While the Stanley Cup Playoffs are in full swing, there’s another major hockey tournament about to start – the IIHF World Hockey Championships.
It’s the world’s most prestigious annual international ice hockey tournament and it’s a major point of national pride for hockey-loving Europeans. It’s also a great opportunity to watch players from the European leagues, especially the KHL, Swedish Elite League, and Finnish Elite League. In North America, the WHC is seen somewhat as the “loser’s tournament”, as players who get eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs often make their way over to Europe for the WHC. It gives the tournament a sort of Royal Rumble feel, with new contestants entering the tournament as it progresses. It’s also one of the three events required for the Triple Gold Club: a Stanley Cup Championship, an Olympic Gold Medal, and a World Hockey Championship gold medal. Patrice Bergeron is a member of the Triple Gold Club, along with such luminaries as Sidney Crosby, Jaromir Jagr, Niklas Lidstrom, Igor Larionov, and Håkan Loob.
The Championship Division consists of 16 teams, which are split into two groups (the excitingly-named Group A and Group B) based on their world ranking. There’s a mathematical formula used to determine the ranking, and it’s based on the standings of the previous Olympics and the previous four World Championship tournaments. Each team plays 7 games in the preliminary round, then the top 4 teams from each division play a knockout playoff stage to eventually determine the champion.
There’s also a promotion/relegation system whereby the bottom two teams from the previous WHC get sent down to Divison I and the top two teams of Division I get sent up to the Championship Division. Hungary and Kazakhstan were promoted to the Championship Division for 2016, while Austria and Slovenia were sent down to Divison I. Because the host nation’s team is automatically qualified, France and Germany – 2017’s co-hosts – cannot be relegated this year. This does not bode well for Hungary and Kazakhstan.
The games are played using IIHF international rules and on the wider IIHF regulation rinks. The rules differences are fairly minor apart from ejections for fighting and no trapezoids. I think if your helmet falls off you have to immediately go back to your bench or you get a 2-minute minor, which invariably results in a couple of NHL players looking incredulously at the ref when they get called for it. The WHC uses a three-point system for the standings: 3 points for a regulation win, 2 points for an overtime or shootout win, and 1 point for an overtime or shootout loss.
This year, the WHC is hosted by Russia, with games being played in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Canada are the defending champions, having defeated Russia 6-1 in last year’s gold medal match. The tournament begins on May 6 and wraps up on May 22. I’ll be providing coverage of the tournament, including game reports and team previews. The Championship Division teams are as follows:
Group A (Moscow)
Group B (St. Petersburg)
From the Bruins, Brad Marchand will play for Team Canada, Frank Vatrano will play for Team USA, David Pastrnak will play for the Czech Republic, and prospect Peter Cehlarik will play for Slovakia. The tournament starts tomorrow, and the Bruins posted a schedule of the games our B’s will play in the preliminary round.
Live streaming is available from the IIHF’s official YouTube channel HERE.