Category: IIHF (page 1 of 2)

IIHF Tournaments for 2021 assigned

By Martin Merk –

The 2020 IIHF Extra-Ordinary Congress has assigned the tournaments of the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program and the qualification for the 2020 Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament.

The delegates also confirmed the dates of the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk and Riga to 21 May to 6 June 2021. Find out more on the new website,

The 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship will take place in Halifax and Truro in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia where it was planned last spring before the cancellation. The proposed dates are 7-17 April 2021.

Similarly, the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship will take place in Plymouth and Ann Arbor in Michigan, United States, at the same venues that were scheduled for this year before the cancellation due to the pandemic. The proposed dates are 15-25 April 2021.

The 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship will be hosted by Sweden in the cities of Linkoping and Mjolby from 5 to 12 January 2021.

In the lower divisions most of the men’s, women’s and under-18 tournaments scheduled in the spring of 2020 will have the same hosts in 2021 including the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in Katowice, Poland.

One exception to this are the two tournaments that will be used as Olympic test event. The Division II Group A in the men’s category and the Division I Group B in the women’s category will be held at the two Olympic arenas for Beijing 2022 in the upcoming spring.

Next season will also see Singapore joining the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program in the men’s senior category, Estonia will return to and Bosnia & Herzegovina join the women’s senior category and Latvia the women’s under-18 category.

Congress also approved the qualification for Beijing 2022. The Men’s Olympic Qualification has already started and the Final Olympic Qualification in Latvia, Norway and Slovakia was moved to 26-29 August 2021.

The Women’s Olympic Qualification will start in the upcoming season. A record number of 31 countries entered a team to Olympic Winter Games and Qualification. The top-6 teams of the 2020 IIHF Women’s World Ranking – USA, Canada, Finland, Russia, Switzerland and Japan – as well as host China are automatically qualified for the 10-team event. The remaining three teams will be determined in the Olympic Qualification in three stages starting in December.

The hosts were determined according to the principle of the right of first refusal with the top-seeded teams getting the rights to host. The Final Olympic Qualification will be held same as the men’s tournaments from 26 to 29 August 2021 and the top-ranked non-qualified teams made use of their right to host. The Czech Republic will hold their tournament in Pribram, Germany will host in Fussen and Sweden will host its group in a city to be determined.

The Congress also approved the new format of the IIHF Continental Cup. Click here to find the clubs, groups and dates.

Find below all tournaments, teams and venues. The proposed dates are being discussed with the teams and will be published during the upcoming days under Tournament List on The schedules and tournament pages will be published during autumn.

Men’s Senior Category

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Minsk, Belarus & Riga, Latvia
Group A in Minsk: Russia, Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Slovakia, Denmark, Belarus, Great Britain.
Group B in Riga: Canada, Finland, USA, Germany, Latvia, Norway, Italy, Kazakhstan.

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Participants: France, Austria, Korea, Slovenia, Hungary, Romania

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in Katowice, Poland
Participants: Lithuania, Poland, Japan, Estonia, Ukraine, Serbia

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division II Group A in Beijing, China
Participants: Netherlands, Croatia, Australia, Spain, China, Israel

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division II Group B in Reykjavik, Iceland
Participants: Belgium, Iceland, New Zealand, Georgia, Mexico, Bulgaria

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division III Group A in Kockelscheuer, Luxembourg
Participants: DPR Korea, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Luxembourg, Chinese Taipei, United Arab Emirates

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division III Group B in Cape Town, South Africa
Participants: South Africa, Hong Kong (China), Thailand, Bosnia & Herzegovina

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division IV in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Participants: Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore

Men’s U20 Category

2021 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton & Red Deer, Canada
Group A in Edmonton: Canada, Finland, Switzerland, Slovakia, Germany
Group B in Red Deer: Russia, Sweden, USA, Czech Republic, Austria

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group A in Horsholm, Denmark
Participants: Kazakhstan, Latvia, Belarus, Norway, Denmark, Hungary

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group B in Tallinn, Estonia
Participants: Slovenia, France, Ukraine, Poland, Estonia, Japan

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group A in Brasov, Romania
Participants: Italy, Great Britain, Lithuania, Romania, Spain, Korea

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division II Group B in Belgrade, Serbia
Participants: Serbia, Netherlands, China, Croatia, Belgium, Iceland

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division III in Mexico City, Mexico
Group A: Israel, Australia, Turkey, Mexico
Group B: Bulgaria, New Zealand, Chinese Taipei, South Africa

