Posts Tagged ‘IIHF’


The Sochi winter Olympics have provided the hockey loving folk some great games, and for the NHL GM’s a stack of grey hairs as the injury ninja sweeps the games. So far, the losses (NHL only) have been as follows:

  • Henrik Zetterberg – Sweden/Red Wings: Left the games with a herniated disc and flew back to Detroit to be evaluated. Season potentially in jeopardy.
  • Aleksander Barkov – Finland/Florida Panthers: Injured his knee against Norway. Team Finland doctors said that it is unlikely that Barkov will need surgery for the injury, but is sidelined for 4-6 weeks. There’s roughly 8 weeks of the NHL season left for Barkov as Panthers are not going to make it to the play-offs.
  • Tomas Kopecky – Slovakia/Florida Panthers: Got hit in the head against Slovenia. No timeline for return has been announced.
  • Mats Zuccarello – Norway/New York Rangers: non-displaced fracture in his hand. No timeline for return has been announced.
  • John Tavares – Canada/ New York Islanders: Leg injury, no timeline for return announced. Edit: It was announced that Tavares would miss the remainder of the season after it was revealed that he sustained a torn MCL and a torn meniscus. He might avoid surgery, but should he need it he is ready for training camp for 2014-2015 season.

Those are just the players that are out of the games and potentially from their respective NHL club games. The list does not take into account small nagging injuries that players may have carried pre-Olympics. The Sochi Winter Olympics came at a time in the NHL season – and hockey season in general – that there is not a single player that is 100% healthy.

Zetterberg is possibly the biggest loss to his club team. The Red Wings’ captain is due to undergo exams if his back requires surgery straight away or if it is safe for him to carry on to the end of the season and potential play-offs. Tavares is another big loss as he is a huge part of the Islanders’ offense. Where Islanders have an uphill battle to get to the play-offs Tavares is a loss that will be felt in the line-up (depending on the severity of his injury).

The NHL and IIHF have a contract in place for the NHL to be part of these Olympics and then it is up for review. Could you imagine if some one like Sidney Crosby suffered an injury that would sideline him for a long time at the Olympics? Where some of the above players have been injured in ‘meaningless games’ (apart from Tavares), the NHL GM’s – specially those in Florida – will be tearing their hair out. A point on the frustration that the international competitions provide team executives, is when Barkov was injured and it was announced that he was out. He received a call from his GM, Dale Tallon, which was described as (Tallon being) frustrated. Barkov is one of the rising stars of a young Panthers roster and has struggled with injuries before and during the season (he underwent shoulder surgery before camp).

Similar concerns are always shared by GMs during the annual World Championships and many players are looking to go play for their national teams. At the end of a gruelling NHL season, every minor injury is examined and NHL medical staff is often reticent to let players go if there are signs of injuries. Sometimes, players’ desire to go and play for their countries is going to over ride the doctors. Alex Ovechkin, for example, played a few games for Russia in the 2013 World Championships with a broken foot. Speaks volumes of his toughness and desire to play, but I bet it caused some grief to GMGM.

So all in all, when the IIHF and the NHL sit down to talk about the NHL’s continued participation at the Winter Olympics, there will surely be questions raised as to whether teams will want to let their assets go and risk injury at the Olympics stage. In my opinion, the NHL will continue to be part of the Olympics as it is a stage for it to market itself and compete the ever expanding KHL. The risk the NHL has is that some of the more patriotic players may defect to leagues which allow them to compete in the Olympics and World Championships.

It’s going to be another four years before the South-Korean Olympics so there is time, but having said that, there was time to avoid the last lockout and I’m sure IIHF will want the contract in place well in advance for the 2018 Winter Games.


At the Stockholm group of the World Championships, there has been a minor upset brewing in the form of the Swiss hockey team. The Stockholm group of the World Championships was touted to be the tougher of the two groups as it featured talent packed teams, such as Sweden, Canada and Czech Republic. No one could have guessed that the Swiss that are stealing the limelight.

In the opening game of the tournament, the Swiss handed a 3-2 loss to the hosts Sweden and then carried on the run of upsets by beating Canada in the penalty shoot out and then convincingly seeing off the Czech team by 5-2.

