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We need “extra” teams at the World Championship. They are the ones who make us fall in love with hockey

Date: June 18, 2024 Time: 07:21:57

Poland and Great Britain were eliminated from the elite division of the World Cup. It was these teams that qualified this year and won the right to leave the last place in the World Cup. And now they are coming back.

“Well, why were they necessary? Why do we need such weak teams in the World Cup?” — this is precisely the question frozen on the lips of many hockey fans.

You can understand this attitude towards outsiders. After all, the losers lower the overall level of the tournament, cannot beat the favorites and are often quickly eliminated.

But this attitude is completely wrong. The elite division needs teams like this! And there are several reasons for this.

“We can reduce the number of participants in the World Cup!”

The more prosaic reason is that there really aren’t that many top-tier teams. If we do not take into account our national team, which was suspended, only Canada, the United States, Finland and Sweden remain. The Czech Republic and Switzerland are often considered “pretops,” depending on the selection of players in a given period. Even if we count them, we only get six (or seven, taking into account Russia) the best hockey teams.

A reasonable question: if we eliminate the other teams, what will the World Cup be like? A meeting of several strong teams that don’t really need the group stage.

Canada and USA teams

Photo: iihf.com

A similar picture can now be observed in women’s hockey, where all participants in the playoffs are already known in advance. And two or three other teams, who by some miracle made it to the elite and stayed there, are simply playing with each other to see who gets relegated from the elite division and who gets relegated in the first game of the playoffs. By the way, only two teams regularly reach the final: Canada and the United States. Fans love predictability, right?

Perhaps the possible reduction of participants in the tournament will increase the number of important matches. But does the public really need it? Canada – USA, or Canada – Russia, or Sweden – Finland, or Russia – Finland – these are all important matchups, but they get boring. I want something new, fresh, unusual. And the hockey world championship, unlike football, is an annual event. Even the confrontation between the United States and Canada will soon become boring.

“Due to outsiders, the level of play is falling”

If we talk about the level of play, we must first ask ourselves the question: what do we want to see?

It is clear that equipment that is not top-tier will rarely show something beautiful and high-level. But at the same time we have national teams in Finland and Sweden that regularly play at a high level, but is their style attractive? What is more interesting to watch: the match between Finland and the Czech Republic, which ended in a penalty shootout with a score of 0:1, or the match between Latvia and Poland (5:4 overtime)?

I think the answer is obvious. Although, of course, everyone has their own tastes.

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Furthermore, there is another important reason to leave the outside teams and not the strongest ones. Playing in important tournaments allows you to develop! After all, only by competing with strong opponents can you grow. In many ways, this is precisely what, by the way, explains why the ban on the Russian team is terrible.

Let’s take a look at the dry statistics.

The Swiss team, which finished third in the group stage of the 2024 World Cup, was one of the best in the first half of the 20th century, when it won six bronze medals and one silver in 23 years. The second half of the century turned out to be a dark time for the national team without any success and with a so-so vegetation in the lower divisions.

In the 21st century, Switzerland returned to the elite, managed to stay there and gradually developed, competing with the best teams. The first successes came in 2013, when the “crusaders” caused a sensation and took silver at the World Championship for the first time in 78 years. Five years later they repeated their success.

Of course, this can be explained by a generation of genius players. But again, for every European team, the World Cup is an important tournament, so certain successes can encourage players to better develop hockey in their country.

Team Switzerland

Photo: iihf.com

The same can be said, for example, of the German team. Quite imperceptibly, the team went from being an obvious outsider and whipping to a fairly strong team, a strong middle peasant. Fourth place in the 2010 World Cup, the same in the 2021 World Cup and, finally, silver in the 2023 World Cup, only the third in the country’s history. And in the middle there was also Olympic silver in 2018. In May 2023, Germany was in fifth place in the national team rankings, between the United States and Sweden (!).

Moreover, such sensations began to appear only in the 21st century. If you go back through the list of medalists in history, you won’t be able to see any new teams until 1953.

It turns out the tactic is working. Not the best teams are gradually developing, becoming strong teams that can impose the fight on the favorites.

“The fans do not need outsiders”

One of the most common theses regarding “extra” equipment is that no one needs it.

And that’s not true either. It’s the underdogs that make fans fall in love with them.

People like good stories. And what could be more beautiful than the desperate fight and success of a weak team, which can recover and give battle to the clear favorite? In many ways, it’s stories like this that attract new viewers and bring those already tired of hockey back to the screens and stands.

You don’t need to go far. The current World Cup has managed to present several powerful surprises. One of them is Poland, which returned to the elite for the first time in several decades and immediately began to “bite”. He starred in an exciting match with Latvia (4-5 extra time), almost recovered from 0-4 with France and 0-3 with Germany. And until the last match he maintained his chances of remaining in the elite.

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Another story seems absolutely fabulous. Austria, whose highest finish in the 21st century was 10th and who maneuvered mainly between divisions, became the main sensation of this year’s World Cup. First, in a crazy thriller with Switzerland, the team was on the verge of scoring points (they missed the decisive goal in the last minute). They then recovered from a 1:6 draw with Canada, humiliating the tournament favorite with five unanswered goals during the period and becoming one of two teams to take points away from Maple. Then they completely beat the current Olympic champions, Finland! And they might even have made the playoffs if not for the disappointing loss to Great Britain in the last game.

Did Finland, Sweden or Canada force many Russians (and not only) to watch the 2024 World Cup at least with one eye? Or, funny as it may sound, Austria?

Despite her position against Latvia, last year many supported her in the bronze medal match at the 2023 World Cup. And remember how the Latvians were received in their homeland. Like heroes! And this is a team that has always been considered a pure outsider and whose best result was seventh place (the last time, in 2009). The medal was the first in history for Latvia.

In addition, these teams often delight outside fans with their sincerity. For conventional Canadians, the World Cup can be a piece of cake and not always fun to watch. There is beauty, yes, but it does not evoke strong feelings.

But after every goal by Poland or Great Britain, one can’t help but smile seeing the violent reaction of the hockey players. Remember the historic victory of the British over France in 2019, which allowed them to remain in the elite. The players celebrated on the ice as if they had won the tournament and shouted, “We suck and we know it!”

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Isn’t that what we love about hockey? Aren’t these the real, sincere emotions you really want to see in athletes?

We can mention another well-known thesis: “Where would these outsiders be if Russia and Belarus had not been marginalized?” Yes, there is some truth in this: our team always makes it to the playoffs, so at least a place for sensation. But Germany and Switzerland showed their teeth and wrote history, even when Russia participated in the tournaments. And Belarus has been maneuvering between divisions in recent years. So, although this argument has some basis, that does not mean that with the presence of our team or the Belarusians the sensations would be significantly reduced.

Hockey needs underdogs. World championships need losers. They fall in love with themselves and hockey. And sometimes they also organize vacations, both for their fellow citizens and for people from other countries.

We need “additional” equipment.

* This website provides news content gathered from various internet sources. It is crucial to understand that we are not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information presented Read More

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.
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