Men’s U18 Category

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in Plymouth & Ann Arbor, USA
Group A in Ann Arbor: Sweden, Canada, Belarus, Latvia, Switzerland
Group B in Plymouth: Russia, USA, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division I Group A in Spisska Nova Ves, Slovakia
Participants: Slovakia, Kazakhstan, Denmark, Norway, France, Japan

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division I Group B in Asiago, Italy
Participants: Ukraine, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia, Poland

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division II Group A in Tallinn, Estonia
Participants: Great Britain, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, Korea, Serbia

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division II Group B in Sofia, Bulgaria
Participants: Spain, China, Netherlands, Croatia, Australia, Bulgaria

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division III Group A in Istanbul, Turkey
Participants: Belgium, Israel, Iceland, Turkey, Mexico, Chinese Taipei

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division III Group B in Kockelscheuer, Luxembourg
Participants: New Zealand, Hong Kong (China), South Africa, Luxembourg, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan

Women’s Senior Category

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Halifax & Truro, Canada
Group A in Halifax: USA, Canada, Finland, Russia, Switzerland
Group B in Truro: Japan, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Hungary

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Division I Group A in Angers, France
Participants: Sweden, France, Norway, Austria, Slovakia, Netherlands

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Division I Group B in Beijing, China
Participants: Italy, Korea, Poland, China, Kazakhstan, Slovenia

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Division II Group A in Jaca, Spain
Participants: Latvia, Great Britain, Spain, Mexico, DPR Korea, Chinese Taipei

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Division II Group B in Zagreb, Croatia
Participants: Australia, Iceland, New Zealand, Turkey, Croatia, South Africa

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Division III in Kaunas, Lithuania
Participants: Ukraine, Belgium, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Hong Kong (China), Estonia, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Women’s U18 Category

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship in Linkoping & Mjolby, Sweden
Group A in Mjolby: USA, Canada, Russia, Finland
Group B in Linkoping: Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Germany

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship Division I Group A in Gyor, Hungary
Participants: Slovakia, Japan, Hungary, France, Italy, Norway

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship Division I Group B in Radenthein, Austria
Participants: Denmark, Austria, China, Korea, Poland, Chinese Taipei

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship Division II Group A in Dumfries, Great Britain
Participants: Great Britain, Netherlands, Australia, Spain

2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship Division II Group B in Kocaeli, Turkey
Participants: Kazakhstan, Turkey, Mexico, New Zealand, Latvia

Men’s Olympic Qualification

Final Olympic Qualification (26-29 August 2021)
Group D: Slovakia, Belarus, Austria, Poland. In Bratislava, Slovakia.
Group E: Latvia, France, Italy, Hungary. In Riga, Latvia.
Group F: Norway, Denmark, Korea, Slovenia. In Norway (city TBA).

Women’s Olympic Qualification

Final Olympic Qualification (26-29 August 2021)
Group C: Czech Republic, Hungary, Norway, Qualifier 6. In Pribram, Czech Republic.
Group D: Germany, Denmark, Austria, Qualifier 5. In Fussen, Germany.
Group E: Sweden, France, Slovakia, Qualifier 4. In Sweden (city TBA).

Olympic Qualification Round 2 (11-14 February 2021)
Group F: Korea, Great Britain, Slovenia, Qualifier 8. In Gangneung, Korea.
Group G: Italy, Kazakhstan, Spain, Chinese Taipei. In Cortina, Italy.
Group H: Netherlands, Poland, Mexico, Turkey. In Gdansk, Poland.

Olympic Qualification Round 1 (17-19 December 2020)
Group J: Iceland, Hong Kong, Bulgaria, Lithuania. In Reykjavik, Iceland.

New Coaches for USA & Sweden


Nate Leaman who has led the Providence College men’s ice hockey team to six straight NCAA berths, including the 2015 NCAA championship, has been named head coach of the 2021 U.S. National Junior Team, it was announced today by USA Hockey.

The U.S. National Junior Team will take part in the 2021 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship Dec. 26, 2020 – Jan. 5, 2021, in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta. Team USA is seeking its fifth medal in six years at the event.

Leaman has been a part of two previous U.S. National Junior Team coaching staffs, including as an assistant coach for the bronze medal-winning 2007 squad that competed in Leksand and Mora, Sweden. He also served as an assistant coach for the 2009 team that played in Ottawa, Ontario. Leaman made his USA Hockey coaching debut as an assistant coach in 2005 at the IIHF Under-18 Men’s World Championship, where the U.S. won gold in Ceske Budejorke and Plzen, Czech Republic.

