STOCKHOLM – Here's a grim-sounding statistic: only six times in the 20 years since the IIHF instituted the playoff system (1992) has the host nation won in the quarter-finals.
When you look at it a little more closely, however, it’s not quite as bad as it sounds.
Only four times in that span has a home team lost in the quarter-finals.
And keep in mind that in three of those years, quarter-finals weren’t even used (1997-99), as the semi-finals kicked off the elimination games.
If you’re looking for failures, you can also reasonably discount the years where the tournament was not hosted by a Big Seven nation (Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, USA).
In 1994 (Italy), 1996 (Austria), 2005 (Austria), and 2006 (Latvia), it would have been a very pleasant surprise if the hosts had made the quarter-finals. Less of a surprise in Latvia’s case, but still not expected – in that year, the maroon-and-wihte men came tenth.
Even though some up-and-coming national teams now nurture strong hopes of cracking the final eight each year – Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Belarus and others have all had their recent appearances and flirtations – none of those countries is expected to survive a winner-takes-all encounter with a major power.
When Germany won its home-ice quarter-final in 2010, it was against Switzerland.
Out of the two host teams this year, who’s the safest bet to survive the quarter-finals? The Swedes, undoubtedly. Not only did they get through in both 1995 and 2002 on home ice, but they’re coming in with an overall streak of 11 straight quarter-final victories – their last loss occurred in 2000 (Russia, a 2-1 defeat against Finland).
In 2003, the Finns infamously imploded against Sweden in the quarter-finals in Helsinki, grabbing a 5-1 lead paced by Teemu Selänne’s hat trick, but then allowing Tre Kronor to rally for a 6-5 triumph. Historically, Finland’s odds of making it through its first elimination game are about the same as flipping a coin.
The two most disappointing examples where a host team didn’t make the quarter-finals at all are certainly Russia (2000) and Slovakia (2011). St. Petersburg and Bratislava were both graced by stacked home teams, featuring the likes of Pavel Bure, Alexei Yashin, and Sergei Gonchar in 2000, and Marian Hossa, Pavol Demitra, and Marian Gaborik in 2011.
Here’s the complete breakdown of results (N/A indicates times when the hosts weren’t in action, or when there were only semi-finals and finals).
1992: Czechoslovakia, yes
1993: Germany, no
1994: Italy, N/A
1995: Sweden, yes
1996: Austria, N/A
2000: Russia, N/A
2001: Germany, no
2002: Sweden, yes
2003: Finland, no
2004: Czech Republic, no
2005: Austria, N/A
2006: Latvia, N/A
2007: Russia, yes
2008: Canada, yes
2009: Switzerland, N/A
2010: Germany, yes
2011: Slovakia, N/A