The top teams in international hockey will converge on Tampere and Helsinki, Finland starting this Friday, 13 May, kicking off the premiere event of the global hockey calendar, the 2022 IIHF World Championship.
With the tournament seemingly set to return to normal with complete seasons finally taking place and COVID restrictions around the world beginning to lift, the tournament was thrown into question once again when Russia, with support from Belarus, invaded Ukraine unprovoked on 24 February. This sparked a rapid global outcry across the world, and the IIHF was no exception, quickly booting the Russian Olympic Committee and Belarus from the World Championship, among many other restrictions, with Austria and France taking their place.
Group A, meeting in Helsinki, sees defending champions Canada facing a relatively easy group (thanks to the removal of Russia), with a few contenders looking to fight for top seeding, including Switzerland, Slovakia and Germany, while lower-tier teams like Denmark, Kazakhstan, Italy and newly-promoted France will look to make an impact and avoid relegation.
Group B, meeting in Tampere, includes 75% of the Euro Hockey Tour, with hosts Finland, Sweden and Czechia all drawing into the same group, likely fighting with the United States for top billing in the group. The group is rounded out by Great Britain, Latvia, Norway and newly-promoted Austria, all looking to avoid falling to the bottom of the group, and perhaps surprise some contenders along the way.
Click here to see the full 2022 World Championship schedule
From the perspective of the IHLC, a few interesting facts related to this year’s World Championship:
– Czechia enters as incumbent champions for the seventh time, and first since 1995, when they finished fourth in Sweden
– Czechia enters the tournament having just passed Sweden to move into sole possession of third place on the all-time IHLC Rankings list
– this is Helsinki’s eighth time hosting, and Tampere’s sixth, and first time hosting together since 2003; Helsinki last co-hosted the Worlds with Stockholm in 2012 and 2013
– due to their ongoing invasion of Ukraine, both Russia and Belarus have been barred from this and next year’s World Championship
– Russia and Belarus will be replaced by Austria and France, promoted from Division IA, returning to the Top Division for the first time since 2018 and 2019, respectively
– Canada will look to win their second consecutive and 28th overall World Championship, and their first consecutive wins since 2015 and 2016
– hosts Finland will look to regain their crown after winning the Worlds in 2019, to win their fourth Worlds overall (1995, 2011, 2019)
– returning tournament All-Stars to this year’s Worlds include 2021 top defenceman Moritz Seider (Germany), Korbinian Holzer (Germany) and Jussi Olkinuora (Finland)
Czechia will enter with the International Hockey Lineal Championship, looking to combine this with their first World Championship Gold since 2010; whether they are able to escape Group B with the title, or if the likes of Canada looking for a repeat Gold, Finland looking to win on home ice, or a mystery contender who emerges to the top of the world, it will be a very exciting time with the first “open” World Championship since the pre-COVID tournament of 2019.