For hockey fans across the globe, the preliminary round of the 2013 IIHF WJC has been just about everything anyone had ever hoped for. There’s been no lack of tension, rivalries, intrigue and background stories that have come together to make this tournament the type that fans everywhere crave.
It’s been a few years since Slovakia enjoyed its fairy tale run that included a victory over the USA and a quarterfinal appearance at the 2009 WJC. And, despite a sixth place finish at last winter’s tourney, Slovakia is once again entering an international tournament knowing it could just as easily be battling against relegation. The 2013 World Junior Championship will likely be no different.
The annual Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, considered by some to be the most prestigeous international hockey competition of players under eighteen years of age, was held last week in Břeclav, Czech Republic, and Piešťany, Slovakia. And as is usually the case in the world of hockey, some results and statistics were simply surprising.
Success in Hockeytown is measured in Stanley Cups, but unfortunately, the Detroit Red Wings and their local affiliates came up well short of their intended goals this past season. The Red Wings made the playoffs but failed to advance past the division rival Nashville Predators in the first round. The AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins missed the playoffs altogether. They won just three of their final 10 games down the stretch and missed the playoffs by nine points. At the ECHL level, the Toledo Walleye posted the third-worst record in the league as they were unable to clinch a postseason berth for the second straight season. It was a disappointing spring for most Red Wings prospects abroad as well, though there were several notable exceptions.