The team is comprised of players who play in the Swiss National League. The only NHL name that might be familiar to people is Nashville Predators’ defence man Roman Josi or New York Islander’s prospect Nino Niedereitter. The other recognisable name in the Swiss roster to most hockey fans is goalie Martin Gerber, who won the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006.

The Swiss have so far faced and won the toughest countries in its group  - and barring a complete disaster – should be progressing into the second stage of the competition as a team that should not be taken lightly. In the past few years it has been the Swiss who have taken the biggest strides in terms of developing their standard of players and their results at the World Championships stage and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Swiss were in medal contention this year.

The team is getting steady scoring from all lines and in goal, Gerber has been strong, posting a 1.92 GAA and 92.31 Save percentage in three starts. Perhaps if the Swiss keep going the way they have been, we might see them in the medal games this year. Though it would take a lot to see them in the final, the Swiss could be on the way to building its own Cinderella story for this year’s World Championships.

 

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Finland named its roster for the World Championships after the completion of the Euro Hockey Tour in Brno, Czech Republic. The tournament ended in disappointment for the Finns, who lost all of its games in a tournament. When I watched a couple of games from the tournament, I thought that the team looked somewhat lacklustre and was never really a threat offensively. Defensively there were some questionable players on the ice, but at least, Finland’s goalies were strong.

 

The roster itself is a bit of a surprise from recent years, but upon reflection, it was to be expected. There are not that many Finns in the NHL and majority of them are taking part in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Let’s face it, the Stanley Cup is a bit bigger than the World Championships. The Finns that were left outside the playoffs were: Sami Salo (Tampa Bay), Kimmo Timonen (Philadelphia), Kari Lehtonen (Dallas), Pekka Rinne (Nashville), Lauri Korpikoski (Phoenix), Olli Jokinen (Jets), Antti Miettinen (Jets), Ville Leino (Buffalo), Joni Pitkanen (Carolina), Tuomo Ruutu (Carolina), Sean Bergeinheim (Florida), Lennart Petrell (Edmonton), Teemu Hartikainen (Edmonton), Miikka Kiprusoff (Calgary).

 

So let’s take a look at that list. Salo, Timonen, Jokinen and Kiprusoff have all more or less retired from the national team and would only suit up for a major tournament, like the Olympics. Lehtonen, Rinne, Leino, Pitkanen, Ruutu, Bergenheim (did not play the whole season) and Petrell are all out due to injuries. Miettinen is healthy, but has had a tough season and I’m not sure whether he was asked to join the team.

 

The only one out of that list that has said that he would play is Lauri Korpikoski and his participation is pending a medical from Coyotes, which he has passed and will be joining the team for the start of the World Championships.

 

Since the list of guys who said no thanks to the World Championships, some influential members of the Finnish hockey community have criticised the decision. Hjallis Harkimo, owner of the Jokerit team said on Radio Nova in Finland that “When they (the players) need to get noticed and they need to get into the NHL, the national team is a must. When they have used the national team, then some of them are not interested at all. It’s wrong against Finland.”

 

Juhani Tamminen, former coach of TuTo in Mestis went on to say that “If my generation would have acted and thought like this, we would only have ten rinks and we would be a B-class country in hockey.”

 

 

Both were also critical of the leadership of the Coaching and general managers in the way that they approach the players. However, the chief of Finnish Ice Hockey Association, Kalervo Kummola was quick to defend the players who had said “no thank you” to the World Champs and said that all of the players who declined had good and valid reasons (either injuries or other matters such as contract negotiations to deal with)

 

Where yes, it would be a good thing to have all those names in the roster, I can’t help but wonder what these guys owe to the Finnish system? They have donned the jersey when possible and in the biggest competitions i.e. the Olympics. They have endured backlash from fans and media alike when after a gruelling NHL season they simply have nothing in the tank. Is that the type of players they want? Guys who would get into the team because of their name but are so tired and beat that they have nothing to give. There is no point in playing guys like that.