The Swedish women’s national team players will work with a new head coach in the upcoming season

By Martin Merk –

The Swedish Ice Hockey Association has signed Ulf Lundberg to a two-year contract as new head coach of the Swedish women’s national team.

Lundberg will take over as of May and replace Ylva Martinsen, who has been coaching the team during the past two seasons.

“Getting the assignment as the head coach of the women’s national team feels very exciting and stimulating. Being able to represent a Swedish national team is great. There have been a lot of good things happen in Swedish girls’ and women’s hockey now. I see great potential going forward so it feels very cool and inspiring to be with and lead and contribute to the development going forward,” says Ulf Lundberg.

Lundberg has previously worked as a player and leadership development manager at the Swedish Ice Hockey Association while coaching the U16 and U17 men’s national teams during ten years. During the past three seasons he has been the head coach of Sodertalje SK in the second-tier men’s league HockeyAllsvenskan.

The 40-year-old will have two major tasks coming up in 2021 as Sweden’s “Damkronorna” aims at getting back to the top division of the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship as well as succeeding in the Olympic Qualification for Beijing 2022.

Exotic countries joined the IIHF. The largest number of countries in 27 years.

By National Teams of Ice Hockey

The world hockey family has grown to 81 members. Today five countries from Africa, South America and Asia joined the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).

Algeria, Iran, Colombia, Lebanon and Uzbekistan have become new associates of IIHF today. The decision was approved at the Half-Year Congress of the IIHF. This is the biggest number of countries joining the IIHF since 1992 when the IIHF grew by ten countries following the break-up of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. 

New members have associate status. This is the second of three levels of membership. It means that they will not have the right to vote at congresses. This is the status of countries that have no independent hockey management association in a given country or have such associations if they do not appear in World championships competitions. There are currently 24 associated members in IIHF. 56 countries, including Poland, have full membership, and there is one affiliated with IIHF, because it only competes in roller hockey competitions. This country is Chile.

In Algeria, relations with France are mainly responsible for the development of hockey. The team of players of Algerian origin have already competed in the Arab Cup. According to IIHF, there are 97 hockey players in the country. The Algerian government is supporting the creation of a hockey school in the city of Setif where a current and only indoor permanent ice rink is based. A permanent ice rink is planned in a new shopping mall in Baraki close to Algiers, which will become the largest mall in Africa.

Data from from IIHF says  Iran has 100 men and 103 women playing hockey. The country has 6 indoor ice rinks and 23 teams. The national team played the match for the first time in 2017, facing the Macao team which was supposed to appear in the Asian Games at that time, but were disqualified because many players did not meet the admission criteria.

Colombia began performing internationally in 2014 at the Pan-American Tournament. In the next two years Colombia won the tournament by beating Mexico. There are officially 47 hockey male players and 25 female hockey players in the country, however, a big problem is the lack of an ice rink in the country. Columbia ice hockey is derived from roller hockey.  Colombia is the fourth IIHF member from South America. Argentina and Brazil are also associated members and Chile affiliate.

In Lebanon there are 36 males and 40 women playing hockey. The national team debuted in 2017 by winning 7: 4 against Haiti. Like Colombia, Lebanon does not actually have a single ice rink. A per-existing facility in Beirut was closed a decade ago. Last season, only a 20×20 meter ice rink was built in the country’s capital.

Uzbekistan has quite a rich hockey tradition and interesting perspectives. During the Soviet times the capital of Tashkent had a hockey team, Binokor, in the Soviet system that made it up to the second-highest league of the Soviet Union. . Binokor no longer exist, but Humo Tashkent joined Russia’s second-tier league VHL and with a farm team the top league of neighbouring Kazakhstan.

With the opening of the first ice rinks, Uzbekistan has launched a championship that recently included four clubs – Binokor, Humo, Tashkent and Semurg – and the Uzbekistan Ice Hockey Federation was established on 28 March 2018.

There are currently 369 hockey players registered in the country, including 252 juniors.

Junior showcase ends

Finland led the round-robin tournament on the final three days with Lenni Killinen (left) and the event’s scoring leader Anttoni Honka (right)


The World Junior Summer Showcase returned to Plymouth, Michigan after a year in Victoria, British Columbia, and the 18th edition of this August congregation of U20 players produced many meaningful results for the four participating teams – United States, Canada, Finland, Sweden – all of whom hope to win gold at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic.

In all, 12 games were played over the last week. The Americans started with a split squad (Blue and White), and Canada brought a healthy number of additional bodies over and above the 20 required for a game.

