Thursday, May 6, 2010
The 2010 IIHF World Championship begins tomorrow in Germany with the first game of the tournament being held at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen, normally a scoccer stadium, Kicking off the tournament will be host Germany taking on the United States in a game expected to draw a capacity crowd of 76,152, which would break the current world record of 74,554 set in 2001 when Michigan State played rivals Michigan outdoors at Spartan Stadium.
Following the opening game on May 7th, the remainder of the tournament kicks off in earnest with games at the Lanxess Arena in Cologne and the SAP Arena in Manheim on Saturday, May 8th.
Group A, which consists of Russia, Slovakia, Belarus and Kazakhstan will be played on Cologne, as will Group D, featuring the United States, Finland, host Germany and Denmark.
Group B, containing Canada, Switzerland, Latvia and Italy and Group C, which has Sweden, the Czech Republic, Norway and France, will both play in Manhiem.
Following the Preliminary Round, the top three teams in each group will advance to the Qualifying Round, with the three surviving teams in Groups A and D placed together in Group E, and the remaining six teams from Groups B and C placed in Group F.
For the four teams that fail to advance to the Qualifying Round, they will compete in the Relegation Round, with the bottom two teams being demoted to Division I for 2011. For some countries, a championship is out of the question and their main objective in the tournament is to avoid being relegated. Look for Kazakhstan, Italy and either France or Norway and Germany or Denmark to be in the relegation round.
After the conclusion of the Qualifying Round, the top four in each group will be paired off in the single elimination quarterfinals on May 20th, with first place in Group E facing the fourth place team in Group F, second place in Group E facing the third place team in Group F, etc.
The winners advance to face each other in the semi-finals in Cologne on May 22nd with the losers meeting to decide the bronze medal and the winners meeting in the gold medal final on May 23rd in Cologne.
Russia is the two-time defending World Champions, having defeated Canada in overtime in 2008 on a goal by Ilya Kovalchuk in Quebec City, Canada and backed that up with another World Championship last year in Switzerland when Ilya Bryzgalov shut down Canada by saving 37 out of 38 shots as Russia won 2-1 despite being outshot 38-17.
Germany has hosted the World Championships six times, 1930, 1955, 1975, 1983, 1993 and most recently in 2001. The 1936 Olympics in Germany also counted as that year's World Championship.
In Canada, fans can watch 15 games of the tournament on TSN, including all of the elimination games through the gold medal final. Fans in the United States can watch on Universal Sports.
While the World Championships can provide some very dramatic and memorable moments, it unfortunately suffers from being in direct competition each spring for not only viewers, but players as well, with the National Hockey League's annual Stanley Cup playoffs. While the players belonging to the eight teams sill alive in the NHL playoffs unavailable for their countries, and other players opting to pass on the tournament following a long season of NHL competition in order to recover from injuries, spend time with their families or simply take a break from the long grind of the 82 game NHL schedule, there are many star players who will and have participated in the World Championships once their NHL club has been eliminated from competition.
This year's rosters boast such players as Steve Stamkos and Ryan Smyth of Canada, Pekka Rinne of Finland and Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexander Semin and Alexander Ovechkin of Russia.
Today's featured jersey is a 2005 Germany National Team Olaf Kölzig jersey. This beautiful jersey is one of our favorites here at Third String Goalie and lived an all too short life. First introduced at the 2005 World Championships, it was quickly replaced by the 2006 Olympics less than a year later.
The Germany National Ice Hockey Team, currently ranked 12th in the IIHF World Rankings, tied for their lowest since the introduction of the rankings in 2003, is in a definite down period internationally. Having achieved their highest ranking of 8th as recently as 2004, they are coming off a disappointing showing at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, where they went 0-4 and were classified 11th out of 12.
This followed a dismal performance in the 2009 World Championships, where they finished 15th out of 16 teams and only avoided relegation only due to an IIHF stipulation that ensured their participation at home as hosts of this year's tournament at Austria's expense.
The Germans have participated in the Olympics in ice hockey 20 times since 1928, with nine of those being as Germany. Three of the teams were called the United Team of Germany during the split between East and West Germany in 1956, 1960 and 1964, but it was actually just the West Germany Team, which defeated the East German team for the right to represent all of Germany as one "United" team.
Following that ill-fated "united" concept, Germans have also participated seven times as West Germany and once as East Germany in 1968, the only time both West Germany and East Germany sent separate teams to the same Olympic Games.
Their best results have been bronze medals in 1932 as Germany and in 1976 as West Germany.
Aside from their poor showing in 2009, the Germans are regular participants in the World Championships, having been in the Top Division of the World Championships every year since the reunification of Germany in 1991 except three, with two of those years seeing promotion back to the Top Division. Their best finish during that time period was a 5th place in 1993. While not considered one of the elite countries in hockey, they are often just outside of the top group and have been invited to participate in the eight team World Cup of Hockey both times it has been held.
Germany enters the 2010 World Championships with only two NHLers on it's roster, including Marcel Goc and Alexander Sulzer of Nashville.
The key game for Germany, aside from competing in the opening game of the tournament against the United States in front of a world record crowd to kick off the festivities, is their meeting with Denmark on May 12. Assuming both teams have failed to gain any points versus Finland and the United States prior, the winner of this head-to-head matchup will advance to the Qualification Round, avoiding the threat of relegation entirely. Denmark is currently ranked 13th, immediately behind the Germans.
Today's video section takes a look at the 2010 World Championships and it's host cities.
Next, a review of last year's gold medal final between Russia and Canada.