Despite being one of the four founders of the International Ice Hockey Federation in 1908, and an early dominant player in international hockey, Saturday saw Great Britain’s national team compete for the IHLC for the first time in 28 years, and for the first time at a World Championship in 59 years.
Amassing 27 IHLC victories between their first win in 1907 and the 1950 World Championship, which also saw Great Britain capture Olympic Gold in 1936, the postwar British team, which for most of its existence depended on Canadian-born players living abroad, fell off the international map with the rise of the Iron Curtain in the 1950s. Following the 1950 World Championships, which were hosted in London, the Brits only qualified for the Worlds again in 1962 (which was largely due to a Communist boycott) and in 1994 (following the split of most of the aforementioned Communist nations). Their only IHLC match since 1962 came 31 years later in 1993, as part of a 1994 Olympic Qualification tournament held on home ice in Sheffield, which GB dropped 7-1 to Slovakia.
GB made their return to the Top Division in 2019, and more surprisingly stayed in the Top Division, following a thrilling finale which saw them demote France to Division IA; and with the pandemic preventing demotions until at least 2022, will see the Lions stay in the Top for three consecutive World Championships. While they will not make the medal round this year in Latvia, they celebrated their first regulation World Championship victory on 26 May, a 4-3 victory over Belarus, since the aforementioned 1962 Worlds. And with Liam Kirk becoming the first British-trained player to be drafted to the NHL, this will hopefully open the door for more British talent to make a global impact.
Britain, who lost 6-1 to Czechia today in their IHLC attempt, also holds the unique distinction of being the only nation to play all three national iterations of the Czech team, having previously defeated the Bohemian national team on 24 Jan 1909 at the Coupe de Chamonix tournament in France, and Czechoslovakia on 14 Feb 1936 at the Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics. Czechia’s victory today also saw them leapfrog Sweden to move into third all-time in the IHLC Rankings, tied at 204 wins apiece, but with Czechia getting there in fewer games played (454 games vs. Sweden’s 480 games).
With emerging stars and a growing fanbase behind them, hopefully Team GB will be able to make more of a splash in front of home fans at the 2022 Worlds in Finland, looking to stay in the Top Division for more than a technicality, and capture their first IHLC title in over seventy years.