Fans may think these Olympics involve just 12 countries in ice hockey, but there are far more nations represented on the ice.
Factor in Germany and Japan, who took part in the Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament but didn’t qualify for the men’s tournament, and you have 14 countries that were able to send hockey teams to Sochi out of the 34 nations who applied to enter a team for the qualification process.
But even that’s not all. It’s not only fans of NHL teams or clubs from the top European leagues who have players in Sochi to cheer for.
The DEL, Germany’s top men’s league, was represented by no less than ten players despite having no Olympic break after the men’s national team failed to win its qualification tournament. Seven of these players hail from Slovenia and one each from Austria, Latvia and Norway. The Latvian, Herberts Vasiljevs, also has German citizenship after having played in the country for ten years.
Germany also has three on-ice officials in the men’s tournament including Lars Bruggemann, who represented Germany as a player in Nagano 1998.
Slovenia had not only a large number of players from the German league but also several from other non-participating countries. Four players came from French club teams and one from the Italian club Bolzano Foxes. Also, fans from Kazakhstan were able to follow two players under contract in their country in the form of Slovenia’s Sabahudin Kovacevic of Sary-Arka Karaganda and Latvian forward Armands Berzins of Beibarys Atyrau.
One player, Latvia’s third goalkeeper Ervins Mustukovs, came from Esbjerg, a club from Denmark, another country that failed in the qualification stage.
Fans from Ukrainian KHL club Donbass Donetsk were able to follow Slovak goalie Jan Laco and Latvian defenceman Oskars Bartulis and supporters of Belarusian KHL clubs had Norwegian goalie Lars Haugen, Czech defenceman Lukas Krajicek and Slovak forward Tomas Surovy in Sochi.
The Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament includes officials from two non-participating countries who earned their nomination. In addition to Germany, Belarus is represented with linesman Ivan Dedyulya, who has officiated in every IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship since 2007, including two gold medal games (2008, 2013). This is his first Olympic Games and considering he was nominated for the USA-Canada semi-final and the bronze medal game, he seems to be doing well in Sochi.
On the women’s side, officials from two more countries could be found on the ice with Joy Tottman from Great Britain and Charlotte Girard from France. Tottmann has been officiating games at the highest international level since 2005, and her third Olympics offered a career highlight as she got the call to do the gold medal game on Thursday.
The Olympics are a truly international affair in hockey – more than one might think.