BRATISLAVA – The 2017 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship is one of the hottest IIHF events ever. Literally, since it’s played in the summer during days that are hit by a heat wave in Central Europe.
The thermometer reached 31°C at the start of the event and 29° in the arena. It may be even hotter today and the current heat wave will culminate at 36°C on Wednesday according to forecasts – that’s luckily when teams have a day off.
For the players, organizer and medical staff playing world-class inline hockey in summer provides a different challenge from what many are used to in ice hockey.
“The most important point is to drink enough, all day long but also during practice and the game. During the game you should drink continuously even if you don’t feel thirsty,” says Boris Brand.
The German is usually the team doctor of German ice hockey team Bietigheim-Bissingen Steelers, which plays in the DEL2, but has also become an expert in inline hockey for the IIHF serving as the IIHF Medical Supervisor at the IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship already for the 18th time.
Players usually drink isotonic drinks during the game. Off the rink he recommends nutrition that is rich in electrolytes. Fruits, juices, vegetables and salty food are good ideas when players sweat a lot.
The heat is special for teams that came from the north. Or from the winter in the southern hemisphere from countries like Argentina, Australia, Brazil or New Zealand.
“It was really hot, quite different than in Sweden. And it’s also more humid here,” says Swedish forward Markus Kinisjarvi. “You really have to hydrate, drink like 4-5 litres a day.”
Measures were also taken from the IIHF and organizer. It was agreed with all teams to add a “heat break” of 30 seconds in the middle of each of the four periods. The break would be moved to the expiration of the penalty in case of a power play.
“That’s especially for the goaltenders, who have the biggest exposure,” Brand explains. “They normally don’t have changes. They have heavier equipment, which means they have more difficulties releasing heat. Skaters can cool down through the wind while they’re skating but goalies can’t since they stay in their crease. Goalies are therefore more at risk.”
Even for goalies who are used to the heat like Bratislava native Vladimir Neumann it’s not easy. “The heat is unreal, like 29°C inside. I’d prefer an ice rink now,” the Slovak goalie, who also plays ice hockey for third-tier team HC Bratislava, said after the win against Croatia.
The temperatures encourage to think about changing goalies more often than usual and give them a rest with three games in three days. Only three of the eight top-division teams and two teams in the Division I tournament have used one goalie for two full games. But that of course depends on the roster situation and the score. After all, the teams are here to win games and medals.
Another special measure taken is the installation of two fans for each player bench to create ventilation. Those are much appreciated by the teams.
“It’s definitely hot. Luckily we came here a couple of days earlier. The fans at the player bench definitely help a lot,” says Finnish defenceman Jouni Aalto.
In Tampere, the Finnish host of the last Inline Hockey Worlds, it’s not hotter than 14°C today. But even in Finland it can be hot. Brand remembers a similar situation when the event was held in Kuopio in 2005. Budapest in 2006 and Bratislava in 2008 were also events with a heat wave.
“In 2008 it was also a heat wave here too but that was the old arena with a tin roof, so it was even hotter inside than now. I remember we had an issue with a referee who collapsed. With the rebuilt arena it’s better. It is better isolated. But many ice arenas are concepted for events in winter rather than having outside temperatures of over 30°C,” Brand says.
After two days the players have adjusted and know what to expect. Doing the right things can help them to cope better with the heat and perform better during the six game days.
“With three games in the first three days, the players need to regenerate between the games,” Brand says. The public swimming pool next to the Ondrej Nepela Arena is luring. But while taking a swim won’t hurt, he adds: “To take a sunbath at the pool or walk five hours in the old town wouldn’t be a good idea.”
The tournament continues today first with the Division I game between New Zealand and Hungary at 13:00. All games at the second rink are streamed exclusively on Fanseat
, which also shows the top division, 46 games in total.
All 25 games from the main arena are also shown on the IIHF.com stream
starting with the top-division game between Croatia and Team USA at 14:00 local time (8am ET).