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2021 IIHF World Hockey Championship Preview

The tournament returns after missing 2020

Finland wins 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Photo by Anton Novoderezhkin\TASS via Getty Images

After a one year hiatus due to the pandemic, the IIHF Men’s World Hockey Championships return with this year’s tournament being played in Riga, Latvia. This will be Latvia’s first time hosting the tournament since 2006. The tournament was also supposed to be hosted in Minsk, Belarus, but security concerns caused the IIHF to move away from those plans.

The last tournament was held in May 2019, with Finland emerging as champions with a 3-1 victory over Canada in the final, while Russia took home bronze. This tournament has seen a lot of balance over the last decade or so, including six different medalists in the last two tournaments.

Since 2010 Russia has medaled seven times, the most at this tournament with 2 gold, 2 silver, and 3 bronze. Sweden has the second most with 3G, 1S, and 2B. Canada and Finland have each medaled four times.

Here’s a quick look at each of the 16 teams last time winning the tournament, and their most recent medal or highest finish.

Most Recent Gold/Medal

INTL Ranking Team Last Gold Last Medal
INTL Ranking Team Last Gold Last Medal
1 Canada 2016 2019 (S)
2 Russia 2012 2019 (B)
3 Finland 2019 2019 (G)
4 Sweden 2018 2018 (G)
5 Czech Republic 2010 2012 (B)
6 United States 1960 2018 (B)
7 Germany N/A 1953 (S)
8 Switzerland N/A 2018 (S)
9 Slovakia 2002 2012 (S)
10 Latvia N/A N/A
11 Norway N/A N/A
12 Denmark N/A N/A
13 Belarus N/A N/A
14 Italy N/A N/A
15 Kazakhstan N/A N/A
16 Great Britain 1936 1938 (S)

The 16 tournament teams will be split into two groups of eight, with both groups playing all of their games in Riga, instead of the usual split between two cities/countries.

Group A will be:

  • Russia
  • Sweden
  • Czech Republic
  • Switzerland
  • Slovakia
  • Denmark
  • Belarus
  • Great Britain

Group B will be:

  • Canada
  • Finland
  • United States
  • Germany
  • Latvia
  • Norway
  • Italy
  • Kazakhstan

Click here for a direct link to the IIHF website with camp rosters for each of the countries.

Since we are a Flames site, here’s a quick list of current and former Flames that will be at the event this year:


  • Dillon Dube (CAN)
  • Andrew Mangiapane (CAN)
  • Nikita Nesterov (RUS)
  • Connor Mackey (USA)
  • Emilio Pettersen (NOR)
  • Ilya Solovyov (BEL)


  • Rushan Rafikov (RUS)
  • Pavel Karnaukhov (RUS)
  • Tobias Rieder (GER)
  • Reto Berra (SUI)
  • Raphael Diaz (SUI)
  • Marek Hrivik (SLO)
  • Milos Roman (SLO)
  • Bob Hartley (LAT, Head Coach)

I’m especially excited to get to watch Emilio Pettersen as he takes a starring role for Norway in the tournament as one of only two players to have played in North America this past year and he netted a few points in the pre-tournament games.

The first games of the tournament start on Friday afternoon in Riga, which is nine hours ahead of Calgary, meaning they start at 7:15 AM. You can view the full tournament schedule by clicking here. The tournament runs through to June 6 when the medal games conclude. Each team is guaranteed seven games in the round robin before the top four from each group make the playoff round while the bottom team from each division is relegated.

Here are Canada’s games with their start time in Calgary:

  • Friday May 21 vs Latvia - 11:15 AM
  • Sunday May 23 vs United States - 11:15 AM
  • Monday May 24 vs Germany - 11:15 AM
  • Wednesday May 26 vs Norway - 11:15 AM
  • Friday May 28 vs Kazakhstan - 7:15 AM
  • Sunday May 30 vs Italy - 7:15 AM
  • Tuesday June 1 vs Finland - 3:15 AM

This tournament will have a distinctly different feel then in past years as a combination of the later start due to the pandemic and quarantine restrictions meaning there are less NHLers in the tournament, and more of a focus on younger players. For example 13 players on the Canadian roster are 22 years of age or younger. European teams have also elected to bring over mainly players from the various European leagues as there are only 25 NHLers on non North American rosters this year compared to 73 in the 2019 tournament.

With these changes in rosters, it is possible we could see an underdog team make a run this year as they’ve had more time to practice as a team compared to others. The tournament starts tomorrow and it’s super exciting to get back to international hockey!