The 2016 IIHF Hockey World Championships kick off a summer of sport!

IIHF World Championships kicks off May 6

It’s been a remarkable year for sport so far with Leicester City defying the odds in the English Premier League and the Bílí Tygři of Liberec winning their first Extraliga title in the Czech Republic and there is still plenty of action ahead this year.

We have the football European Championships edging closer while the carnival atmosphere of an Olympic games in Brazil is just around the corner too but now the focus is on the 2016 IIHF World Championships that will kick off “a summer of sport” this week.

Yes, it’s that time of year again! Dig out the Czech face paint and giant foam hands as the country gets ready to descend into an Ice Hockey fuelled sense of patriotism when the Czech national team hit the ice in Russia later this week.

New to the sport? Never mind, here is a run-down on all you need to know about this year’s World Championships in Russia.

An introduction to the Czech national team

Jaromír Jágr’s latest modelling campaign for Armani has been plastered across billboards over the city but unfortunately his presence won’t be felt in Russia this summer as the 44 year old Czech hockey legend sits out the Championships. It leaves a rather big hole that needs to be filled if the Czechs are make any serious headway in the tournament.

But it’s not just the absence of Jagr that will be felt. NHL stars like Jakub Voracek, David Krejci and Radko Gudas will miss the championships through injury – while Jiri Sekac is also rated doubtful after suffering concussion last week. This places a bigger emphasis on their captain and Montreal Canadiens star, Tomas Plekanec, to deliver the goods.

The strengths of the team, however, lie at the back with the goal tenders. Both Pavel Francouz and Dominik Furch ply their trade in the Russian KHL with the latter posting a great season with Omsk with a 0.933 save percentage over 48 games in the KHL. Nevertheless, asking Furch to replicate that form over the next four weeks in Russia is a big ask as the Czech Republic are very light on quality defence men.

We have seen both sides of the Czech Republic on the ice in recent friendly matches; they pummelled Swedes 7-1 but then drew a blank in a 0-3 reverse against Canada earlier this week. This paints a perfect illustration of where this current side is at the moment – good enough to advance from the group stages and possibly make the semi-final stages - but they really lack the star quality to trouble the elite sides.

The Beginners Guide to the IIHF World Championships

For those novice hockey fans among us, here is a run-down on the facts and figures for this year’s tournament.

- Current champions: Team Canada (winners of the IIHF Worlds 2015 in Prague)
- Russia are the host country and are the 22nd country to host the tournament
- There are a total of 16 teams competing spread over two groups
- The top 16 teams in world (based on IIHF rankings) qualify for the tournament
- Kazakhstan and Hungary are the two teams promoted this year into the “top 16”
- Each team plays 7 matches in the pool stage and the top 4 in the group advance to the next stage
- The pool stage lasts for 12 days and contains a total of 56 matches
- The final will be played at the Ice Palace in Moscow on May 22nd

Group A: Russia, Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Latvia, Norway, Denmark, Kazakhstan (all matches to be played in Moscow).

Group B: Canada, Finland, USA, Slovakia, Belarus, France, Germany, Hungary (all matches to be played in St Petersburg)

The Czech Republic are without their talisman Jaromír Jágr but there are couple of lucky omens still in their favour. Firstly, the last time St Petersburg hosted matches in the World Championships proved to be a vintage year for the Czechs and they took home the gold medal in 2000. Secondly, the Czechs last won the championships in 2010 when they beat Russia in the final.

Where to watch the action in Prague?

J.J. Murphy’s: One of our favourite places to watch sports is JJ Murphy’s Irish bar on Trziste 4, Prague 1. You can be sure of a warm friendly atmosphere with good beer on tap (Guinness for those who like to indulge in the black stuff) and hearty food on the menu. There are plenty of screens that will be sure to be showing the Czech Republic matches.

The Dubliner: Another Irish bar in the centre bar is The Dubliner that boasts a multitude of screens showing live sports and hockey is no exception. You can expect a lively atmosphere here, especially for the games involving Team USA and Team Canada.

Expats BBQ Bar: You can also catch the World Championships action at the Expats BBQ Bar – it’s a great venue for sport fans but also can be enjoyed by those who want to enjoy good beer and great food. Expats BBQ bar are renowned for the “10kc wings happy hour” as well as special drinks promotions that run through the summer.

The Czech Republic start their pool matches with an eagerly anticipated clash against Russia on Friday 6th May at the Ice Palace in Moscow and they’ll hope to last the distance all the way to the final on May 22nd.

For a full schedule of the action at this year’s World Championships you can visit the official IIHF site here.

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