The FIFA World Cup shows us exactly how an International Hockey tournament should be. 32 teams from all around the world compete for one prize. Not the best 32 teams, but 32 teams, going throuhg rigourous qualifying through groups designated by continent, because there are currently 209 countries recognized by FIFA. The IIHF on the other hand, as of their last ranking update, has 49, separated into 6 divisions. Championship, Division I A, Division I B, Division II A, Division II B and Division III.
Having six divisions is fine, as they work the same way they do in football, where the winner of each division gets relegated, and last place gets relegated, and the rankings are determined by a country’s performance by the last four IIHF World Championships, and the last Winter Olympics.
But this also leads to the first thing that is broken, as only 12 teams qualify for the Winter Olympics,w ith the top 9 teams in the IIHF rankings getting automatic qualification. Meaning that you will see those same 9 teams participating in every Winter Olympics. The last 3 spots are determined by a series of tournaments. Starting from a 4 team tournament with countries ranked 30 to 33.
The winner advancing to another tournament consisting of three groups of three, and the countries involved being ranked 19th to 29th, plus the winner of the first tournament. Then, the winners of the three groups, go on to play in ANOTHER tournament, consisting of three groups of three again, but with the countries ranked 10th to 18th, plus the three group winners from the second tournament, with the three group winners of the final tournament, advancing to the Winter Olympics. So it takes THREE tournaments, just to determine three qualifying spots in the Winter Olympics, meaning that if you have a bad IIHF World Championship one year, your chances of making the Olympics are slim and none.
The second thing that is broken, is that the Olympics is the major tournament for International Ice Hockey. Now I agree, the Winter Olympics without Ice Hockey wouldn’t be the same, but they play football (or soccer if you’re in the US or New Zealand) in the Olympics too! The rules of football at the Summer Olympics is that players must be the age of 23 or under, with each country allowed to have three players aged 24 or over in their squads, meaning that the teams are more equal, and the best countries in the world, don’t necessarily win the Gold Medal.
Hockey needs a tournament of it’s own. They have the IIHF World Championships, but that is split up, with no opportunity for the lower-ranked countries to play against the best in the world, meaning they have little opportunity to expose themselves to the best players in the world. A tournament where the lower ranked teams play the best in the world, would not only give those lower ranked more exposure against the top countries, but also grow the sport of Hockey around the world, uncover hidden talent, and who knows, you might even see an upset or two.
Now if only there was a Hockey version of the FIFA World Cup. Somewhere where minnows can play and challenge the absolute best. A Hockey World Cup if you will..
http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/tretiak-world-cup-hockey-set-comeback-2016-214335953.html (Courtesy of Yahoo! Sports)
That’s right. The World Cup of Hockey is set to return in 2016! Is this the savior for International Hockey? Will Hockey finally have a stand-alone tournament ready to capitvae audiences all around the world like the FIFA World Cup does every four years? Well no.
It seems the World Cup of Hockey is nothing more than a money grab by the NHL, and to deter it’s players from playing Hockey from participating at the Winter Olympics. The World Cup of Hockey will consist of 8 countries, with 6 of those countries already secured (United States, Canada, Sweden, Russia, Finland and the Czech Republic), with the 2 remaining teams to be determined by how many NHLers they have, as well as their IIHF ranking.
This concept doesn’t really add much to the world of International Hockey, as this is just an 8-team tournament to be held every two years before the NHL season. If the World Cup of Hockey became a 24 or 32-country tournament, similar to the FIFA World Cup, then maybe it will have some merit, but until then, International Hockey won’t mean as much as it really deserves to be.