 

It’s OK for people to bellyache after players, but the reality is that the NHL is the main job for these guys, and the national team would be sort of like overtime if you will. I tip my hat to the guys who do come after a gruelling season and find that extra gear to dig deep for a while longer, but at the same time I don’t blame guys for saying no.

 

Let’s not forget that it is always a risk to the players to join the team as there are things like insurance to cover and the risk of injury is ever present. It’s not an easy decision to players, specially those with family, or who are facing free agency and can’t afford to risk injury.

 

The roster (see below) is nothing earth shattering and at on paper it doesn’t look like a championship contender, when compared to the likes of Canada or Russia who are loaded with individual talent.

 

I see that Finland’s opportunity is in how quickly the team gels together (properly). These guys have been together for the last EHT tournament and have gone through the camp together so I would expect that they are well on their way. I still question the playbook somewhat, but that’s up to the guys to assume and play to the coach’s instructions.

 

While I would like to see Finland staging an upset, I doubt that we will see the Finnish roster in the medal rounds, if we do, it is a massive feat from this team. The way I see this roster, after a lot of reflection, is that it is an opportunity for these guys to get noticed and maybe get big money deals from either the NHL or European leagues. The roster is relatively young and inexperienced at this level, which should feed the hunger for the players. I can see that one if not two of the Finnish goalies will be playing in North America after putting themselves in the shop window at the World Championships.

The Finnish roster is as follows:

Goalies,

Atte Engren – TPS – SM-Liiga
Joni Ortio – HIFK – SM-Liiga
Antti Raanta – Ässät – SM-Liiga

Defense

Juuso Hietanen – Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod – KHL
Lasse Kukkonen – Rögle – Elitserien
Teemu Laakso –  Severstal Cherepovets – KHL
Tuukka Mäntylä – Tappara – SM-liiga
Sami Lepistö – HC Lev Praha – KHL
Ilari Melart – HIFK – SM-Liiga
Ossi Väänänen -  Jokerit – SM-Liiga
Janne Jalasvaara – Dynamo Moscow – KHL

Forwards

Juhamatti Aaltonen – Rögle – Elitserien
Marko Anttila – TPS – SM-Liiga
Juha-Pekka Haataja – Kärpät – SM-Liiga
Niklas Hagman – Lokomotiv Yaroslav – KHL
Juha-Pekka Hytönen – Amur Khabarovsk – KHL
Pekka Jormakka – Pelicans – SM-Liiga
Miika Lahti – JYP – SM-Liiga
Petri Kontiola – Traktor Chelyabinsk – KHL
Jarno Koskiranta – Tappara – SM-Liiga
Janne Pesonen – Ak Bars Kazan – KHL
Antti Pihlström – Salavat Yulaev Ufa – KHL
Sakari Salminen – KalPa – SM-Liiga
Veli-Matti Savinainen – Ässät – SM-Liiga
Ville Viitaluoma – HPK – SM-Liiga 

Lauri Korpikoski – Phoenix Coyotes – NHL*

 

*Please note that I have not seen an updated team roster that would include the forward that will be dropped to accommodate Lauri Korpikoski. 

 

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IIHF has announced that the 2013 World Championships will be streamed live online via YouTube. The service, which was launched last year was welcomed by hockey fans across Europe, but things soon turned sour after media partner pressure. The IIHF had imposed a blackout of the YouTube streams for countries that had exclusive TV broadcast deals in place, but then had to take further measures as tech savvy consumers found ways around the geo-blocking.

 

To many fans’ displeasure, the IIHF then had to move its broadcasts to start half an hour after face off to make sure that no-one would be circumventing the geo-blocking. However, this year the free – and more importantly – live broadcasts will be back. The service will be available across many countries, but IIHF has already ruled out some countries on its promotional YouTube video. Countries where YouTube broadcasts are not available include: Sweden, Finland (the host countries), Denmark, Norway, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Swizerland, Germany, Canada, USA, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and France.

