Lots of news is coming out of the IIHF's Annual Congress this week, but this site always likes to highlight the growth of the game, so the news of new members into the IIHF are very much welcome. Kyrgyzstan burst onto the international hockey scene this past year by detroying the Challenge Cup of Asia-level competition at the 2011 Asian Winter Games' Premier Division this past year, and building on that momentum the nation has been accepted into the IIHF as the organization's 70th member. In addition to the Asian Winter Games Kyrgyzstan has had a national championship the past three seasons, teams in six cities, and three indoor rinks in the nation's capital of Bishkek. I've previously linked to images from 2008 of a Kyrgyz championship played on an outdoor arena, to give you an idea of how far the sport has come in the past couple of years. There are plans for Kyrgyzstan to build more indoor rinks (likely outside the capital) as well as launch a professional team, presumably to compete in a league with Kazakhstani teams. There is already one Bishkek based junior team that competes in Kazakhstan's championship.
Rarely has their been a member so qualified to enter the IIHF from the get go, and while we won't be seeing any Krygzystan teams participating in any World Championships in 2012, it shouldn't take long for that to happen.
Also in a notable change was the upgrading of Argentina from affiliate to associate member status. This might seem like some kind of technicality, but affiliate members have generally been reserved for countries that compete in InLine Hockey events only, so presumably Argentina's ice hockey infrastructure has been improved sufficiently enough to be recognized for both disciplines of the sport. This means that there are officially recognized national federations for our sport on every habitable continent on the planet, as Argentina becomes the first nation of ice hockey from South America. The website Fire and Flames offers some history to the development of the sport in Argentina, and pictures of the country's one Olympic sized outdoor ice hockey rink in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world.
So welcome our two new nations of ice hockey! Kyrgyzstan's federation website is now up, while Argentina has had one up for a while now, mainly in support of Ushuaia's "End of the World Cup" which takes place every June.