More than that, however, the quality of the teams was nothing short of sensational. There were 101 players who had been drafted in either 2018 (56) or 2019 (45), and an additional 19 players who are draft eligible in 2020, notably number-one ranked prospect Alexis Lafreniere of Canada.

Impressively, all 31 NHL teams had at least one player at the event while leading the way the L.A. Kings had seven and Carolina six. Of these draft choices, 29 were first rounders. Notable names included 2019 selections Kirby Dach (CAN), the 3rd overall selection this past June; Bowen Byram (CAN), 4th; Alex Turcotte (USA), 5th; Philip Broberg (SWE), 8th; and, Trevor Zegras (USA), 9th.

Scouts were aplenty in the arena, looking both at their own selections from the previous two years as well as assessing available talent for 2020. In addition to Lafreniere, many 17- and 18-year-olds made a good impression. Two of the top players who will almost certainly be playing at the 2020 U20 in anticipation of next year’s draft are Swedes Alexander Holtz and Lucas Raymond. Both were sensational for their team during last season’s gold-medal run at the U18, and they continued to impress coach Tomas Monten in Plymouth.

The Finns had the greatest number of draft eligible players (11) yet, despite their team youth, made a favourable impression on coach Raimo Helminen. “I’m happy with how we played here,” he offered. “The whole group played well, at a really good speed. They have a lot to learn, of course, but they all do.”

The point of this event has always been the same – to give coaches and players some experience heading into a new season, and to prepare for the upcoming World Junior Championship (being played in Ostrava and Trinec, Czech Republic during the coming Christmas/New Year’s holiday).

To that end, it’s not about winning or losing that counts so much at this event as it is the coaches getting to know the players off ice and the players showing something of their character. The intensity level is nowhere near what it will be at the teams’ U20 camps in December, but players still have to show dedication to the team as well as some skills on ice.

What did we learn? Who can we admire from the Summer Showcase? Well, the hosts gave everyone several good performances, starting with Cole Caufield. Not the biggest player around, the Montreal Canadiens draft choice showed tremendous skill and puck sense around the net.

Teammate Arthur Kaliyev scored four goals and displayed a shot that is without question the best one-timer in the world not in the NHL. Joel Farabee (Philadelphia) and John Beecher (Boston) also impressed coach Scott Sandelin.

Sweden won twice and lost three times, scoring only 12 goals and allowing 19, but Monten was pleased with several players, including the aforementioned Holtz and Raymond. On the final day, Kings’ draft choice Samuel Fagemo had a hat trick in his team’s 6-3 win over Finland.

The Finns won three of their five games and despite their youth took many fine impressions home. Sampo Ranta scored four times in five games and was a dominating presence. At 6’2” (188cm) and 190 lbs. (86kg), he was a big body with plenty of skill, something the Colorado Avalanche liked enough to select him 78th overall in 2018. He plays for the University of Minnesota in NCAA Division I.

Lassi Thomson, 19th overall by Ottawa in 2019, was the top draft choice playing for the Finns and defenceman Anttoni Honka (Carolina, 83rd overall, 2019) was perhaps the team’s best blueliner.

A number of Canadians proved they are players to watch as their NHL dreams unfold, starting with Nolan Foote, son of Adam. Drafted by Tampa Bay in the lirst round juts a few weeks ago, he is a big and strong forward who has great skill around the goal. Defenceman Braden Schneider, draft eligible next year, also made a great impression, as did Byram and another forward, Connor McMichael (25th by Washington in 2019).

The hitting wasn’t there. The goal celebrations were muted. It was summer, when most teenagers are lying on a beach or throwing a frisbee. But for these young talents who hope to play at the upcoming World Juniors, hope to take their draft selection to an NHL career, this was an important stepping stone. Careers won’t be made or lost based on what happened in Plymouth, but any chance they can get to play world-class competition, they know they have to take it.

Overall records
USA (combined) 10 5 5 30 22
Finland 5 3 2 21 23
Canada 4 2 2 15 16
Sweden 5 2 3 12 19

IIHF’s new president to be elected in Sept. 2020 at Congress in St. Petersburg

By Rustam Sharafutdinov – Tass Russian New Agency

The new president of the International Ice Hockey Feederation (IIHF) will be elected in September 2020 at the organization’s Congress in Russia’s second largest city of Saint Petersburg, IIHF President Rene Fasel told TASS on Tuesday.

