The GB national sides trip to the Slovenian capital for the world championships has now ended and whilst the hopes with which they went may not of been fully met the GB team will play in the same division next season.
Everyone by now is aware of the chaotic preparations the GB team had. The team joined up for 2 days training and flew out to Slovenia the day before playing the hosts in the opening game. That opening game was played without head coach, Tony Hand as he was playing and coaching his league side in the playoff final. Meanwhile it was all quiet at Ice Hockey UK who offered no information on games and did not send a commentary team to cover the games via the internet despite over 12,000 listeners to a game at last years championships. This left fans scrambling around to find streams and follow the game via the IIHF app.
The reasons and who is to blame for all this chaos is all subjective. It is up to Ice Hockey UK to handle everything to do with the national team. From media and press to training camps and accommodation it is their responsibility. But surely they can only work with what they given. Meaning that the EIHL’s season ended a week later than the previous year and so players were only released to the national team 6 days before the opening day of the World Championships. The EPL, who provided the coach, back up goalie and a centre, only ended their season on the opening day of the championships.
It is then expected that the national team will perform not only against teams that feature NHL and KHL players but teams that have had training camps that last a lot longer and been preparing all season for these championships.
It is easy to lay the blame of the national team missing out on promotion and relying on a last day win to stay in the division at the door of Ice Hockey UK, the EIHL, and the EIHA (who operate the EPL) but what more can do they?
Well it seems that the EIHA are seeing that there are things that they can do to aid the national team. It is strongly rumoured that the EPL playoff finals will take place on the first weekend in April 2013 at the same time as the EIHL finals. This will mean that the coach and any EPL players will be available for every game next year. This is a step in the right direction but that still means that there will probably be only a week before the World Championships.
That would not leave much if any time for any challenge matches just prior to the championships but there are other ways to gel a squad. A training squad for example should be chosen in November containing of around 40 players. These could meet up for a few days of training in November and again in January or February before the final squad is announced. Ideally these training camps would involve a challenge match perhaps against an EIHL select side if a national side could not be found but just meeting up more often would be an improvement.
Off ice the improvements can be made a lot more easily. Reinstating the live commentaries even if it is just on the Internet would be a start and an improvement given the complete lack of exposure, game updates and information from the IHUK during the 2012 competition. Even a tweet or two from IHUK would be an improvement instead of the wall of silence.
The point is that at moment the GB national team is competing against sides that are a lot more organised with their national programme and just about getting results. Hungary for example is a country that domestically speaking are light years behind the UK with the best sides playing in the Austrian League. Yet Hungary are a country who beat Austria and ended up with a bronze medal as their preparations involved playing in the Euro Challenge in November taking on Italy, Japan and Austria before 2 more games in December as well as 2 more games during their 2 week long training camp just prior to the World Championships.
Therefore with a few simple steps there is no reason why the GB team can not emulate the Hungarians and take a bigger step forward; competing with the likes of Slovenia and Austria to gain the promotion that will put ice hockey in the UK back on the map in a big way. All that this needs is little bit more thought and coordination between teams, leagues, the EIHA and Ice Hockey UK instead of the current slap dash, hap hazard approach of today.