Two Years From Sochi, Nations Apply for Hockey Qualification

And so it begins. The month of February 2012 sees us hit the half way point between the Vancouver 2010 Olympic games and the Sochi 2014 games, which is officially half-way through the international hockey cycle. It's a big year for the sport at the international level, as the IIHF officially gears up for the Sochi games. The IIHF Rankings compiled after the 2012 World Championships will determine which nations are automatically qualified for the games, with the top 9 men's nations qualifying along with the top 6 women's nations, with Russia counting as one of those teams in each group as the hosts.

The Olympic qualifiers are problematic for me. I like having a seperate batch of tournaments for them, but they greatly benefit European nations and really distort the World Rankings as a result. For years, South Korea had not bothered to send a team, and it is easy to see why: they are a nation that is realistically in the mid-to-high 20s in strength, and gaining, but sending a national team to a string of tournaments in Europe during one season is quite the expense for a group that realistically can't crack the top 12 even on a hot streak. As a result of not participating, their IIHF World Ranking has typically been in the low 30s. This isn't a big deal if you don't pay attention, but every once in a while a news story about a developing hockey nation comes about, and their IIHF Ranking is referred to, providing an inaccurate measure. For South Korea, that was the announcement that Pyeongchang would host the 2018 Winter Olympics. As a result, the Olympic federation will indeed be footing the enormous expense of sending their national teamsto Europe during 2012-13 for competitive purposes.

The second issue is that it's an open invite for all IIHF members. This is how Bulgaria sent a women's team to the 2010 qualification tournament despite having less than 30 registered players at the time. Bulgaria, you may recall, was famously beat 82-0 by Slovakia, who eventually qualified for the Games and finished 8th. This year, on the men's side, Mexico (36th in 2011 Championships), Israel (39th in 2011), and Bosnia and Herzegovina (has not played in Worlds since finishing 47th in 2008) are all in the tournament, having easier access (aside from Mexico) to the tournaments than Australia (29th), New Zealand (31st) and Iceland (33rd). Estonia (27th), has decided against participating as a longshot, and will stumble down the rankings considerably as a result. For a full list of the final placements for the 2011 World Championships, click here.

The third, and most important, is the timing of the tournaments.

Scattered throughout the 2012-13 hockey season, and ending in February, the tournaments are designed completely around the European hockey calendar. This prevents, or makes it extraordinarily difficult, for players in North America to help their teams qualify. A player in the AHL, ECHL, NCAA or CHL might be allowed to participate depending on their team's wishes, but there is no way a NHL player would be released for these tournaments. For nations that fall in the 10th or lower range, this is very problematic. Slovakia is currently ranked 10th, and have 11 NHL players currently, for example. If they cannot earn an automatic berth, they will have to rely on qualifying based exclusively on European based players next year. Denmark (6 NHL players), Belarus (3 NHLers), Austria (3 NHLers), Slovenia (2 NHLers), Ukraine (2 NHLers), and Lithuania, Latvia, and Kazakhstan (1 NHLer each), all face similar battles. Norway, remarkably, might earn automatic qualification to Sochi based on their World Championship/Olympic results for the past four years without having a single current NHL player, as they currently occupy that 9th spot in the World Rankings.

A simple fix for the 3rd problem would be to hold the final qualification tournament(s) in the late summer of 2013, in late August or early September. This would be a great way to kick off the 2013-14 hockey season and allow for the highest level of competition in the 2014 Olympics to occur (assuming NHL players are indeed part of the Games).

Here's the list of participating nations (source: IIHF), sorted by current IIHF Ranking. How the tournaments are broken up will be determined at the 2012 World Championships, when the rankings are finalized.

2014 Olympics Qualifying Nations

Rank

Men's

Women's

1

Russia*

USA

2

Finland

Canada

3

Sweden

Finland

4

Canada

Sweden

5

Czech Republic

Russia*

6

USA

Switzerland

7

Switzerland

Kazakhstan

8

Germany

Slovakia

9

Norway

China

10

Slovakia

Germany

11

Belarus

Japan

12

Latvia

Norway

13

Denmark

Latvia

14

France

Czech Republic

15

Austria

Austria

16

Kazakhstan

France

17

Italy

Italy

18

Slovenia

Great Britain

19

Ukraine

Slovenia

20

Hungary

Denmark

21

Great Britain

Hungary

22

Japan

South Korea

23

Poland

Poland

24

Lithuania

Spain

25

Croatia

26

Romania

27

Spain

28

Serbia

29

South Korea

30

Mexico

31

Israel

32

Bosnia-Herzegovina

Teams in bold have qualified for the Games (even if they simply place last at their 2012 World Championship tournament), with Russia qualified as the host in both events. Teams in italics would automatically qualify for the Olympics if they can maintain or improve upon their current ranking at the 2012 World Championships.

Trending Discussions

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Puck Worlds

You must be a member of Puck Worlds to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Puck Worlds. You should read them.

Join Puck Worlds

You must be a member of Puck Worlds to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Puck Worlds. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.