives, measurable incomes, getting people to think long-term and think of a number of things to address and to prioritize and build time frames for them,” said Paul Carson, who together with Steve Norris led through the program.

They learned how to build development plans, to find the need inventory and plan based on it, about measurables, about model organizations, building leadership capacities and get the support to build the plans they were presenting to their colleagues.

Peeter Kirtsi from Estonia focused on building a network of ice rinks to increase the capacity for ice hockey in a country that is surrounded by hockey countries such as Finland, Russia, Latvia and across the Baltic Sea by Sweden but where ice hockey isn’t as big and only played in a few cities. The idea is to build rinks in the regions of Tallinn, Ahtme, Narva, Tartu, Viljandi, Rakvere, Parnu, Valga and Voru. That would lead to more players but it needs a lot of persuading with local authorities.

The ambitious goal is to increase the number of rinks by 2020 from five to 11, the number of players from 1,400 to 2,600, increase the number of youth hockey clubs from seven to 12 and grow the men’s league to a minimum of seven teams.

Several participants addressed officiating including Jonathan Albright from New Zealand and Daniela Montes de Oca from Mexico, who want to increase the number of officials with new initiatives. In New Zealand there are only 66 on-ice officials for 1,340 players. “The leagues have grown but officiating not. There’s a lack of understanding of the new IIHF rules. No officials from New Zealand were awarded assignments in the 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 seasons,” Albright said and believes that due to the low standard of officiating the national teams get too many penalties in international ice hockey causing a bad reputation.

The unbalance is even worse in Mexico where only 19 referees (including three women) are registered and 1,900 players. Most games have to be officiated with two officials, the more important games with the three-man system. “We need to create an educational and recruitment program and work closer with clubs,” she said and hopes to bring in a foreign, Spanish-speaking person for an international course.

Attila Somogyi addressed a similar issue in Hungary but with getting more off-ice officials through a new development program while Franc Aci Ferjanic from Slovenia addressed the need of more on- and off-ice officials in his plan.

Another participant who came from far away was Harjinder Singh, the General Secretary of the Ice Hockey Association of India with his project “India 2020” to grow ice hockey in India in all aspects by growing in the regions and have more learn-to-play programs and camps and collaborate with other sports such as ice skating and inline hockey. There are plans for two international-size ice rinks that would help the sport that is currently mostly played on frozen ponds in areas close to the Himalayas. Additionally Singh hopes to equip six outdoor rinks with dash boards and for additional small rinks in shopping malls.

Also in its early development in ice hockey is Kyrgyzstan, one of the newer IIHF members. “One has to start somewhere” was the slogan of Maria Urpi, who wants to create an organizational framework for the federation and promote ice hockey as a sport. With little money available in the country, volunteers have been selected to work with the federation.

Burkay Altunas showed the fast growing hockey landscape in Turkey with rinks and clubs in Ankara, Istanbul, Erzurum, Izmir and Kocaeli and more rinks under construction in other cities such as Edirne, Antalya, Adana, Kayseri, Yozgat, Diyarbakir and Van. One issue he addressed is the lack of competition for kids under 14 years of age with few competitions and kids that can barely skate. He wants to bring kids born in 2003 and 2004 together in each city to provide them with more ice time, at least twice a week, and at least one game per team once a month.

Andrei Putilin presented a project where he wants to introduce a new study program for Belarusian hockey schools where student work on age-appropriate development models to improve the quality of regional junior hockey development, bring modern teaching and practice techniques to hockey schools and restore a national certification process.

Mike Horowitz from Israel focused on strength and conditioning, something he has seen first-hand at a world-class level with the players here in Vierumaki. He wants to address coaches and bring the national team players in better shape.

“Strength and conditioning is almost non-existent in Israeli hockey although some hockey schools are starting,” he said. “We want to have a program like world-leading countries, we want to do the same things as I see here at the IIHF camp in Vierumaki. It’s not just about performance, it’s also to not ruin the body of a player who wants to play hockey all his life.”

Terry Kiliwnik from Australia also addressed the national teams and wants to bring the program in alignment. “We’re not getting better in the world, we’re pretty static,” he said. “We are skating okay but need to improve skills and systems.”

Therefore he wants to align the different national teams in terms of systems, testing and off-ice training, and bring the knowledge to the different branches in the states.

Analogue to the “hockey girls rock” slogan for the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend program in Vierumaki, Xavier Cherta showed his presentation under the title “Spanish hockey rocks” and ambitious plans to move the sport forward in his country.

In Spain the hockey community has to live with few ice rinks due to the warm climate, that the sport is not well explained and therefore seen as dangerous in the population, with too little media coverage and early retirement. “Things don’t change much for players because only five teams play in the top league,” he said. He aims at breaking the vicious circle by making the competition more attractive and create a virtuous circle.

“The Spanish Ice Sports Federation has the aim to break the negative dynamic that stops the growth of hockey in our country,” he said and is working on a three-year development plan that includes a consolidation of the national league, attract elite players from inline hockey to create new teams, extend the league to ten teams and create an attractive league brand.

Russian Vierumaki student Vladislav Bespomoshnov presented a coaching certification system for the Northwestern region of Russia while Jovica Rus presented a project of the Serbian Ice Hockey Association to use a synthetic ice surface facility in Belgrade for skills development all year around in addition to proper ice training with the rental cost being three times less.

Most projects were about hockey in general although George Pogacean from Romania had a women’s hockey specific project to promote hockey for girls in the age group 12-14 and work together with schools.

“The presentations were outstanding. You can look at one area or several programs and build them in a specific order,” said Carson.

“People come with really good ideas. When you start the week off with planning and writing measurables and people come in and talk, you’re never really sure. But they were pretty sharp and the presentations good. They’re passionate about their development. The common language is ice hockey no matter which country you are from.”

Sometimes the enthusiasm for something new was almost bigger than needed though, Carson observed.

“Sometimes people forget when they are building that there is already an inventory that exists and that could be built on. I don’t see it just here, I also see it a lot in Canada,” Carson said.

It was the fourth consecutive time that such a program was held during an IIHF camp in Vierumaki. Carson originally started it as an Administrators Education Program in 2013.

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