After the National Hockey League season is completed, the players that don’t make the playoffs dust themselves off and head to an exotic European location for the annual IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship! This year’s event takes place in scenic Riga, Latvia for geopolitical reasons to complex to get into here (but suffice it to say nobody really wanted to go to Belarus).
Let’s dive into this year’s tournament, which begins on Friday morning!

What is the World Championship and why should you care?

Held every year, the World Championship contributes to the annual IIHF World Ranking, which itself feeds into Olympic qualification. (The top eight teams go right into the Olympics, and lower-ranked teams have a tough path to the Olympics). This year’s Worlds contributes to the 2026 Winter Olympic rankings. “Big” countries like Canada, the United States, Sweden and Russia always make the Olympics, but this helps with seeding for the qualification tournaments for smaller nations.
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The tournament is put into two groups:
  • Group A: Russia*, Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Slovakia, Denmark, Belarus, Great Britain
  • Group B: Canada, Finland, United States, Germany, Latvia, Norway, Italy, Kazakhstan
(*- Russia doesn’t compete as itself for this tournament, for reasons you should watch the Netflix documentary Icarus to fully grasp. Needless to say: gigantic doping scandal.)
The top four teams in each group go onto the medal round. Usually the last place team in each group would get relegated, but the lower divisional tournament didn’t happen this year, so the last place teams will merely be shamed and invited back to next year’s tournament in Finland.
For European countries in particular, winning the Worlds is huge. Mikael Backlund captained Sweden to a gold medal back in 2018 and got to meet Sweden’s royal family.

Flames in the tournament

There are quite a few Flames properties in the 2021 Worlds. Here’s who they are and when they play (all times Mountain).
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Players:
  • Andrew Mangiapane (Canada)**
  • Connor Mackey (United States)**
  • Nikita Nesterov (Not Russia)**
  • Ilya Solovyov (Belarus)
  • Emilio Pettersen (Norway)
Mangiapane, Mackey and Nesterov flew to Europe on Thursday and likely will be unavailable for their teams until about May 28. Dillon Dube suffered a concussion in Calgary’s last game and won’t be participating in the tournament.
For you draft fiends, top 2021 NHL Draft prospects Owen Power (Canada) and Matthew Beniers (United States) will be taking part in the tournament.
Games:
(All times Mountain and on the various TSN channels.)
  • May 21: Not Russia vs. Czech Republic (7:15 a.m.), Belarus vs. Slovakia (11:15 a.m.), Canada vs. Latvia (11:15 a.m.)
  • May 22: Norway vs. Germany (3:15 a.m.), United States vs. Finland (7:15 a.m.), Not Russia vs. Great Britain (7:15 a.m.)
  • May 23: Norway vs. Italy (3:15 a.m.), Belarus vs. Sweden (7:15 a.m.), United States vs. Canada (11:15 a.m.)
  • May 24: Not Russia vs. Slovakia (7:15 a.m.), Canada vs. Germany (11:15 a.m.), Belarus vs. Czech Republic (11:15 a.m.)
  • May 25: United States vs. Kazakhstan (7:15 a.m.), Norway vs. Finland (11:15 a.m.)
  • May 26: Not Russia vs. Denmark (7:15 a.m.), Belarus vs. Great Britain (11:15 a.m.), Canada vs. Norway (11:15 a.m.)
  • May 27: United States vs. Latvia (7:15 a.m.)
  • May 28: Canada vs. Kazakhstan (7:15 a.m.), Norway vs. Latvia (11:15 a.m.), Belarus vs. Denmark (11:15 a.m.)
  • May 29: United States vs. Norway (7:15 a.m.), Not Russia vs. Switzerland (7:15 a.m.)
  • May 30: Canada vs. Italy (7:15 a.m.), Belarus vs. Switzerland (7:15 a.m.)
  • May 31: United States vs. Germany (7:15 a.m.), Not Russia vs. Sweden (11:15 a.m.), Norway vs. Kazakhstan (11:15 a.m.)
  • June 1: Canada vs. Finland (3:15 a.m.), United States vs. Italy (7:15 a.m.), Not Russia vs. Belarus (11:15 a.m.)
  • June 3: Quarterfinals
  • June 5: Semi-finals
  • June 6: Medal games