Norway’s national ice hockey team faced an especially challenging start to the World Championships in the Czech Republic on Friday, as they were due to meet the powerhouse team from Russia. Then they’ll be up against the US and Finland, and they’re playing without the help of Norwegian hockey star Mats Zuccarello.
Coach Roy Johansen told newspaper Aftenposten this week that he thinks his team has around a 10 percent chance of reaching the quarter-finals. “We have an operating budget for the entire team that’s equal to the monthly pay of some of the Russians we’ll be meeting,” he remarked, but his squad has done well before and moved up the international rankings during his tenure.
Star player Patrick Thoresen, who’s been playing in Russia himself and joins the national team fresh from success with SKA St Petersburg, was seen as an important asset for the Norwegians. They’ll miss Zuccarello, though, who’s once again busy playing for the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup, which collides with the World Championships.
“I think it’s positive that he’s not here because it means he’s doing well for the New York Rangers,” Thoresen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). And that’s good for Norwegian hockey, he reasons.
The action was getting underway in Ostrava on Friday, with other scheduled matches against the US on Saturday, Finland on Monday and then Slovakia, Slovenia, Denmark and Belarus through May 12. Sixteen teams are playing in the World Championships, eight in each group with the four best in each qualifying for the quarter finals.