Monday, February 3, 2014

2014 Olympic Hockey Preview - Norway

The Norway National Hockey Team is currently ranked 9th in the IIHF World Rankings. Based on their status as one of the top nine ranked countries, Norway was automatically entered in the 2014 Olympic tournament, allowing them avoid the qualification process for teams outside the top nine thanks to their nice run of form in the 2010 (9th place), 2011 (6th) and 2012 (8th) World Championships, which elevated them above the likes of Switzerland, Germany and Latvia when the automatic qualifiers were determined following the 2012 World Championships.

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The Norwegians have participated in the Olympics in ice hockey ten times since 1952, with their best result being an 8th place in 1972 and a 9th place in 1992. 2010 was the first time Norway had qualified for the Olympic tournament since 1994.

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Norway has participated in the World Championships dating as far back as 1937, with regular participation since 1958. Norway has never won a medal at the World Championships with their best finish being a fourth place back in 1951.

In recent times, they earned a promotion to the Top Division in 1989, were relegated in 1990, and played in the expanded Top Division from 1992 through 1997, when they were relegated once more. In 1999 they were back in the Top Division as hosts of the tournament and stayed there three years before once more dropping back down to Division 1. On their fourth try in 2005, they regained a spot in the Top Division, where they have successfully remained for the last eight years, including a great 6th place in 2011, which included defeating Sweden 5-4 in a shootout to open their tournament and a 5-0 blanking of Austria to advance to the Qualifying Round, where they defeated the Swiss 3-2 and narrowly lost to Canada 3-2 before defeating France 5-2 before bowing out in the Quarterfinals to the eventual champions Finland 4-1.

Norway enters the 2014 Olympics with one NHLer on it's roster, Mats Zuccarello-Aasen of the New York Rangers.

Zuccarello Aasen Norway photo ZuccarelloAasenNorway.jpg
Mats Zuccarello-Aasen

The remainder of the Norwegian roster comes from a number of leagues, including Patrick Thoresen, a former Flyer, currently in the KHL, as is goaltender Lars Haugen and defenseman Jonas Holos. Additionally, Norway has 10 players from Sweden's Elitserien, highlighted by the 2009 Elitserien leading scorer Per-Åge Skrøder of Modo. Eight players play in the GET-ligaen at home in Norway, while the remainder of the roster consists of one player each in Finland, Germany, Sweden's second division and the Central Hockey League in the United States. The Norway roster has many veterans on it. so they hope to bring some chemistry to the tournament that the elite countries may lack.

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Patrick Thoresen

With the format for this year's Olympics calling for the top four teams after the Preliminary Round to receive byes into the quarterfinals, the key for Norway will be defeating Austria in their final Group B game on February 16th and possibly taking a point by getting to overtime against either Canada or Finland in their earlier games to not only gain a point in the standings to ensure the best matchup in the Qualification Playoffs, but also gain some early confidence.

Unfortunately, the format of the tournament goes against the smaller countries like Norway, as the top teams will be looking to pour it on in the preliminary round since the short schedule puts a great emphasis on goal differential to determine who gets a coveted bye into the quarterfinals, or at least the most favorable matchup in the secondary round on February 23rd for a berth in the quarterfinals.

Expect Norway to give it their best shot, but tire as the tournament goes on and bow out in the Qualification Playoffs as they draw an opponent such as Switzerland or  Slovakia, if not worse, should any of the top teams suffer an upset in the preliminary round.

Today's featured jersey is a 1998 Norway National Team Ole Eskild Dahlstrøm jersey as worn during the 1998 World Championships Group B held in Slovenia.

This is a rare, one year only style for Norway, as the shield crest with the polar bear walking in profile was only used during 1998. The following year the jersey template remained the same, only the Norwegian Ice Hockey Federation logo (as seen above) was restored to the national team jerseys, which would remain the same through 2005.

Norway 1998 jersey photo Norway1998F.jpg
Norway 1998 jersey photo Norway1998B.jpg

Here is a look at the jerseys that Norway will be wearing in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, which are unchanged from those worn in Vancouver in 2010. These jerseys reprise the classic vintage jersey worn by Norway once in the 2008 World Championships as part of the IIHF Centennial Celebrations, which were based on the jerseys originally worn by Norway in the 1960's, with the addition of the even more striking red road version.

Norway 2014 jersey photo Norway2014jerseys.png

Today's video section starts off with highlights of Norway from the 2008 World Championship. Notice the white "Norge" 1960's vintage jeresys at the start of the video against Germany (wearing black). This would be the only time Norway would wear these attractive throwbacks.

Also take note of Norway scoring against Canada, proving they are capable of giving the Canadians a game to open the Olympic tournament, especially if Canada feels the pressure to perform at home with the entire nation watching.

No mention of Norwegian would be complete without the following video of the 1989 National Team singing "Heia Norge".

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