Six Para ice hockey teams will put everything on the line from 26 November to 1 December in Berlin at the Paralympic Winter Games Qualification Tournament. Norway, Italy, Slovakia, Germany, Sweden and Japan will play for the final two Beijing 2022 spots that remain up for grabs.
Here are five storylines to watch in Berlin as the tournament unfolds.
Norway and Sweden’s Paralympic streaks
Both Norway and Sweden have competed in Para ice hockey at every Paralympics the sport has been contested at dating back to 1994. With five Paralympic medals, Norway is tied with Canada and the USA for the most of any nation. Sweden comes next with three Paralympic medals. Norway will come armed with veterans scorers such as Morten Vaernes and Audun Bakke, while Sweden will do the same with Per Kasperi and Niklas Ingvarsson, but whether one or both can keep their streaks alive is the question.
Will Asian nations make history?
China and Korea have already earned their spots at the Beijing 2022 Paralympics, while Japan heads to Berlin for the Qualification Tournament. Japan has not made it to the Paralympics since 2010, when it won a silver medal. If Japan were to qualify, it would be the first time in history Asia was represented by three teams in the sport on the Paralympic stage.
While Slovakia’s ice hockey team has qualified for its eighth consecutive Winter Olympic Games heading into Beijing 2022, its Para ice hockey team is looking to qualify for its first Winter Paralympic Games. Four years ago, many Para ice hockey fans did not predict we would see Slovakia on the verge of qualifying for their first Paralympics, yet alone competing in the A-Pool. The team has shown tremendous promise this year and could be the dark horse to grab a spot in Beijing.
Germany’s home ice
It has been 15 years since Germany last played a Para ice hockey game at the Paralympic level. Four of the players remain from that Torino 2006 roster: Bas Disveld, Robert Pabst, Frank Rennhack and Jorg Wedde. Add in a surge of youth that includes forward Felix Schrader, and playing on its home ice, and the Qualification Tournament in Berlin could certainly be one to remember for Team Germany.
Build up to Milano Cortina 2026
While Italy will most likely qualify for the next Winter Paralympics in 2026 in Milan as the host nation, first things first, they must make it to Beijing. Italy has competed in the last four consecutive Paralympics, and more recently has been part of a number of games at the World Championships in recent years that have gone on to thrilling penalty shootouts. With a strong group of young 20-somethings, including Nils Larch, Christoph Deapoli, Alex Enderle and Alessandro Andreoni, the build for potential success at the next two Paralympics is happening now for Italy.