For the first time in a quarter-century, Britain’s men’s ice hockey team is competing at the sport’s highest level, writes Andrew Weltch.
Team GB qualified for the top-flight world championship in Slovakia by winning Division 1A last season – a sensational achievement by the lowest-ranked team in a competition which included the likes of Hungary, Italy and Kazakhstan.
Already punching well above their weight on the international stage, the Brits now find themselves among the very best in the world – facing teams like Canada, Sweden, Russia, USA, and Finland.
As the 22nd-ranked team in the world, GB should be well out of its depth, and a warm-up game against hosts Slovakia (ranked 10th) last week ended in a 6-1 defeat.
But Brits love to be the underdog, and successive promotions in the past two seasons have given the team a sense of momentum.
GB was last in the top level 25 years ago for the 12-team 1994 tournament in Italy, which saw defeats of 8-2 to eventual champions Canada, 12-3 to Russia, 10-2 to Italy, 10-0 to Austria, and 4-0 to Germany. They lost the relegation play-off 5-2 to Norway.
This time around there are 16 teams involved, with Britain in a group with Canada, USA, Finland, Germany, Slovakia, Denmark, and France.
The team has had the luxury of a couple of weeks together, including a series of warm-up games. Will it be enough to make an impact at this level?
We’ll find out soon. GB’s games are all going to be shown free on Freesports TV, the partner channel of ‘your home for hockey’, Premier Sports.
The schedule is: 11 May vs Germany, 12 May vs Canada, 14 May vs Denmark, 15 May vs USA, 17 May vs Finland, 18 May vs Slovakia, 20 May vs France.
Photo credit: Dean Woolley.
Andrew Weltch reported on ice hockey for many years in print, on radio and TV. Weltch Media provides a range of communications services for sports teams, organisations and individuals.