 

Where last year’s streaming ended with a sour note, I do think that it is the right thing to do to bring hockey to a wider fan base. Even though the IIHF broadcast the games with 30min delay last year, my point will be that any sports event should be broadcast live. The word travels quickly these days and it is important that if you are broadcasting on a social platform such as YouTube, you provide a live stream instead of a deferred one.

 

So there, another year of hockey on the web by the looks. The 2013 World Championships will be played in Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland between 3rd and 19th of May 2013.


Unless you’ve been living under a rock. the NHL has been locked out. AGAIN! Since I’ve been following the sport from an early age from the 80s, this is now the third lockout of the league. There has been a lot of talk about who is to blame for the lockout, whether it’s the owners/NHL or whether it is the players. In my humble opinion, it takes two to tango and there has to be blame placed on both parties. If the NHL and the NHLPA knew that the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was coming to its end, why did they not start negotiating about it sooner? There was talk on the likes of TSN that the CBA issue would have been discussed at the annual GM’s meeting in Florida, but alas it was not something that was featured heavily on the agenda.

 

However, rather than ponder the causes and the colossal failure on getting the season started in the NHL, I wanted to focus on something that has fans anticipating and holding their breath over: “Which NHL players will play in Europe?”

 

While the KHL has been a big draw, specially to the Russian born NHL players, there are players heading out to Switzerland and other leagues, like the Swedish second tier, Allesvenskan, the Finnish SM-Liiga and so on.

 

But what is the biggest hold up or, barrier for NHL players on coming over to Europe? The answer can come down to six letters: TTD and ITC

 

TTD:

Apart from players’ salaries during the lockout, there is one thing that can often be a barrier to players playing in Europe or other leagues, and that is Temporary Total Disability Insurance. Each locked out NHL player needs to have a TTD-Insurance in case their career comes to an abrupt end during the lockout.  During the last lockout, the cost of the TTD insurance was in the tens of thousands of Euros.

 

According to TSN, the costs of the TTD insurance can range between $2,500 to $20,000 per month. Basically, the better the player, the higher the cost. Obviously the cost of the insurance depends on the contract wage and the offer that teams/players receive from the insurance companies. It was reported in Savon Sanomat (24/09/2012) that NHL’s top scoring talent, Steven Stamkos, had been offered to SM-Liiga team Porin Assat. Not once but twice, but the team had to turn it down with speculation of Stamkos’ insurance costing the team €40,000 per month. Usually, though, players have been known to contribute towards their own insurances. 

 

Imagine if a player like Sidney Crosby went to an European league. The cost of his insurance could be astronomical.

 

ITC:

Another thing that can hold up any transfer is that NHL players moving to an European league under the IIHF is the International Transfer Card (ITC). The ITC is needed for any player wishing to play in an European league, and as far as I know, all NHL players wishing to play in the IIHF events such as the Olympics or the World Championships need an ITC card. I know from personal experience that the ITC can be a pain as I had to obtain one to play higher than rec hockey.

 

The ITC cost, for an unlimited card, can be in the region of €1,000/$1,295. Sure it’s not as much as the insurance, but for a piece of paper that doesn’t take more than a few clicks to sort out, it is a lot of money for a team/player to shell out. With the influx of NHL players heading to Europe, the IIHF has struggled a little bit to get everything sorted out and there has been a backlog of transfers that the IIHF has had to shift through.

 

The other thing that players need to consider is the taxation. For example, if a player signs in the Finnish league and stays in the country for over six months out of the year, he will be taxed in accordance with the Finnish taxation system. I personally would not be at all surprised if we would see an influx of North American players signing in countries where the tax regulations aren’t as strict as they are in some other countries. For the Russian players, I can understand why the KHL is the number one choice. It is a chance to spend a prolonged period in their native, which I can’t fault. I can’t comment on the Russian taxation system and how it all works in the KHL in terms of tax and whether it still is as wild as back in the days when some players picked up their salaries in cash and carried it away in their hockey kit bag.

