Slovenia and Kazakhstan line up for the opening game at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A. (Photo by IIHF/Twitter)
Amjad Aziz Malik AIPS Asia Secretay General
NUR-SULTAN, May 02, 2019 - A short but sleek opening ceremony marked the inauguration of the biggest IIHF event ever in Kazakhstan, the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A, on Monday.
Vying for the two spots in the World Championship are higher ranked Belarus, Slovenia, hosts Kazakhstan, Korea, Hungary and Lithuania. The Government of Kazakhstan has left no stone unturned to ensure a successful hosting of this prestigious event that will help showcase the country's sporting prowess and its proud city of Nur-Sultan.
Host city renamed Nur-Sultan is the new name for the city formerly known as Astana after a recent renaming. “Nur” is a word in Kazakh language - coming from Arabic - that means light, and that’s what the six teams will be looking for. Six teams are vying to reach the top level and play at the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Zurich and Lausanne, Switzerland. Only the best two teams will make it and last year has shown that the race is fully open.
Consistency For many years the line-up at the Division I Group A had roughly looked the same with the same two nations going up and down again – Austria and Slovenia in even years, Italy and Kazakhstan in odd years. This pattern was broken when Hungary (2015), Korea (2017) and Great Britain (2018) earned their rare spot in the top division and with Austria becoming the first promoted team since France in 2008 to survive in the top division last year.
More Competitive Teams have become more competitive and no less than five of these six teams currently in Kazakhstan have played in the top division during the past three seasons.