If you follow the current information from a leading sports betting provider, the national team of the German Ice Hockey Federation (DEB) is expecting a cold shower this Friday. After all, right at the start of the World Championships in the Helsinki Ice Arena, there is a duel against the defending champion and record world champion Canada, and all signs point to a victory in Group A Ice, although the team failed at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing because of the Slovaks.
Of course, these are nothing more than paper invoices. Even at world championships, games are still decided by goals on the ice and not by odds calculated by algorithms. The German selection is still living on the glory of the 2018 Olympic silver medal and being among the top four nations for the first time since the 2010 home World Cup a year ago. But at the 2022 Olympics she suffered a major setback (10th place). Therefore, the team of national coach Toni Söderholm is now trying to make amends.
The preparation for the World Cup, however, went suboptimal. The last dress rehearsal, the seventh and last endurance test at the weekend in Schwenningen against Austria (3:1), was passed with difficulty. Before that, it rained four defeats and only two more wins against the Czech Republic and Switzerland. This prompted Söderholm to keep talking to his players: “We have to get everything done as quickly as possible to clear our heads for what is to come.” He did not hide the fact that there were “a number of construction sites”, especially when it comes to the playful«.
But as a coach, he naturally also practiced optimism: “You can tell that the team is slowly growing together. There’s a vibe there that you can build a lot on. When the day comes when it counts, a lot will come together.« The Finn is also building on the players from the NHL who joined the team shortly before the start of the World Cup and from the two finalists of the DEL playoffs Berlin and Munich.
NHL defender Moritz Seider, who traveled from Detroit, also shares this optimism with a view to the seven preliminary round opponents. After all, the chances of winning are pretty good, especially against France. The French took the place of Russia, ruled out by the Ukraine invasion, on relatively short notice, so anything but a win next Monday would come as a surprise. “Once we get into the rhythm, we’re hard to stop. We have to keep up the momentum,” Seider hoped.
After the showdown against Canada and the Slovaks at the start of the World Cup and a subsequent rest day, the DEB team has a good chance of success against France, Denmark, Italy and Kazakhstan. At the end of the preliminary round there will be a prestige duel against Switzerland, which – as most observers assume – will possibly mutate into the decisive game for entering the quarter-finals. The first four of the two groups of eight move into this round. Here it is up against the best nations in preliminary round group B. Here, too, there is a replacement in Austria for the team from Belarus, who have been suspended because of the Ukraine war. However, France and Austria are also considered the first candidates for the two relegation places, which have been reintroduced differently than in 2021.
The favorites in these title fights are Canada, which is aiming for its 28th World Championship title and could thus crown itself as the sole record world champion ahead of Russia, Olympic champion Finland and eleven-time title holder Sweden. In contrast to the 2021 World Cup tournament in Riga, this time there will no longer be a so-called corona bubble. In both World Cup venues, Helsinki and Tampere, players who were required to undergo a PCR test before departure and a rapid test upon arrival in Finland can move freely.
After the World Cup tournament had to be held in front of almost completely empty ranks a year ago due to the pandemic, the halls are expected to be full again this time. However, not quite as many fans come in as originally planned. For a change, however, this is not due to corona restrictions. Rather, there was a remarkable change due to the war: Originally, the much larger Hartwall Arena was intended as the venue in Helsinki. However, two Russian oligarchs, who have ended up on EU and US sanctions lists since the beginning of the war of aggression in Ukraine, hold large shares in it. Since the two are not supposed to benefit from the World Cup revenue and the prestige of the tournament, the World Cup organizers quickly switched to another, albeit smaller hall: the venerable Helsinki Ice Hall. A remarkable political signal from the Finns.