 

So there, that’s some insight to take into consideration into when players are looking to sign in Europe. Sure it would be great to have Brad Richards playing in the UK (seriously someone made this claim), but when you think about it with all the factors included, there might be only a handful of teams that can justifiably recruit NHL players on to their rosters.  In addition, considering the fact that some teams in Europe are not turning a profit, so as big as the temptation might be, financially it might not make sense

 


So the IIHF World Championships have concluded and the champions have been crowned in Yevgeni Malkin… I mean Russia. Russia was the dominant team throughout the tournament and perhaps no player was as dominant as Malkin. Where Russia won, I thought it’s play wasn’t harmonious and at times it was disjointed, but thanks to strong individual players who WANT to play, game-play mistakes are easy to overcome.  Apart from Russia’s championship, I think the story of the games has been Slovakia. Last year in Bratislava, the games ended in tears when the Slovakian team ended up outside the medal games. Where as a Habs fan it might sound weird me saying this, but the gesture from Zdeno Chara after the game was classy. Wearing Pavol Demitra’s jersey to the medal ceremony was a really classy move.

 

Demitra undoubtedly was the Slovaks’ sixth player on the ice in each of their games. Causes like these are great to rally behind that can carry a team a long way. Demitra, who is a legend in Slovakian hockey, lost his life in the tragic plane accident that claimed the entire Yaroslav Lokomotiv team in September.

 

First off, let’s review the tickets, that have been talked about in the press and on my blog in great extent. From that point of view, it has been one of the most embarrassing World Championships I can remember. Watching the games via YouTube (I’ll get to that later) saw empty arenas in nearly all of the games in Helsinki and it wasn’t that great across the pond in Stockholm. I honestly think that the organisers of the games failed big time. Comparing to the games hosted in Slovakia last year, the TV coverage that I saw showed that the tournament was well publicised in the host towns, but judging by what I’ve seen on videos, there hasn’t really been that much in terms of visibility in Helsinki or Stockholm. Even one of the Russian players went on to say that these were the worst World Championships that he has played in.

 

Furthermore, a bit of an embarrasement, the organisers now have to get advice from Edmonton who arranged the World U-20 championships recently. Finland and Sweden aren’t exactly new to the hockey thing so it is embarrassing to say the least that they have to get help on how to make everything work. The scary prospect is that the two countries and the same organisers are in charge of arranging next years’ tournament as well. Hooray for another year of empty arenas and overpriced… well… overpriced EVERYTHING (€7 for a “pint”).

 

I do hope that the Finnish Ice Hockey Association is true to its word and guides the profits directly to junior development. It is in the grass roots where hockey has to be nurtured and talents developed. Additionally, though I know hockey isn’t the cheapest of sports to play, the Finns need to attract kids to start playing hockey as well and the sport shouldn’t be for the privileged, neither as a hobby or as a spectator sport.

 

But anyways, what did the games leave us with? Well there were some interesting games, who would have thought that one of the best round robin games was between France and Kazakhstan. In fact during round robin, it was the ‘smaller’ countries that provided more entertainment than any other game in the schedule, except maybe apart from USA vs Canada.

 

Speaking of Canada, I know my post about the Canadian team antics was read quite a few times, but I realised that the point that didn’t come across properly in it was the fact that I don’t have a problem with players going out during the tournament, it happens and as players we’ve all been there and done it. However, it was more the outburst that caught my attention. Other teams were seen in Helsinki nightlife and conducted themselves appropriately. Granted it was only a onetime thing and I guess the reason why Getzlaf’s and Perry’s exploits were followed closely is because the Ducks have been under a magnifying glass in Finland because of one Teemu Selanne. But let by gones be by gones and all that jazz. I could say many colourful things of what I think of Getzlaf as a captain of a team, but I will only say, I feel sorry for Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne.

 

For me personally, the low point of the games was when the IIHF pulled the live YouTube broadcasts, hence why I reduced the amount of ‘ink’ and space I gave the IIHF.

 

That is something unheard of in sports broadcasting and I’m sure the IIHF has had a huge backlash from people all over the world. I had numerous conversations on Twitter and Facebook about the decision to pull the feeds and all were equally disappointed. The common factor among the comments was this: “Shame, I’ve never watched the world championships and I was quite enjoying it.” Or “What’s the point of watching them with 30 minute delay if I can get another stream from the Internet.” There you go IIHF. Even if you tried to protect the TV broadcast deals you talked about, people will find a way to watch the games live and un-interrupted. I really do hope that the IIHF figures this out. You have a year to do it. GET IT RIGHT!