“The IIHF Congress to elect the organization’s new president will be held in [Russia’s] Saint Petersburg in September 2020,” Fasel, who is currently attending the 2019 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia, said in an interview with a TASS correspondent.

Fasel first voiced his intention against running for another presidential term in November 2017 and last October he confirmed to TASS that he would vacate the post in 2020.

The current presidential term of Fasel, who is 69, expires in May 2020. The Swiss-born former dentist with a gift for languages and a deep passion for the game of ice hockey was first elected to run the world’s governing body of ice hockey in June 1994. He was re-elected for a sixth presidential term at the 2016 IIHF General Congress in Moscow.

According to the official website of the IIHF: “When Rene Fasel became Dr. (Gunther) Sabetzki’s successor as IIHF President (in 1994), the world federation steeped in tradition entered a new era.”

IIHF President Fasel was also the first ice hockey representative to be appointed in 1995 to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), where he massively raised the stature of the sport of ice hockey.

2019 IIHF World Championship

Asked by a TASS correspondent what Fasel thinks of the organization of the 2019 World Championship in Slovakia after more than a week of group stage matches, the IIHF chief said he was completely satisfied.

“I am very happy,” the IIHF president said. “We are in a hockey country, people love hockey here with a lot of great fans.”

“The organization is really going well, the teams and players are very happy and I hope it will continue till the end,” he added.

The 2019 IIHF World Championship is hosted by Slovakia between May 10 and 26. The participating teams were divided into Groups A and B. Group A is playing matches in Slovakia’s Kosice and includes hosts Slovakia, Canada, the United States, Finland, Germany, Denmark, France and Great Britain.

Group B is playing matches in Bratislava and enlists teams from Sweden, Russia, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Norway, Latvia, Austria and Italy.

Slovakia offers two venues for hosting matches of the championship and they are the country’s capital of Bratislava and the country’s second largest city of Kosice. Each city hosts 28 matches of the group stage as well as two quarterfinals.

The semifinals, the final and the match for the bronze will be played in Bratislava at the over 10,000-seat capacity Ondrej Nepela Arena. Kosice, which has a population of 240,000, offers the over 8,300-seat capacity Steel Arena.

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

By Infont Sports

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

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

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

Exceeding expectations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virtual advertising

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

Increased fan engagement

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

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

Slovakia 2019 – Already focused on the future

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

Get a complete overview of the schedule through the link below:

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

Asian tournaments set

Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates will host the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia events in the upcoming season.


Six tournaments are set for the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia program that will be held in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur and in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The program is aimed at the smaller IIHF members from Asia that do not participate in the World Championship program to allow them to compete in regional events.

Malaysia will host the men’s and U20 events at the Malaysia National Ice Skating Stadium close to Kuala Lumpur that opened one year ago for the Southeast Asian Games as the first full-size rink of the country.

Both the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia and the Division I tournament for men will be held from 2 to 9 March 2019. Defending champion Mongolia, the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia will play in the top division with a single-round robin followed by the final round. Macau, Indonesia and Oman will play the Division I tournament in a double round-robin format. The top-two teams will challenge the teams ranked third and fourth in the top division in a qualification playoff game before the semi-finals and medal games on 8-9 March.

Malaysia will also host the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 Challenge Cup of Asia 3-8 December 2018. Eight teams will play split into two separate round-robin tournaments. Malaysia, Kyrgyzstan, the United Arab Emirates and the Philippines will play in the top division; Thailand, Kuwait, Mongolia and Indonesia in the Division I event. For these four teams it will be the first time they compete with an U20 national team.

Ten women’s teams will play at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia from 14 to 19 April 2019 in Abu Dhabi. It will be the first IIHF women’s tournament to be hosted in the United Arab Emirates. The other news is that Kuwait and Mongolia will have a women’s national team in an IIHF competition for the first time in history.

The teams will play a single round robin in two separate divisions. Chinese Taipei, the New Zealand U18 women’s team, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore will play in the top division; host United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, India, Mongolia and Kuwait in the Division I tournament.

2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2-9 March 2019
Participants: Mongolia, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia

2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia Division I
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2-9 March 2019
Participants: Macau, Indonesia, Oman

2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 Challenge Cup of Asia
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 3-8 December 2018
Participants: Malaysia, Kyrgyzstan, United Arab Emirates, Philippines

2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 Challenge Cup of Asia Division I
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 3-8 December 2018
Participants: Thailand, Kuwait, Mongolia, Indonesia

2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia
In Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 14-20 April 2019
Participants: Chinese Taipei, New Zealand U18, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore

2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia Division I
In Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 14-20 April 2019
Participants: United Arab Emirates, Philippines, India, Mongolia, Kuwait

Israeli-born Levin pursuing NHL dream

By Dhiren Mahiban –

David Levin was playing more inline than ice hockey at home in Israel until he moved to Canada as a 13-year-old. Despite a setback at the NHL Entry Draft the 18-year-old from Tel Aviv has big dreams.

