BERNE—The Swedish and Finnish hockey federations, in conjunction with the IIHF and marketing partner Infront, today announced that the two countries will co-host both the 2012 and 2013 IIHF World Championships.
The decision was made for several reasons. First, the two countries were awarded back-to-back championships. Second, it gives the IIHF and both federations a secondary venue that will be as successful as the primary one, a rarity in the World Championships. Third, it will give both countries the opportunity to showcase their respective teams before home crowds during a non-hosting year. And, Infront can promote the event in two countries, not just one.
Back-to-back World Championships in Finland and Sweden has occurred twice previously, first in 1981 (Sweden) and ’82 (Finland) and again in 2002 (Sweden) and ’03 (Finland). The two Nordic countries are great cultural friends and perhaps even greater hockey rivals, and their proximity makes this co-hosting possible. Last year in Canada, the two host cities were Halifax and Quebec City, also a short plane ride apart, so the precedent for two somewhat distant cities to host had proved a successful precedent.
The IIHF had little worry about this decision providing either nation with any sort of advantage. “The last time the home team won was 1986 in Moscow, so the home team almost never wins,” noted IIHF president René Fasel at the press conference announcing the decision.
Also on hand for the announcement were Infront president Philippe Blatter, Finnish Ice Hockey Federation president Kalervo Kummola, and Swedish Ice Hockey Association president Christer Englund.
The World Championship consists of 16 nations and 56 total games, so it is essential to have two arenas available to play the full schedule of games. In the past this has been done either through a big arena and a smaller arena in one city, or a big arena in a big city and a smaller arena in a nearby smaller city.
No matter what, though, the secondary venue almost always draws fewer fans. Finland and Sweden have alleviated this problem by making the secondary venue as large and popular as the main one, thus making it financially more secure.
Of course, fans in both countries can now look forward to going to the World Championships two years in a row. The format will be no different than the one used currently in Switzerland, for instance. The main city (Helsinki in 2012) will have two groups of four teams, including Finland, and the second venue (possibly Stockholm or Malmö) will also have two groups and eight teams, including Sweden.
Cities for 2013 have not been decided, but Stockholm will definitely host at least one year in Sweden. Other leading candidates for Finland include Turku and Tampere.
The Preliminary Round and Qualifying Round will be split, as will the quarter-finals. Then, on the off day, teams from the secondary venue will travel to Finland (in 2012) and Sweden (in 2013) for the semi-finals and finals.