Inline Hockey Worlds return

10 days until first puck-drop in Bratislava

15.06.2017
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The last time the IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship was played in Bratislava, in 2008, host Slovakia faced Sweden in the gold medal game. Pictured are Linus Klasen and Tamas Sille. Photo: Jakub Sukup

BRATISLAVA – The IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship returns this month and will be played at the 10,055-seat Ondrej Nepela Arena in the Slovak capital of Bratislava. The two-tier event will take place at the biggest indoor venue of the country that hosted the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships most recently in 1992 and 2011 and was also home for the IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship once before, in 2008.

Here’s what you need to know about the event to get yourself ready for this global summer festival of hockey:

Dates: 25 June – 1 July 2017 with the preliminary round taking place on the first three days and the playoff and placement games on the last three days and following one off day.

Divisions: 16 teams travel to Bratislava but the event is split into two tiers with eight teams battling it out for the World Championship and further eight teams playing in the Division I tournament and the winner earning promotion.

Format: Each division is split into two groups of equal strength seeded according to the ranking of the last Inline Hockey Worlds. Each team plays each of the other three teams during three days. After an off day, the tournaments continue with the quarter-finals followed by the semi-finals, medal games and placement games. The team losing the game for seventh place in the top division will be relegated and be replaced by the Division I winner. The three bottom-ranked teams from Division I will be relegated to the qualification tournaments.

Affordable tickets: A day ticket costs only €4 and gives access to assigned seats at the main arena with up to four games a day. Additionally, up to four games a day are played at the second rink of the arena with the Division I tournament. That’s up to eight games a day.

Historical favourites: Four countries have done particularly well in the past. The United States are the record world champion with six gold medals and 14 medals in total but were left empty-handed last time in Tampere 2015. Sweden follows closely behind with five golds and 11 medals. Finland improved in recent years and has four gold medals, most recently in 2014, and 13 medals in total. Canada came back from a drought and has now three golds after winning in 2012 and 2015, and eight medals in total. The fifth country that has won gold is the Czech Republic winning it all at home in Pardubice in 2011 and having won four medals in total. The following countries have also won medals but never the world title: Germany (5), Slovakia (1) and Switzerland (1).

Host team: Slovakia has had its ups and downs and hopes to improve from a fourth-place finish in the last tournament when the team plays in front of its home crowd. The highlight was in 2008 at home in Bratislava when the team reached the final and won silver, the only medal for Slovakia in IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship history. The lowlight was relegation in 2009 and 2011.

Croatia’s premiere: For the first time Croatia is qualified for the top division. Two years ago in Tampere the Croats beat another surprise team, Australia, 5-4 in the final after Igor Jacmenjak’s goal eight seconds into overtime. “It’s a big thing for Croatian inline hockey. We are so young in this sport, we just played five years in this division and [now] we will play in the top division,” Jacmenjak said after that game. Croatia replaces Slovenia in the top division.

Live stream: 25 games of the 2017 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship can be watched live and for free on IIHF.com including all top-division games and the medal games of the Division I tournament. The live stream is available for free and for everybody. In addition, Fanseat will organize an exclusive stream from the second venue and cover all 46 games. A live ticker is provided from all 46 games on IIHF.com.

Stars on ice: The IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship includes world-class athletes on inline skates but usually also one or the other ice hockey professional who keeps himself in shape with inline hockey in the summer. Past stars on ice at the IIHF Inline Hockey World Championships include Henrik Lundqvist and Dick Axelsson for Sweden, Ales Hemsky for the Czech Republic, Parick Reimer and Thomas Greilinger for Germany, and Lubomir Visnovsky and Richard Kapus for host Slovakia.

Goals and excitement: Inline hockey is fast and many goals are scored during a game. Last year in the top-division event there were eight goals per game in average while remaining the competitiveness level high. The average game had a goal difference of two or three. Only three out of 23 games had a goal difference of five and higher while most of the other 20 games remained open until the end. In the Division I tournament even more goals were scored, 10 per game, but that included some lopsided games as 11 of the 23 games had a goal difference of five or higher. That doesn’t mean there are no close games in the lower division. Of the 12 more competitive Division I games, seven were one-goal games.

Comeback of Brazil & New Zealand: Ola Brazil! For the first time since 2014 the country known for football and samba is back in IIHF competition as a qualifier. The same applies to Latvia, which returns after relegation at the last Worlds thanks to its win in the European Qualification, and New Zealand, which will play at the Inline Hockey World Championship for the first time since 2012 after beating Japan 5-3 in the deciding game of the Asia/Oceania Qualification. Good omen for Brazil: When the Worlds took place in Bratislava nine years ago, they won Division I bronze.

Puck with holes: The inline hockey puck has similar dimensions like the ice hockey puck with two major differences. Firstly, it is a bit lighter. The Rule Book requires a puck that is 100-120 grams heavy, in ice hockey it’s 156-170 grams. More noticeable for the spectator is that it contains six holes just around the logo in the centre. You haven’t seen such a puck yet? Head over to Bratislava, watch the live stream or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and get the chance to win such a puck.

Four periods: A period just lasts 12 minutes in inline hockey but there are four periods. After the first and third period there’s a short rest of two minutes and teams don’t change ends. The same applies after the fourth period if overtime is required. After the second period there’s a half-time intermission of ten minutes and teams change ends. If the game is tied after 48 minutes, an overtime period and if necessary a penalty-shot shootout will be played. The overtime period lasts maximum five minutes (12 minutes in medal games). The shootout starts with three shots for each team.

Four-on-four: Inline hockey is played with one goalie and four skaters – usually two defencemen and two forwards – per team on the field. Teams usually play with three or four lines at the IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship and can also register two goalies.

90 seconds: A minor penalty lasts 90 seconds in inline hockey, major penalties four minutes. Power-play situations are normally 4-on-3. A team cannot have less than three skaters on the field – except during the last two minutes of regulation time and in overtime – and consequently the start of a penalty to a second player of the same team can be delayed until the other penalty has expired. A two-man advantage (4-on-2) is only possible during the last two-minutes of regulation time and in overtime.

Red, no blue: There’s no blue line in inline hockey but there is red line at the centre of the rink, which is also used for the offside rule. A player from the defending zone cannot pass the puck to a teammate in the attacking zone crossing the centre red line.

No bodychecking: Opposed to men’s ice hockey, bodychecking is not permitted in inline hockey and will cause a penalty for an illegal hit. This doesn’t entirely take physicality out of the game but makes it more a game of skill and speed.

Two-year rhythm: The IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship is now staged with a two-year rhythm. The event with the top-16 teams takes place in odd years, last time 2015 in Tampere, Finland, this year in Bratislava and in 2019 in Canada in a city to be determined. In even years more teams are included in the regional qualification tournaments to expand the horizon and make sure to involve teams from all continents.

Global game: Teams from four continents will play in Bratislava. The biggest contingent comes from Europe with Finland, Sweden, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Croatia, Slovenia, Great Britain, Hungary and Latvia, ten teams in total. North America is represented with Canada and the United States, Oceania with Australia and New Zealand, and South America with Argentina and Brazil. The global program including the qualification events includes even teams from more continents. Japan, Chinese Taipei and India competed in the Asia/Oceania qualification but New Zealand earned the top spot and promotion ahead of the Asian teams. And South Africa and Namibia made it to the event in the past to represent Africa. This program includes 26 active nations who play either this year in the Worlds or last year in the qualification events. In total 36 different countries have been competing in the IIHF inline hockey system since the ‘90s.

Click here for the 2017 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship website.

MARTIN MERK

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