Ice Hockey World Championship 2004

Everything you need to know about the biggest sports event in Prague since the Velvet Revolution

When is the tournament taking place?

The opening games will be played on Saturday, April 24th. The playoffs (quarterfinals) begin on Wednesday, May 5th and the final will be held in Prague on Sunday, May 9th.

Where is the tournament being held?

There are two venues: The new Sazka Arena in Prague and the ČEZ Aréna in the Vítkovice area of Ostrava in Northern Moravia. All the playoff games and all games involving the Czech national team will take place in Prague.

Who's competing?

There are 16 national teams involved, divided into four groups:

Group A (Prague): Czech Republic, Germany, Latvia, Kazakhstan

Group B (Ostrava): Slovakia, Finland, Ukraine, USA

Group C (Ostrava): Sweden, Russia, Denmark, Japan

Group D (Prague): Canada, Switzerland, Austria, France

Who is the current reigning champion?

Canada won the 2003 tournament.

How is the tournament organized?

It's complicated... In the opening group phase teams in the same group play each other once. The top three teams from each group go through to the qualifying round while the last-placed team in each group goes into the relegation games.

Things start to get complicated at the qualifying round stage: The six teams based in Prague are grouped together in Group E while the six teams based in Ostrava are grouped together in Group F. Teams then play the three teams in their qualifying round group that they haven't already played. Based on the results of those games and the results of the games a team has already played against the two countries it was grouped with in the opening round, eight quarterfinalists emerge.

For the full program, visit the official World Championship website.

Do any of the early games matter?

Not really. Because there are only seven teams with a realistic chance of winning the championship (Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, USA) things only start getting exciting at the quarterfinal stage. The group phase and the qualifying round are really just a chance for the big teams to get warmed up.

Will my favorite NHL star be playing in Prague?

Probably not. The World Championship clashes with the NHL playoffs, meaning that most of the hockey world's biggest stars are otherwise engaged. (For the same reason, the World Championship is nearly always held in Europe.) But those players whose clubs fail to make the NHL playoffs or are eliminated early might decide to put in an appearance. (In short, the lousier your favorite NHL star's team is, the more likely he is to appear at the World Championship.) Speculation on who will or won't be coming usually continues right up to and beyond the start of the tournament, and is all part of the fun of the World Championship.

Can I still get tickets?

That depends. Demand for tickets has been enormous, meaning that most games are sold out. But how many of those tickets find their way onto the black market remains to be seen. For official information, see the Sazka Ticket website.

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