PARDUBICE, Czech Republic â€“ The 2011 IIHF InLine Hockey World Championship kicks off on Sunday in Pardubice, Czech Republic. While the hosts are getting ready, the other teams arrived on Saturday for their first practices.
The city in Eastern Bohemia, where several famous ice hockey players including Dominik Hasek hail from, awaits with a great hockey spectacle after the end of the ice hockey season when the 15th IIHF InLine Hockey World Championship starts at CEZ Arena.
The United States that won its fifth gold last year in Karlstad, Sweden, will be among the favourites again, but last yearâ€™s runner-up Czech Republic is eager to avenge for the 6-5 loss in the gold medal game while playing on home ice this time.
In the last seven InLine World Championships, Sweden and USA are the only gold winning countries.
â€śTeam USA is the biggest favourite according to me,â€ť says Czech coach Petr Hemsky. â€śAll of them are professional inline hockey players and that is a great advantage for them. They donâ€™t have to go through the transformation from ice hockey.â€ť
As for the defending of last yearâ€™s silver medals, his target involves standing on the podium again. â€śAny medal would be a great success for us and we will fight for it,â€ť he ensures.
Opposed to ice hockey, the Czechs have never become world champions in inline, but they won three silvers and one bronze medal.
The team will be captained by 34-year-old forward Petr Tenkrat, who played ice hockey for KĂ¤rpĂ¤t Oulu in the Finnish SM-liiga last year and also represented his country in two IIHF World Championships in ice hockey.
â€śGetting used to inline hockey is not a problem at all. After all those years, you kind of get familiar with both and for me itâ€™s usually harder the other way around,â€ť the captain says. â€śInline hockey is much more about skating â€“ especially with Finnish or Swedish players who are really good at it and play up and down the rink.â€ť
The Czech team also includes Petr Tenkrat and Karel Rachunek, who both won the bronze medal at the IIHF World Championship in Bratislava one month ago, and KHL player Tomas Mojzis. From last yearâ€™s inline team goalkeeper Roman Handl and ten-point scorer Martin Vozdecky are back, among others.
Sweden, which won three straight world titles between 2007 and 2009 but had to settle for bronze last year, will be another team in the circle of favourites.
â€śOur biggest competitor is probably Team Sweden, but we have to beat everyone if we want to win the cup,â€ť says American forward Itan Chavira, one of six players of the LA Pama Cyclones.
He doesnâ€™t feel any pressure after last yearâ€™s gold. â€śThere is no pressure from this fact. We came here to win and thatâ€™s what we will try our best to achieve,â€ť he explains.
Team USA will face Canada, Slovenia and Slovakia in Group A. Four more teams will battle for the inline hockey world title starting in Group B with the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland and Germany.
The eight other teams are seeded in the Division I tournament that will be played in Pardubice as well:
Group C: Austria, Australia, Great Britain, South Africa.
Group D: Croatia, Hungary, Argentina, New Zealand.
The games of the Czech national team and the gold medal game will be broadcast live by the Czech TV on CT4 Sport.
The rosters of the Top Division
and Division I
will be published in the night from Saturday to Sunday.
MARTIN MERK, RADEK KLIER