WM primer
by Andrew Podnieks|09 MAY 2024
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation
As we welcome Poland back to the top level of the Men’s World Championship after a nearly quarter century hiatus (14th place in 2002), we can put that figure into context by looking at some other lengthy absences from the top group. Denmark, for instance, played at the 1949 Worlds and then not again until 2003, a wait of 54 years.

Hungary waited fully seven decades between their 1939 appearance and 2009 return. Austria had a 36-year wait (1957-1993) and France 42 years, from 1950 to 1992. Lithuania played at the 1938 WM but has yet to return, a similar fate to Serbia, which played a year later (as Yugoslavia) but hasn’t been back. Belgium, which played at the 1950 Worlds, has yet to return, 74 years and counting. The Netherlands played in 1981 and haven’t yet returned. Romania’s dry spell started in 1977 and continues.

He’s baaaackkkk! Switzerland’s Andres Ambuhl will be extending his record for most top-level Men’s World Championships (18 going on 19) as well as most games played (currently 131, possibly going to 141). The 40-year-old has played in every WM since 2004 except 2018) and has 61 points in his illustrious career.

Goalies Reto Berra and Leonardo Genoni are on the Swiss roster and if they play a game it will mark the 10th Men’s Worlds for each. That puts them in pretty exclusive company as only six other 'tenders have played as many tournaments.

There will not likely be a new Triple Gold Club member with a WM gold. In all, there are four remaining possibilities for this year, all Canadian and three requiring WM gold. But Jeff Carter has just announced his retirement and Drew Doughty and Alex Pietrangelo won’t be on the team, so they’ll have to wait. The only TGC possibility is Matt Duchene, who is playing with the Dallas Stars in the NHL playoffs. Duchene has Olympic gold from 2014 and Men’s Worlds gold from 2015 and 2016, so a Stanley Cup with the Stars would make him the 31st member of hockey’s most prestigious club.

No nation has played at the Men’s Worlds more times than Sweden. Of the 75 previous independent WM tournaments, Tre Kronor has played in 71. Their second game of the tournament will also be game number 600 all time, also a record.

Most wins, however, goes to Canada. They have 374 wins in WM history, four more than the Swedes. However, if you combine Czechoslovakia and Czechia/Czech Republic, the hosts have a cumulative total of 388 wins.

Prague will host 34 of the 64 games this year, increasing its lead as the city that has hosted more Men’s World Championship games than any other. After this year, they will have hosted 354 games, from their first, in 1933, to today. Stockholm has the second most games, 327, and Helsinki third, 314. Ostrava has been a WM host three times before, in 1959, 2004, and 2015.

The single-tournament attendance record is in danger of falling this year, and it’s no surprise that Czechia would break it. You see, Czechia is the current record holder, in 2015, when Prague and Ostrava combined to attract 741,690 fans, an average of 11,589 a game. The arena in Prague has a capacity of 17,500 and Ostravar Arena is at 10,000. So if all 64 games sold out, attendance would be 895,000. It’s every bit possible 2024 sees a number between 741k and 895k, a new record.

Only two Czechs from 2015 are back nine years later—defender Jakub Krejcik and forward Roman Cervenka. Canada won gold that year, and although there are no Canadians here this year from 2015, it’s worth looking back at that roster to see just how incredible it was—Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, Claude Giroux, Matt Duchene, Taylor Hall. They pounded Russia in the gold-medal game, 6-1.

The IIHF Hall of Fame celebrations on the final weekend of the tournament will draw plenty of local interest. Being inducted are Jaromir Jagr, MVP in 2015, Jaroslav Pouzar, and Igor Liba (a Slovak who played for Czechoslovakia). As well, the Milestone Award will be presented to the Czech Men’s Olympic team of 1998 for their historic gold medal.