Levin will be the first to tell you his third season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Sudbury Wolves didn’t go as planned.

Levin was limited to 46 games where he scored 14 goals and 15 assists down from the 53 points he produced in 66 games the previous season and his Wolves missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.

Levin was also passed over at the recent NHL draft.

“That wasn’t my best season, you guys can see the results,” Levin said. “I didn’t want that to happen, I’m only 18-years-old and I have a lot ahead of me so I’m going to keep working hard and see where I’m going to get.”

Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Levin’s first foray into hockey was inline hockey near his home town.

“It was really hard (to find ice time), especially because it’s really hot outside back home so you’ve got to play outside on the roller rink,” Levin explained. “My dad was my coach for the first 12 years and he took care of me.”

Levin’s father, Pavel, was a professional football player in his home country of Latvia while his mother, Lena, hails from Russia.

“My dad was a soccer player back in Latvia, Riga,” Levin said. “Back in Latvia, in the winter, they play ice hockey so he knew about (the game). When he moved to Israel, he needed a job so he opened a roller rink and that’s where everything started for me.”

Levin discovered NHL highlights of Sidney Crosby on YouTube and began asking his parents to move to Canada as a nine-year-old so he could pursue his own NHL dream. His parents finally relented when Levin was 13 allowing him to move to the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill, Ontario with is aunt and uncle Alla and Yafim Tovberg.

“When I was nine, I asked my parents if I can move, they said I’m too young (still), I still had to grow up a bit,” Levin recalled. “Three years later, I asked them again and my dad said, ‘Yeah, you can try’ and my mom said that too. I moved here and everything started at the Hill Academy.”

A private high school in Concord, Ontario, the Hill Academy focuses on student-athletes. That’s where Levin first met Lindsay Hofford. Now a scout with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hofford helped Levin translate his roller hockey skills to the ice.

“He was a lot for me, he helped me a lot, he took care of me, he was like my second dad,” Levin said. “He was my coach for two years too so he improved me a lot.”

Levin’s showed enough improvement in his game over the following three years that the Sudbury Wolves used the first overall pick to select him at the 2015 OHL Priority Selection.

However, since making the jump to the OHL, Levin’s skating has failed to make the necessary strides to see him selected in the NHL draft.

“To me, his skating stalled in his second year in the OHL, there wasn’t as much jump,” said ISS Hockey scout Ben Gallant. “It was pretty poor as a 16-year-old and then got better, but it didn’t get explosive or anything in his 18-year-old season, this past season. It hasn’t gotten better.

“It’s definitely more like a roller hockey stride where he’s very wide-legged, especially when he’s carrying the puck over the line because he comes from the history. He doesn’t have any quick cuts on his turns or anything like that.”

As a native of Israel it is a requirement for Levin to serve in the military upon turning 18. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound winger has already received a deferment on his military duties previously, but is currently seeking another deferment so he can continue his hockey career.

“Going to try to get it right now, but right now I’m trying focus on hockey, not on the army,” Levin said. “I think it’s better to be here than in the army.

“When you’re 18, you’ve got to join until 21 so if I go back, my (hockey) career is over so I’m going to stay here.”

Levin’s agency is currently working on keeping their client on the ice.

“It’s a process,” said agent Ryan Barnes. “There’s still some things to happen, but obviously it’s kind of in a holding pattern right now, and going through the proper process with the people at the Israeli consulate and we’ll go from there.”

Avoiding his military service would be helped by having his Canadian citizenship, a process Barnes is also working on. Although not having the passport with the maple leaf yet, Levin had it on one time on his jersey when he participated in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge for Canada Black.

“It’s something that would probably make things a lot easier for him,” Barnes said. “Obviously there’s a process to go through with the Canadian government as well.

“It’s been on-going here for almost two years now with us trying to get that for him. We’re working hard at it, but these things take time.”

Despite the issues with his skating, Levin showed enough in his three OHL seasons to earn multiple invites to NHL development camps following the draft and agreed to join the Maple Leafs.

“He’s training in the offseason in Toronto, and it’s kind of an adopted hometown team for David,” said Barnes. “When we made him aware of his opportunities, he immediately picked the Leafs to attend development camp.”

