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Friday, June 12, 2015

2015 ITHF Table Hockey World Championships

Today marks the start of the International Table Hockey Federation (ITHF) 2015 Table Hockey World Championships in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

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The origin of competitive table hockey dates back to the Swedish Championships in 1982 and the Table Hockey World Championships began in 1989 and were held in Stockholm, Sweden. The next edition would not arrive until 1992 in Brno, Czechoslovakia and was quickly followed by the 1993 championships in Paris, France. The tournament then began an every other year schedule which it has maintained since.

Swedes won the first nine World Championship titles, the first coming in 1989 when Mikael Krantz defeated a field of 42 players from 7 countries. 1992 saw Jacob Lindahl win the first of his two titles in the second World Championships, defeating 32 others. Lindahl won the fourth World Championships on home soil to claim his second crown, outlasting a field of 66 players from 8 countires.

Hans Österman then took the 1997 version in Helsinki, Finland and repeated the feat in 2001 in Prague and again in 2005 in Riga, Latvia to become the only 3-time World Champion when he defeated that year's Junior Champion Roni Nuttunen of Finland to prevail over a field which had grown to a record 132 entrants from 22 nationalities!

Österman's third title extended the run of Swedes to nine, which was finally broken when Finn Nuttunen became the first player to win back-to-back championships, which came in 2007 (Moscow, Russia) and 2009 (Budapest, Hungary).

Oleg Dmitrichenko of Russia took the 2011 tournament in Turku, Finland when he dethroned Nuttunen, who was making his fourth straight appearance in the finals. Dmitrichenko prevailed over a field of 105 players from 17 countries. To date the championships have also been held in Germany, the Czech Republic and Switzerland.

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Oleg Dmitrichenko winning the 2011 World Championships

The most recent event in 2013 saw Atis Sillis defeat fellow countryman Edgars Caics to claim the first world championship for Latvia to prevail over a field of 118 participants from 18 countries.

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Atis Sillis of Latvia took home the trophy in 2013

In addition to the Men's singles championships, the women have also been participating in their own tournament along side the men since 1992 in Czechoslovakia. France (1), Sweden (3), Finland (4) and Russia (4) have all won championships in that order, with Pila Pulliainen's three consecutive from 2001 to 2005 being the most among the women, but Russians have won the last four consecutive titles and will be looking to extend that streak on home "ice".

1997 saw the introduction of the World Junior Championship (18 and under) with Nuttunen standing out for his win in 2005 and achieving the double World Championship in 2007, as he also won the Open Division, the first junior age player to ever do "the double".

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Nuttunen won both the Open and Junior titles in 2007

The World Veteran Championships (40 and over) were introduced in 2005 and have been contested five times to date.

There are also team championships for both men and women, with the men's division beginning in 1992 and following a similar path to the singles titles, with Sweden dominating the first seven before Finland took one, followed by Sweden again and now Russia three times. The women's Team Championship started in 2005 with the first three going to Russia. Finland won in 2011 but Russia returned to the top in 2013.

Stiga table hockey games of Sweden are the standard used by the ITHF, the Stiga Play Off model in particular, which features all left handed international player figures as opposed to the Stiga Stanley Cup model, which has a mix of left and right handed NHL players.

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Stiga Play Off Hockey

The ITHF was founded in 2005 and currently has 19 member nations, all familiar hockey playing nations in Europe except Canada and the United States from North America. In addition to the World Championships, there are many local, regional and national tournaments which take place each season.

The 2015 World Championships begin on Friday at 10:30 AM in Saint Petersburg with play beginning  in the Team competitions with play continuing throughout Saturday in the Open Division with 108 competitors from 16 nations battling it out for the individual World Championship and then Sunday sees the Senior and Junior championships decided.

To follow the championships, please visit Stiga's Table Hockey Facebook page, the World Championships Facebook page or the tournament website.

To get involved or participate in a tournament, contact the Canadian Table Hockey Association or the United States Table Hockey Association.

To see some of the skills possessed by table hockey players, take a look at this impressive demonstration of goal scoring techniques.

Here is a video recap of the 2011 World Championships, which featured a final between Dmitrichenko and Nuttunen of Finland.

Ever wonder what the knob hockey players are saying on the ice? Here's your chance.

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