You may or may not be aware that in just over a week, 23 Elite League players will be heading to Lithuania for the Ice Hockey World Championship.
Team GB is currently in Division I, Group B along with Croatia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland and Romania. For those who have no idea what the division/group name means, there are currently 6 different tournament levels within the IIHF Men’s World Championships. Up in the top level are the teams you’d expect, including Canada, USA, Russia, Sweden and Finland. The next level is Division I, Group A, with Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Japan, Korea and Ukraine.
The third level is ours.
The World Championships happen every year, with a Round Robin series where each team plays each opponent once. The winner of the event is promoted up to the next level, with the lowest-ranked team being relegated down. The top level is the one that gets all of the international notice, and the one where medals are handed out.
That doesn’t mean, for a moment, that the lower levels are less important. At worst, it allows some of the best players in our country to show how good they are on an international stage. And at best, each year takes us one step closer to the so-called big leagues. Imagine knowing that in two years, we could see Ashley Tait, Danny Meyers and Stephen Murphy facing up to Sidney Crosby, Shea Weber and Carey Price.
Pretty nice mental image, right?
So the situation this far is that in 2011, Team GB came out on top of Division 1, Group B and were promoted up to Group A. I think it’s fair to say that they struggled a little, and last year – after losing all 5 of their games – were relegated back down to Group B. It’s all good though. This year is going to be their year.
The coach for Team GB is Doug Christiansen, most recently of the Sheffield Steelers. Along with his assistant coaches, Corey Neilson (Nottingham Panthers) and Peter Russell (Team GB Under 18s), they’re hoping to get the team back up to Group A. It has to be assumed that their other intention is to build a team that is strong enough to stay there and be competitive. I’d personally like to think that we have enough great British-born players in the EIHL that this is more than possible.
There are currently 28 players listed on the squad, but that will be reduced down to 23 after two home internationals this weekend against Netherlands. This will be a great opportunity to watch players who, only a week ago, were facing off against each other, and will now be working side-by-side wearing the Union Flag.
The first home international game will be taking place in Sheffield on Saturday 12th April, with the second on Sunday 13th in Coventry.
If you haven’t yet booked your tickets for these games, you can get them for Sheffield via www.sivtickets.com or telephone 0114 2233777. For Coventry, you can call 02476 630693, visit the Skydome Box Office, or purchase via the website www.planet-ice.co.uk/coventry.
The first game in Lithuania is on Sunday 20th April at 11am our time, when Team GB play against Croatia. You can probably buy tickets for this game too, but the travel might be a little more complicated.
Feel free to leave a comment here, or come chat to me on Twitter @CarolinaKaniac