Levin’s connection with Hofford also helped his decision.

During his time at Leafs development camp Levin has spent extended time working with skating development consultant Barb Underhill and player development consultant Darryl Belfry.

“(Belfry) just tried to help me on my skating,” said Levin. “They know that’s my weakness and he’s a really good coach on skating so he helped me a lot.”

If things don’t workout with the Leafs, Levin already has other options.

“He could sign a free agent contract,” Barnes said. “There’s a window that opens up in September for free agents, but right now, David is at the Leafs development camp and then it’s expected in September that he will be attending the Traverse City NHL prospects tournament with the Carolina Hurricanes.”

While pursing his own NHL dream, Levin is also trying to get his younger brother Michael to join him in Canada. The 13-year-old has already received offers from the Vaughan Kings and Toronto Junior Canadiens of the Greater Toronto Hockey League.

“Obviously when you’re making the decision, Michael, I believe he’s an ‘05, it’s still pretty young for a 13-year-old boy,” said Barnes. “It’s kind of the same year David did come over, but it’s still awfully young to send a 13-year-old child anywhere in the world so that’s still up in the air whether he’s going to follow in his brother’s footsteps this year or a little bit further down the road.”

New women’s hockey nations in development programs

From the desert country of Kuwait to the Sport Institute of
Finland in the forests north of Helsinki:
Laila Alkhbaz is one of two participants from the Gulf state to
take part in the development programs of the 2018 IIHF
Women’s High-Performance Camp.

By Martin Merk –

The 2018 IIHF Women’s High-Performance Camp does not only include top junior players working on becoming world-class players but also development programs for countries that are not that far yet.

Among the countries that sent participants to the camp programs are some that are working on launching women’s hockey or already have female players and want to establish a national team in IIHF events in the future such as Estonia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ireland, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Lithuania, Serbia and Ukraine. They work in the Leadership Development Program and the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend program together with colleagues from current or former top-level nations such as the United States, Finland, Russia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia and Kazakhstan.

Two of these countries work on their IIHF debut on the ice next season. Ukraine has established a women’s program within the last few years and will for the first time play in the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B Qualification in Cape Town, South Africa. Also next spring, the Kuwaiti women’s national team will enter the stage in the IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia program.

While Ukraine has prepared for this moment with the IIHF’s recruitment campaigns such as the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend and the Global Girls’ Game to help build a five-team league, Kuwait is the lesser known debutant.

Laila Alkhbaz in the Leadership Development Program and Rawan AlBahouh in the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend hope to change that in the upcoming season.

“I’ve been a supervisor for the women’s national team for one year and am looking for leadership role,” Alkhbaz said after watching presentations from mentor Steve Norris and some of the countries.

Currently there are over 50 female players in Kuwait in three teams.

“We have a hockey school for girls between 4 and 14 years, then a team for players older than that and the national team,” she said. The teams usually practise and play internal games while last season the national team also went abroad to gain more experience.

“We had a camp in the Czech Republic in August 2017, played a tournament in Bangkok in November, and later in Abu Dhabi with Gulf teams where we took third place,” Alkhbaz said. After losing the games in Bangkok, the first win in history came against the Dubai Gazelles in Abu Dhabi. “In October we will play again in Bangkok and next year we will have a camp in Slovenia before the Challenge Cup of Asia.”

The debut in an IIHF-sanctioned event will be in the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia Division I. Both divisions are planned be staged not far from home in Abu Dhabi next spring. The venues, dates and participants of the Challenge Cup of Asia program will be decided next month.

How did Alkhbaz land into ice hockey?

“Last year my friend joined the team and liked it and I went to the ice rink in Kuwait and watched the hockey. Before I didn’t know what hockey is because hockey is not popular in Arab countries, it’s not like football or basketball. I asked the Winter Sports Club in Kuwait. I played but hurt my elbow, I was afraid to continue but stayed with the girls to help them,” she said.

She did a government course to become a supervisor and is happy to be at the Leadership Development Program that is taking place as part of the current women’s camp in Finland.

“I’m looking forward to be a good leader for the team. I’m so excited to be here and I’m looking forward to develop my skills so I can help them to be better,” she said. “I hope I’ll get better in everything to make my team better.”

For that she had to take time off from her job as a computer teacher for kids and her IT study. Beside her job and study, there’s not much time left. Ice hockey has become her biggest hobby since last year. “I’m with the hockey girls. I like to make our relationship stronger. It’s better to be one family,” said Alkhbaz.