 

The one thing that I do think that the games needed and it is something that I have been saying for years when talking about it with relatives and friends. Kalervo Kummola needs to move over from the helm at Finnish ice hockey. I have nothing against Kummola personally and if anything we should all be grateful for what he has done to Finnish hockey and the way he has cultivated the sport. But it is time to move over now. I feel that Kummola is past it and ‘not with the times’ anymore and that his views of the game and the way things should be done are somewhat archaic.

 

Kummola’s hockey resume is something to envy, but right now I feel that what would be best for Finnish hockey is to get some fresh blood in and get new views and expand our horizons further. Finland has a great legacy in hockey and the sport means a lot to the nation and I think now, if ever, would be time to mix things up a bit.

 

Personally, I don’t think Kummola’s successor has to be a someone with a background in hockey, but someone who can bring an innovative new way to develop players and who is not stuck in the same mindset as the current core of the powers that be.

 

With Russia now the reigning world champion’s we are waiting for another 365 before Sweden and Finland again host the games, with this time Sweden being the lead country for hosting. Good thing the organisers have already come out and said that they’ll review the ticket prices for next year. Oh, I do hope that they mean review the prices on basis of reducing them, not hiking them up even more.

 


Well, Finland’s dream of a double world championship are over, but at least the team is still playing for a medal. The game against Russia was encouraging. The team showed that it is capable of competing play-wise with a star studded Russian team. However, where I feel the Finnish team fell down on was on individual talent. If you have some one like Yevgeni Malkin snipe three goals at will you are in trouble.

 

Where I might’ve said some harsh things about the Penguins during the first round of the NHL playoffs, I have to admit that I have not seen a player as hungry as Malkin is right now. At the moment, his playing oozes the desire to win.

 

The reason why I am not overtly disappointed at the Finnish teams’ efforts is because the team went down with its boots on. The score 6-2, I feel, does not reflect the game on a playing level. Finland was the more dominant team across the first 30-35 minutes and I thought that until the 3-1 goal that the team had every chance to claw back. The body language of players said that they were there to fight to the end. However, it wasn’t until Malkin completed his hat-trick that the wheels fell off the bus. A 4-1 deficit is difficult to claw back from, not impossible, but difficult.

 

A couple of things that I was impressed with: Petri Kontiola’s game was probably the best he has ever played, or at least what I’ve seen him play. Same with Jesse Joensuu. I think as the tournament has gone on, he has elevated his game probably more than any other player on the Finnish team. It was his strong board play and relentless hustle that set up the Finnish first goal.

 

Petri Vehanen didn’t have one of his strongest games we’ve seen from him. Let’s not forget that Vehanen has been linked to a couple of NHL teams during the tournament (One of which is the Penguins). I don’t know whether the contract talk got his nerves going. Personally, I don’t see why Vehanen would go to the NHL. Don’t get me wrong, he is a great goalie when he is on top of his game, but he is what the hockey world would call a veteran. Then again, I’m always happy when a guy who has worked hard for his dream actually makes it, so from that point of view, it’d be great to see Vehanen make it.

 

Whilst we’re on the topic of goalies. Today’s game against Russia sets up an interesting dilemma: Ride Vehanen or go with the back-up, Karri Ramo. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Vehanen will play tomorrow. Jalonen is unlikely to throw a guy in the net who hasn’t played a minute in the tournament. Ramo is a capable goalie, but I think that Jalonen will stick to his guns and ride Vehanen rather than risk putting Ramo in goal. What he should’ve done though was to put Ramo in goal for the 3rd period in the Russia game. By that time the Finns would’ve had nothing to lose. It’s OK to say this in hindsight, but there you go.

