The 2019 World Para Ice Hockey Championships were record-breaking and viewer-friendly across the board. Here are the top takeaways from the event that will carry the sport to the next level.
1. The appetite for Para ice hockey is real. With nearly 65,000 spectators showing up at Ostravar Arena throughout the week and viewers watching around the world, including highlight reels on NBC during NHL playoff intermissions, these World Championships proved that Para ice hockey is one of the best spectator sports and viewers are engaged more than ever before. Even hockey stars and teams, such as Patrick Kane, the Czech National Ice Hockey Team, and the NHL’s New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues posted about the event on their social media channels.
2. USA’s Declan Farmer and Brody Roybal combination is unmatchable. The power forward duo led the USA to its record-tying fourth world title, with Farmer scoring the goal that forced overtime and Roybal scoring the game-winner in the gold-medal game against Canada off a pass from Farmer. The two combined for 11 goals, more than any other forward duo, and Farmer led all players at the tournament with 14 points and a +17 on the ice.
3. Rising stars Liam Hickey of Canada and Jack Wallace of USA lived up to the hype. Both of these defenders have been pegged as future stars to watch in the sport, and in Ostrava, they arrived as such. Hickey, a 21-year-old dual-sport athlete who also plays wheelchair basketball, led all defensemen in the tournament with eight goals and was named Best Defenseman. In just his third season on the national team, Wallace, a 20-year-old biomedical engineering student, was second at the position with seven goals. He scored five alone in the USA’s semi-final win against the Czech Republic, a new US record.
4. South Korea proved PyeongChang 2018 was no fluke. Often times, teams rise and fall with their hosting of a Winter Paralympics. But South Korea did not fall after claiming bronze last year in PyeongChang; instead they picked up right where they left off. The South Koreans held their own as Seung-Hwan Jung and Byeong-Seok Cho led the team to bronze in spite of a sold-out crowd cheering for the host nation with all the air they could muster.
5. Czech head coach Jiri Briza might be the best development coach in the world. Not only did Briza, a non-paid coach, help the Czech Republic tie for its best-ever finish at a World Championships and help organize the greatest World Championships to date, but he proved he is a force behind the development of the entire sport. People at the venue and in the media were praising his efforts in skyrocketing the sport with these championships and introducing new athletes to the sport, including Czech rookie Miroslav Novotny, who impressed in his first major competition with two big goals.
6. Italy showed future promise with new talent. While the Italians may have lost some of their veteran players, a slew of youngsters showcased what could be the future faces of a medal-contending team. Nils Larch (21 years old), Christoph Deapoli (21), Alex Enderle (21) and Alessandro Andreoni (22) combined for six goals and five assists in the tournament.
7. A new pack of officials received praise from tournament organisers and teams. As the sport of Para ice hockey continues to grow, so does the strength of its officiating team. Several athletes commented on the fairness and professionalism of the officiating crew, as organisers heralded five officials working their first A-Pool World Championships.