The Riga Recap: IIHF Men’s World Hockey Championship Tournament Preview

The 2021 International Ice Hockey Federation’s annual Men’s Ice Hockey Championship will be starting on May 21st after a year of absence due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. This year’s tournament will be held in Riga, Latvia from the 21st of May to June 6th. The tournament was originally intended to be hosted by Minsk, Belarus, and Riga but in mid January, the IIHF stated that Belarus would no longer be hosting the event due to security concerns, leaving Latvia as the sole host. 

The games will be played at the Olympic Sports Centre and Arena Riga. The Olympic Sports Centre will be the home for Group A action. Group A consists of Russia, Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Slovakia, Denmark, Belarus, and Great Britain. Arena Riga will be the home to Group B. Group B consists of the host country, Latvia, as well as Finland, Germany, Norway, Italy, Kazakhstan, the United States, and Canada. Russia and the Czech Republic start off Group A action on May 21st as well as Germany and Italy on the Group B side.

In a typical year, many of the players participating in the tournament would be coming off of their NHL seasons, but with the COVID-19 Pandemic still causing havoc on the hockey world, many NHL players whose team did not advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs have chosen not to take place in the tournament as many have stated that the NHL season was extremely long and the risks do not outweigh the benefits. However, there are some NHL players who will be suiting up for their respective countries. 

With many of the NHL players who would typically participate in the annual tournament deciding to sit the 2021 edition out, many teams will be bringing some of their younger talent to Riga. Canada will be leaning heavily on younger players like Cole Perfetti, Liam Foudy, Braden Schneider, and Jacob Bernard-Docker to bring their speed and skill to the Team Canada roster. The roster will also include Owen Power, a defenceman who just finished his first season at the University of Michigan and is eligible for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.

Team USA is also bringing a mix of young guns and veterans to Latvia. The oldest team member is Brian Boyle who played the 2019-2020 season with the Florida Panthers but was a UFA for the duration of this past season. After a fantastic rookie season, Jason Robertson of the Dallas Stars will also head to Latvia with Team USA. The California native will certainly be in the running for the NHL’s Calder Trophy after turning heads all season long. He will be an important piece in the USA’s quest for gold. Like Canada, USA has a player from the University of Michigan on their roster who is eligible for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Matt Beniers represented Team USA at the World Juniors and impressed enough to earn a spot on this team.

Mikayla and Krissy will be here everyday on Unbenched to recap the previous day’s events from Latvia. The 2021 IIHF World Championships will be broadcasted on TSN in Canada and NHL Network in the United States. 

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