 

One of the things that has been, shall we say, ridiculous has been the refereeing. Not only in the Finland vs Russia game, but across the entire tournament. There were a couple of calls the refs missed in the game and then called a few things that they did call, but wouldn’t have been worthy of penalties. Where Malkin went down I don’t think should’ve been a penalty. I’ve watched the play again and again, and Malkin goes down on his own as opposed to the Finnish player tripping him, as the refs interpreted.

 

Despite the loss tonight and the disappointment of it to the team, I’m sure that the Finns will come out and want to win the bronze on home soil. Though I think as a team, the guys want to go out with a win as it is officially the end of the season fro them all.

 

A quick word about the other finalist. I’m really happy for the Slovakian’s. Their last tournament was a disaster to say the least, but they have come through as the underdogs and I’m sure the guys will be relishing every moment. There’s no doubt that the Slovakian team has a 6th player with them on every shift in Pavol Demitra, whose jersey is hanging in the Slovakian changing room. For those who don’t know, Demitra was among the victims who perished in the Lokomotiv air disaster in September.


In a shocking turn of events, the IIHF has turned around and stopped the free live broadcasts of the World Championships. The decision, is according to an IIHF statement, based on some fans in the geoblocked countries bypassing the blocking mechanism to watch the games, rather than use services provided by TV rights holders. The games will still be shown for free via YouTube, but with a 30 minute delay to the service, which negates the point of watching the games.

 

The World Championships have been a total farce from start to finish and this is the last nail in the coffin. The free YouTube streams were a step forwards in exposing the sport and the sponsors of the games to a whole new audience, whilst extending the service to those who wanted to follow their nation play, but lived in a country where there was no TV deal in place. The release by IIHF cites that “today’s step was taken to prevail illegal attempts to access the streaming countries that were geoblocked due to exclusive contracts.” I’m sorry, but bypassing a geoblock is not illegal. It may not be ethical, but it is by no stretch of imagination illegal. It’s a complete disgrace to the IIHF that they have blocked a service that was enjoyed by the fans, regardless of the fact whether some users bypassed the blocking mechanisms in place. Furthermore, I can’t believe that an organisation like the IIHF is so out of touch with the internet that they thought that a geoblock would work. What the IIHF has failed to realise is that as long as something is broadcast on to the web, whether by an “authorised” TV provider, the feed will ultimately end up in the Internet where users like myself can watch it for free. So my question is why block it on that premise? Surely the best way to tackle the issue of illegal streams is to do what the IIHF did in the first place, by offering a free, high quality stream of the games.

 

The official statement read: Bruno Marty, Excecutive Director Wintersports, said: “We deeply regret that we have to take this step, in particular for all the ice hockey followers out there who just want to enjoy the games online on YouTube. However, we currently see no other option to protect the existing media rights agreements with our broadcast partners, as some so called fans decided not to play fair and to illegally surpass existing copyright and geoblocking mechanism.”

 

I have a feeling that the geoblocking has nothing to do with the fact the games were pulled. I have a feeling that broadcasters in countries where the rights have switched hands (I’m looking at Finland here) have kicked up a fuss, because the live streams took away customers from the pay for channels. What makes the IIHF think that the users who have been watching the games via YouTube will suddenly flock to a TV provider and pay an arm and a leg for a viewing pack?

 

What’s surprising even further is that the IIHF has not even brought in an option it has hosted previous years and allow users to buy a country pass or a tournament pass to watch the games. That way users could at least still watch, what the IIHF calls legal streams, and make a profit out of it on the side. Delaying the games by 30 minutes just negates the point of watching a game! What is the point when you have an app for a phone that tells you the score. Wake the hell up IIHF.

 

Like I said these world championships have been a total farce from the start, with the ticket prices and price slashes and free ticket giveaways. All the while Rene Fasel and the organisers have talked about a great brand they have to protect, but this decision sees the IIHF take the brand and wipe its ass with it!

 

It’s completely puzzling how the KHL can show the entire regular season via YouTube, including playoffs, and have no trouble with it? How can the IIHF find this context so hard and difficult?

 

I will conclude this post on this picture as it is now more pertinent than ever (With thanks to Esko Seppanen and Urheilulehti). My parting thoughts would be to curse at the IIHF, but what’s the point?

