The World Para Ice Hockey Championships will take place from 27 April - 4 May, featuring the top eight teams from around the world in Ostrava, Czech Republic. Follow along as we break down what you need to know about each team.
Japan’s Para ice hockey squad is flying to Ostrava with nothing to lose. They return to the A-Pool World Championships for the first time since 2015 after finishing second in the B-Pool World Championships in 2016 on home ice.
Japan missed the Sochi 2014 Paralympics, and despite qualifying for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympics, did not win a single game there. The team is full of veteran players, but will also have four newcomers in Ostrava, and they have nowhere to go but up as the last-seeded team in the tournament.
World Ranking: 10th
World Championships History:
2017: Did not qualify
2015: 8th place
2013: 10th place
2012: 7th place
2009: 4th place
2008: 4th place
2004: 6th place
2000: 4th place
1996: 6th place
One to Watch: Four-time Paralympian Saturo Sudo will be playing in his fifth World Championship tournament and is known for saying that age can be a competitive advantage. The past few years, he has been dependable to come out clutch early on in games and knows how to find the net. But he will need offensive support from his teammates if Japan want to progress in the tournament.
Don’t Count Out: Despite being 62 years old, Shinobu Fukushima can still move between the posts in the net. The four-time Paralympic goaltender retired from competitive Para ice hockey in 2014 but returned for the 2018 Games. He retired again after 2018, but is listed on Japan’s roster to return to Ostrava in 2019.
Matchup to Watch: Japan vs. Sweden on Tuesday, 30 April will be a rematch of the seventh -place game at PyeongChang 2018, pitting two teams in the rebuilding phase against each other.
Worth Mentioning: Four players from Japan’s silver-medal winning team at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympics remain, including Shinobu Fukushima, Eiji Misawa, Mamoru Yoshikawa and Satoru Sudo.