The small skiing town of Megève, France, is about to welcome fans from around the world as the Under-20s Ice Hockey World Championships gets underway this weekend. Teams battling for the promotion spot are the host nation France, Ukraine, Poland, Slovenia and Team Great Britain.
One of teams, who have already made a name for themselves by getting promoted to Division 1B by winning the gold medal last year, is Team Great Britain. With the Japanese team pulling out of the tournament earlier this week and therefore being demoted to Division 2A, it makes this a five team competition with the overall winner getting promoted to Division 1A.
Great British Ice Hockey
Ice hockey in Great Britain is something of a mystery to outsiders looking in. Over recent years, the junior system has improved
vastly. There is a series of conference teams throughout the country. These conferences are split into five teams; Scottish, Northern, Midlands, South East and South West. The conference teams are made up of handpicked young talent from varying junior teams and often face off against each other in inter-conference competitions.
Many of the players from Team GB are now playing in senior teams, not just in the UK, but overseas too. In many cases, the players that are playing for teams in the UK, have worked their way up through the junior systems of a few clubs and have then gone on to play for the senior team of that club.
The captain and assistant captains for Team GB have been announced this morning. Wearing the “C” is Ollie Betteridge of the UK’s Elite League team, the Nottingham Panthers. Assisting him are two players from the English Premier League side, the Milton Keynes Lightning, Lewis Hook and Luc Johnson.
Much Work To Do
In the lead up to the tournament, Team GB have been preparing themselves as much as possible. One such preparation, was a training match against the aforementioned Milton Keynes Lightning. Including the two newly announced assistant captains, forward Glenn Billing and defenseman Edward Knaggs also play for the Lightning. In the training match, the Lightning, whose Head Coach, Pete Russell, is also that of the men’s senior Team Great Britain side, won 3-0. Even though it was a loss for Team GB, the players showed a lot of character, promise and a work ethic that head coach Tommy Watkins was very proud of.
The tournament gets underway on the 12th December, and will last until the 18th. Each team will play each other once and the winner at the end will get themselves promoted to Division 1A, which is just one division lower than the top division.
Every team knows what the others are capable of having played each other before. It’ll be an interesting tournament with all eyes on the young talent fighting their way through.