 

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The ticket price debacle goes on and I fear that it is going to be the thing that is most remembered from the 2012 World Championships. Yesterday, the Finnish organisers said that they are not going to be lowering the ticket prices to the games following Sweden’s announcement of 70% slash in prices.

 

The organisers are saying that there have been plenty of tickets sold and even went as far as to claim that the Finland vs Belarus game was sold out. However, the prices continue to be a thorn in the fans’ side. Some tried to stage a protest against the prices in the France vs Kazakhstan game. However, from the opening game between France and USA the organisers had barred the display of banners that were larger than 1mx1m, though if the rule applies to all banners displayed, shouldn’t the organisers ban the display of national flags in the stands as those are bigger than 1mX1m. There was one banner displayed in the Hartwall Arena saying “Kale Hinnat Alas, Kale on varas” loosely translated to Kale, lower the prices, Kale you’re a thief. The banner was visible for five seconds before a group of security officers descended on the group displaying the banner and “kindly” asked for the group to vacate the premises.

 

Though the group was later allowed back into the stands sans banner, it still says a lot about the way that the organisers are treating the fans. As you can see from the picture below, the group of guys is clearly happy about the prices and of the treatment they have received in the  games (Picture courtesy of Esko Seppanen: https://twitter.com/#!/EskoSeppanen) . Image

 

The organisers clearly have a stand of “No opinion will be listened to unless it is the approved one by the organisers”. I know that may not necessarily be the case, but that’s what it looks like to me as a spectator and lover of hockey.

 

In my humble opinion, the games have turned into a joke. Not because of the hockey but because of the fact that the games are played to half empty arenas and the organisers have adopted a “we will not negotiate with terrorists” policy. I guess if the organisers lower the prices it is them admitting that they got it horribly, HORRIBLY wrong.

 

If Rene Fasel, the guy at the top of the IIHF admits that the ticket prices and the debacle around them is not good advertisement to hockey or to the tournament, there should be alarm bells ringing at the organisers’ office. Oh I forgot, there has been alarm bells ringing and they have admitted that they’ll take these games on board and rectify things for next time. Why next time? Why not now? Is it that bad to slash the prices to games so that there would actually be FANS in the stands cheering the games? 

It is ironic that the France vs Kazakhstan game has attracted more or less the same audience as the USA vs Canada game from yesterday and that it is LOUDER in the arena than it was during Finland vs Belarus or USA vs Canada.

 

In either case, I think Finland and the Finnish Ice Hockey Association will have to wash its face for many months after the games. I’d like to see what some of the stars who are playing in the games think about playing to an empty arena. I know Pavel Datsyuk didn’t seem too happy about the attendance figures in Stockholm and I guess playing to a dead crowd is difficult for the NHL guys who are used to playing to a sold out crowd for the entire season.

 

For the sake of hockey, I hope that the attendance will get better and that there is going to be cheering at the games. However, something makes me think that this is not going to be the case.

 


After the huge backlash on the ticket prices at both Helsinki and Stockholm games, and after the embarrasement of attendance numbers in both Helsinki andStockholm, the Swedes have reacted to the critique and have slashed the ticket prices for the rest of the games by 70%.

For the remainder of the games the ticket prices at the Sockholm games are in the region of €44 (previous prices were at €145). Those fans who had purchased their tickets to the rafters at Globen for th Sweden vs Czech Republic game, will have the opportunity to move closer to the ice level.

Organiser, Christer Eglund said “We could have made more of a profit if we would’ve kept the prices as they were, as the World Championships boom would grow as the games progress. However, we have one of the greatest brands to protect and therefore we are eager to effer all supporters the opportunity to enjoy the games.”

The reaction comes after the first four games at Globen were watched only by an audience of 8,000. Seriously, 8,000 fans across four games. You do the math and the averages, but in either case it is bad!

Even Swedish superstar Henrik Zetterberg criticised the ticket prices. “It is an embarrasement and sad that only a small number of spectators turn up. The fault is not with the audience. With these prices families will not turn up at the arena to follow hockey.”

There has been no news as yet whether Finland will follow suit.