The 2017 ISBHF World Ball Hockey Championships are upon us. The event is being hosted in Pardubice, Czech Republic from June 1 to June 10. The tournament kicks off with two-time defending gold medalists, Team Slovakia, taking on Team India in the Men’s A Pool, while Team France faces off against Team UK in one of planet Earth’s greatest and most historic national rivalries to start Men’s B Pool action.
In total the Men’s A pool has ten nations competing (Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, India, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Switzerland, and the USA), the Men’s B pool has eight nations (Armenia, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, France, Great Britain, Haiti, Hong Kong, and Lebanon), and the Women’s Division has six nation competing (Canada, Czech Republic, Great Britain, Italy, Slovakia, and the USA), for a total of twenty-four teams coming together to compete for ball hockey supremacy on the world stage.
There is no lack of interesting story lines coming into this event, and we’re going to touch upon some of the most interesting pre-tournament stories in the Men’s A division below:
Can Slovakia three-peat?
Slovakia was able to become back-to-back World champions with their victory in Zug, Switzerland in 2015. The squad is entering the 2017 Championships as world favourites. However, they have experienced some difficult games in their pre-tournament preparations. Will the Slovakians ride the momentum of their umbrella offensive system to the three-peat or can one of the competing nations overcome the vaunted offensive system to knock them off the top.
Can the Czech hosts play spoiler?
The Czech Republic is home to a number of prominent club teams, who have a great deal of experience playing together as a united squad. The Czechs are fielding a veteran team with only one player under the age of 20 and nine over the age of 30. They are looking to use that familiarity to their advantage to welcome all travellers to their championships, and claim the top prize.
Can Canada end a decade long gold drought?
Canada finished off of the podium at the 2015 World Championships, losing to the eventual Champions from Slovakia in the Quarter Finals. Canada’s most recent gold came back in 2007, with a silver, and two bronze finishes sandwiched in between. The ball hockey powerhouse has been scouting its roster over the past two years and is hungry for the taste of gold.
Can the Finnish goalies steal the show?
The country of Finland is known for its ability to produce goaltending standouts in the sport of ice hockey. It seems that it’s no different in ball hockey. Pre-tournament scouting has suggested that the Finnish goaltenders have the ability to steal a game, but can they steal a tournament. Time will tell.
Can Team Switzerland use pre-tournament momentum to earn gold?
The sixth place finishers in the 2015 World Championships in their home country have re-tooled their roster and gone young for the 2017 version of their roster. It may have seemed like a risky choice, but pre-tournament success, including a 3-2 win over the reigning gold medalists, Team Slovakia may suggest otherwise. Was this win a pre-cursor of things to come?