IIHF is alive and steaming hot in Central Europe

IIHF is alive and steaming hot in Central Europe

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Latvian fans celebrating their opening win. Image courtesy: http://www.lettonie.eu

A lot can be said about the organization of the IIHF, the International Ice Hockey Federation, and it has been said as well over the years.

But the main tournament, the flagship of the whole association, the senior world championship, is still a very respectable tournament — followed by the U20 Worlds which has grown in popularity the last 15 years, as far as I can myself remember.

Although, it depends on where the tournament is held. In the Nordic countries, Sweden and Finland, it has been more or less a minor disaster even if Finland has ended on the plus-side after the tournament.

If we remember specifically the year of 2013 when Sweden and Finland shared the tournament: the seats in Hartwall Arena were quite filled, while the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm had major problems attracting fans to games other than Sweden’s.

Even the home nation had a lot of empty seats in that huge Arena, which was a stunning fact in a very shocking way.

Sweden won that year of 2013 which was a small salvation for the ashamed faces of the hockey people in Sweden.

But the hockey association of Sweden lost millions after 2013 and is still trying to fill that gap, which basically means fewer resources for education and for building up the youth national teams who are supposed to take over the seniors step by step.

Well, it is not as bad as it might sound, as we all know that Sweden is still a top side in U18 and U20 and will be so for many years in a wider perspective.

If we take a look at other places where the tournament has been held, especially the Central European area, it has been a success. Almost every game has been and is filled to the brim no matter who is playing.

It is basically as big a hockey party as a hockey party should be, a world championship of the highest level in the hockey world.

This time the tournament is held in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany, and it doesn’t seem to be an exception from that “rule” that the IIHF is steaming hot in Central Europe.

Perhaps the IIHF should hold the world’s always in that area?

Moreover, most of the games so far have been very entertaining as well; Latvia and Denmark was one of the best opening games I’ve seen in years.

High speed and quality play were had from both teams until Latvia took over the show and outplayed Denmark in the third. The last bit I saw of Switzerland and Slovenia was not a bad show either.

Slovenia made the most incredible comeback of the year if we talk about the level of the national hockey; the Swiss had a 4-0 lead but the Slovenes made a good run and came back, and tied the game 4-4.

No need to be ashamed at all when we think about how big the difference could have been instead, even if the Slovenes lost the shootouts. And, one point is better than none at all.

It was good also for Slovenia, including the players Jeglič, Muršak, Sabolič and Tičar, to show that they are not a total punching bag.

France lost their opening game against Norway. One of the most eminent experts on French hockey, Nicolas Jacquet, told me that they have the best team in years and expect quarterfinal.

Today (read Sunday 7th May) they meet Finland. Let’s see how that goes. Finland has also a lot to improve their game.

An exciting week coming up in Paris and Cologne, watch out and be ready.

Hockey is a unique sport in the sense that you need each and every guy helping each other and pulling in the same direction to be successful.

-Wayne Gretzky

Derek Jeter Day at SteinerSports.com