Canada: Here’s an incredible fact. Canada had won more gold at the World Championship than any other country, 20 in all. Yet from that first win in 1930 to the most recent, in 2016, no coach has won more than one gold other than Andy Murray (three). If Canada wins gold in Denmark, Bill Peters would join Murray as the only multiple-gold coaches in the nation’s long and distinguished history.
Czech Republic: The Czechs have not won a World Championship medal since 2012, a skein of six years. They have competed in the tournament since the first edition in 1930 as Czechoslovakia, and this is their longest drought ever. The Czechs are flying a bit under the radar this year, but they’re playing well and a top-three finish wouldn’t be surprising.
Finland: The Finns have had as much success as any nation in the last 25 years at the Worlds, but they’ve won only two gold—in 1995 and 2011. There were no players who won in both those years, but this year the team has two players who were on the 2011 team—Janne Pesonen and Mikael Granlund. As a result, a gold-medal win for Suomi here would mean the nation has its first two multi-gold medallists.
Latvia: The last team to qualify for the quarter-finals, Latvia is also the dark horse, the underdog, the team no one could rightly have predicted would survive to the playoffs. Nevertheless, they’re here for the first time since 2009, and under coach Bob Hartley they are playing stifling defence, blocking shots, getting in passing lanes, and making life very difficult for their opponents. Few people would give them a chance to beat Sweden, but they are here and they know anything can happen if they play the right way. Any win right now would be entering new territory for the small but proud hockey nation.
Russia: Some 14 players are trying to do what only Sweden has managed to do—win Olympic gold and then WM gold in the same year. They are: goaltenders Ilya Sorokin, Igor Shestyorkin, Vasili Kosechkin; defencemen Vladislav Gavrikov, Bogdan Kiselevich, Nikita Nesterov, Yegor Yakovlev; and forwards Sergei Andronov, Alexander Barbaranov, Pavel Datsyuk, Mikhail Grigorenko, Nikita Gusev, Ilya Kablukov and Kirill Kaprizov.
Sweden: Tre Kronor has won more medals at the World Championship than any other country, 43 in total. Canada is second with 39, and even if you combine Soviet Union and Russia, it tallies one short (42). However, despite this incredible success they have repeated as gold medallists only once, in 1991 and 1992. If they win this Sunday, it would mark a second occasion for pulling the double, having defeated Canada last year in a shootout in the finals.
Switzerland: The Swiss have won only one medal in the last 65 years of World Championship play, and that was a spectacular silver in 2013. Coach Sean Simpson is gone, but some players including 2013 Worlds MVP Roman Josi are back. This team has plenty of skill to make a top-three finish a very real possibility.
United States: Do the names Cosby, Garrison, Langmaid, and Palmer mean anything to you? No? You’re not alone. Those are some of the stars of the U.S. that last won World Championship gold. The year was 1933. But this year, despite the loss to Finland in the last group-stage game, seems different. They have a genuine superstar as captain in Patrick Kane, and a roster full of speed and skill. Gold would erase 85 years of a drought for the U.S. in the Worlds after having won gold recently in any other category.