Currently there’s just one ice rink in Kuwait. One that’s international size and has hosted IIHF events in men’s hockey before. In the winter months the Winter Sports Club also has a small ice sheet to practise shooting.

After the first camps, the Kuwaiti is thinking about the next steps after the upcoming debut of Kuwaiti women’s ice hockey on the international stage.

“Now we focus on the Challenge Cup of Asia and after that we will work on entering the World Championship but maybe it will take time,” she said.

To reach that level and fulfil the minimum participation standards, they will need more female players in the country and a national championship with enough teams and games. “I hope it will happen, inshallah [if God wills]. We are trying to develop the team and the skill of the team. We had girls who didn’t skate before but some are good players and we hope we will develop them and make them better.”

She hopes a league for women can be established, maybe already in September. And she thinks about games against boys. And her colleague AlBahouh learns more about recruitment and teaching small kids to play with the goal of running such events in Kuwait.

When the women’s team started first time in 2007 there was no support and the project died. This has obviously changed with the relaunch 11 months ago. “Now it’s good and now we are looking to have our own ice rink for ice hockey and figure skating,” she said. Having two Kuwaiti at the camp is also a strong signal for the development of women’s hockey and to raise the level back home.

Coming to the Sport Institute of Finland in Vierumaki also means a big change of scenery. Away from the desert country with guaranteed sunshine and temperatures of currently up to 49°C to the changeable and mild Finnish summer at the institute surrounded by green forests and lakes.

“It’s my first time in the north. I didn’t have time to see much yet. I really like the place and the facilities here. In my country it’s very hot right now,” she said. “It’s a pleasure for me to participate in the program and I hope I will learn much this week.”

Status report from the other countries

The program started with lectures from the mentors and from the represented countries at very different levels. On the upper end there are countries like Russia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia that have top-level experience and a full league program but are fighting for awareness and against stereotypes about women’s hockey. Germany is another top-level country represented where numbers for young girls have gone up since joining programs like the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend. During the last year there have been 10 per cent more female players.

Great Britain with two nationwide leagues and an English league in two geographical groups is also among the bigger programs represented but wants to improve in terms of retention.

In Kazakhstan and Ukraine the championship games are played in a couple of tournaments and they are among the countries where not all communities and junior coaches are interested in girls playing hockey with boys, same in other central and eastern European countries such as the Czech Republic or Latvia.

Turkey has now 300 female players of which half play in the women’s and U18 leagues with teams from three cities but money is a problem for women in club hockey as they have to pay for equipment and travel that can be far as the distance between Istanbul and Erzurum is over 1,200 kilometres. There like in Romania the public perception of hockey as a men’s sport and trust from parents is a problem. It’s not always easy to convince parents that ice hockey is a safe sport for girls and women until they see it themselves.

South Africa is another country in the lower divisions present here and has 130 players from four regions, most of them (88) from Gauteng where two women’s teams play in the boys’ U18 and U16 leagues in addition to a small-ice development league with four women’s teams. But with only 60-90 minutes of ice time available for a women’s hockey team per week they want to work on an off-ice program.

In Croatia players need to give sacrifice to keep women’s hockey alive as there’s no financial support and no sponsors and practices are usually late night at 16:00. Also Bulgaria with currently 44 female players hopes to learn more and find a strategy to grow hockey.

Ukraine has profited from the recent recruitment offence in international ice hockey and has gone up from virtually no female players to 193 players and a league with five teams that may get a sixth team next season. Similar in Estonia where the league restarted with four teams from four cities after many years without women’s hockey after using the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend as starting point.

Latvia and Lithuania with a new women’s hockey program work together with a Lithuanian team that joined the Latvian league last season. The Lithuanians hope to one day have a women’s league too and a national team that can join the Women’s World Championship program in 2021.

Serbia could be another team to try that step with currently 63 female players but right now most play in boys’ teams until U16 and there’s just one women’s team. The Serbs hope to get more education on female hockey and coaching.

Other countries have even bigger challenges. Women’s hockey in Ireland suffers since the closure of the country’s only ice rink in 2010. The few remaining female players have to play in men’s teams and cross the Irish-UK border to play games in Belfast. In FYR Macedonia there is just one female player, who is in the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Program to learn about organizing recruitment events and learn-to-play events. Kyrgyzstan reported to have no female players at all and is thinking how to launch a program.

Despite the very different levels and places the women and men in the Leadership Development Program come from, they all have the same goal: to improve women’s hockey in their countries, networking and learning from each other.

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.

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