PORTOROZ, Slovenia – The IIHF Semi-Annual Congress approved on Friday a new tournament format for the top division of the IIHF World Championship. The four preliminary round groups will be replaced by two eight-team groups starting 2012.
The new format was approved by the top-pool nations already on Thursday, but it needed full congress consent and this was done when the congress reconvened on Friday.
The current format – which sees the 16 teams play in four preliminary round groups after which the top 12 teams advance to a qualifying round leading up to the playoffs – has been in place since 2000 and it will be in use for the last time at the 2011 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia. The change will be implemented in 2012 in Finland and Sweden.
The new championship format will have the 16 teams playing in two preliminary round groups with eight teams in each, using the IIHF World Ranking for seeding. This means that each team will play seven preliminary round games against beforehand known opposition.
The top four teams in each preliminary round group will advance to the quarterfinals. The teams who finished last in each group will be relegated to Division I. Teams placed 5-8 will have no more games.
The new format sees the number of games increase from 56 to 64. Under the current format it takes nine games to become world champion. The new format will call for the two top teams to play ten games.
Due to the extended schedule which the new format entails, it was also decided that the teams can register 25 players (22 skaters and 3 goaltenders) already at the start of the championship. Under the outgoing system the teams could register 20+3 players at the beginning of the championship with the possibility of adding two players after the completion of the preliminary round.
The motion to change the format was raised by the national member associations of Finland and Sweden, the organizers of the 2012 and 2013 IIHF World Championships.
The main purpose of the change was to eliminate the qualifying (second) round where the host organizer usually faces difficulties selling tickets as fans don’t know until the end of the preliminary round about the second round schedule.
“This is a good change and everyone is happy,” says IIHF President René Fasel. “The qualifying round has been a tough sell as you may have the last games of the preliminary round being played on a Wednesday, and it is not until very late that day that the fans get to know which teams will be opening the qualifying round on Thursday.”
“This was not enough time for the fans to purchase tickets and it was also very difficult to plan the event for travelling fans,” says Fasel. “After the initial three games in the preliminary round there was no way of knowing when my team will be playing. With the new system all fans know about the seven first games, when, where and against whom the team will play.”
Further to the new format, it was also decided that the quarterfinals will be played within the groups, as opposed to the current cross-over system.
As Finland and Sweden will co-host the 2012 and 2013 IIHF World Championships, the format whereby the quarterfinals are played within the group has the advantage of the teams not having to travel from one country to the other to play the quarterfinal. The cross-over system will be implemented as of the semi-finals.
This format was already tried in Canada 2008, to avoid quarterfinal travel from Halifax to Quebec City.
In other news:
- Three national associations have submitted applications to organize the 2016 IIHF World Championship: Russia (Moscow, Kazan), Denmark (Copenhagen, Herning) and Ukraine (Kyiv). The IIHF Annual Congress in Bratislava in May 2011 will decide about the allocation.
- The congress was informed about new competition format for all IIHF World Championship categories, pertaining to Divisions I and below. The format will be vertical as opposed to horizontal. For example: On the Division I men’s level the A Group will consist of teams ranked 17-22 while the B Group will consist of teams ranked 23-28. Promotion to the top division will only be conducted from the A Group. The winner from the B Group will be promoted to the A Group.
The current system has the A and B groups in all categories being equal. As this change implies a modification of the IIHF Bylaws, an extraordinary General Congress will vote on this during the 2011 Annual Congress in Bratislava. If approved, the new format will be implemented for the 2011-2012 season.
- The congress approved a four-year plan for the development of the women’s game. Details of the program will at a later date be published on IIHF.com