IIHF: Proposal to properly develop lower division teams

Written: 2015 / Updated: 2023

Proposal for modification of:
Bylaw 412: Minimum Standards to participate in IIHF Ice Hockey Men’s World Championship

Firstly, before presenting our proposal for modification of Bylaw 402, we would like to present the current status of Ice Hockey in Greece and the impact of Greece’s National Team removal by the IIHF from participating at the World Championships. We are confident that our proposal can help all lower division countries develop the sport in a more structured and monitored fashion.

With the dire financial situation that Greece is in, an Olympic size rink will not be a reality in the near term without the aid of some sort of financial angel benefactor. Despite the difficulties though, and because of an undying love of the game, some former athletes took the risk and invested in an ice rink.

Greece has now 3 permanent indoor ice rinks, open 10 months a year:

They are not Olympic size, but ice hockey is absolutely still being developed in these facilities. It’s not easy, but the sport in still alive.

But the IIHF decision to exclude the Men’s National Team from International competition has had devastating results for the sport of ice hockey in our country. In only a few years after this decision, and the effects have been catastrophic.

In 2013, 11 Men’s teams participated in the Greek National League.

Today, only a few teams are left; that play scrimmage hockey once a week, and organize friendly games against visiting teams from abroad. All other teams have folded or are on hiatus.

11 Teams in 2013 vs. the number of teams today

In the below chart, you can clearly see the Active Player registration and Team development between 1999 and 2022, and how the National Team participation has aided in the growth of both these figures. You can also see the severe negative impact that non-participation of our National team has, not only in the present time but also in the past.

In 2013, weeks before the IIHF decision to exclude Greece (together with Ireland and Mongolia) we had sent the IIHF office a long letter explaining what exactly the National Team means to our country. In that letter, we went to great lengths to articulate that in other countries, the National Team is on the top of the pyramid when it comes to the development of the sport, but in Greece the pyramid is upside down – The National Team is the foundation that keeps everything else in place. Similar to any structure, if the foundation is removed, then everything above it will collapse.

Unfortunately in only a few years without the National team participating in World Championships or at least in qualifications, the development progress has regressed. Players, even those playing on weaker caliber teams, have slowly quit the sport. Government officials found the reason to stop funding the sport. More so, the Hellenic Ice Sports Federation was disolved and ice hockey was “moved” to the Ski Federation (now called Winter Sporst Federation) which has the majority of its focus and funding on skiing.
Without National Team participation, there is no reason for the sport to continue existing in Greece, at least in the eyes of the government. The IIHF decision essentially handed them the keys to frankly try and eliminate the sport in our country.

National Team participation always gave us an upper-hand when it came to negotiations. Greece participating in World Championships always gave the Team Leadership [Coach, manager, Captain, etc.] the ability to advocate for the National Team, the power to knock on doors and have people listen. We were able to get funding and support for the team. It wasn’t easy but we always had the World Championships as the goal, the reason, our own Stanley Cup if you will, to assist in the process.

Dimitris Kalyvas, captain of Team Greece meeting with Giannis Ioannidis Ministry of Sports after Greece qualified for the World Championships.

Despite all the negative effects that the IIHF decision has caused, Greek Ice hockey continues to exist. We are still alive albeit perhaps on life support, but a weak yet determined heartbeat is still there. But in order for this heartbeat to continue to beat, we ask the IIHF to re-evaluate this decision. We might not have an Olympic size rink, but we do have 2 permanent ice rinks where the sport in being developed.

We need the IIHF to use Greece as an example to apply facets of its own Mission Statement – “To Govern, Develop, and Promote hockey throughout the world”.

It is critical that the IIHF please take into consideration that our National Team needs to participate in International competition. This is imperative in order to keep the sport alive so maybe one day we can see an Olympic size rink in Greece. What a success story that would be — one the IIHF could proudly claim as a shining example of its governance and benevolence that helped grow the sport of hockey around the world.

Our Proposal – modification of Bylaws 402 and 403

IIHF participation cannot be based simply on infrastructure. Yes, there are other factors in the Bylaw as well, but infrastructure is the element that cancels everything else if not existent. (i.e It seems that, if you have an Olympic size but only have a 3-team national league, you will be permitted to participate in IIHF World Championships, even though a 4-team league is the minimum).

We truly believe that the IIHF needs to find a new method of evaluating and monitoring the progress and development of each country, and with that level of progress to determine which country participates in the IIHF World Championships. The IIHF needs to be more involved in the development, by placing tangible objectives that each country can reach.

This is why we are proposing the “Point System methodology” that we believe can help all Nations of lower division’s progress, develop and grow ice hockey in their respective countries.

Having infrastructure as the main guideline for participation does not motivate the countries to develop the sport further. Researching information available online clearly demonstrates that many nations are re-assured that their participation status will not change as long as their Olympic rink is operational, even for a few months during the year, making the progress of the sport stagnant or very slow.

As we stated above, we’ve noticed that a couple of countries do not seem to have  a 4-teams national league or Cup, but participate in IIHF World Championships. Please keep in mind that the information collected was very difficult to find. Many official websites did not contain the necessary data (or data was incomplete) and others simply didn’t exist. Apart from the official country websites, we also used other resources (e.g www.eurohockey.com and www.eliteprospects.com) that might not contain accurate data, which we apologize for, but this doesn’t mean that the final conclusions are not the same.

The Point System

The Point System is a methodology where developing Nations (from Div.II, Div.III and under) will have to respect in order to participate in the IIHF events. Countries will gather points based on different categories that the IIHF will decide upon and only if they gather the necessary number of points will they be permitted to participate. Categories can be: Ice rink, Men’s League, Woman’s League and so forth. Categories that the IIHF can modify as time progresses. All countries will gather points, and even if a country does not have an Olympic size rink, but is developing the sports in other aspects they can still participate, as long as the rink has been approved by the IIHF. As time evolves, the IIHF will announce the increase of the total points gathered that will be necessary for participation, making all countries obliged to develop other facets of the sport. This way countries will have to develop the sport as a whole as years go by. They will have to develop youth hockey and woman’s hockey for instance if the points they gather do not suffice for participation.

For example: Assuming that the point-limit for participation is 170 points: if a country has an Olympic Size rink (100 points) and a 4-team Men’s League (40 points) and is running a youth development program with more than 100 registered participants (30 points) then they can participate by gathering a total of 170 points. If a country has a smaller rink that is approved by the IIHF (50 points) and a 4-team Men’s League (40 points) and is also running a youth development program with more than 100 registered participants (30 points) then that country only receives a total 120 points (not enough to participate). Therefore, in order for them to participate they will need to increase the number of teams in their Men’s teams, organize a Woman’s league or participate in various IIHF camps; activities that will gather extra points to reach the desired 170 they need for participation. After a few years, the IIHF could announce that participation will increase to 200 points in the next 2 years, which means an Olympic size rink, a 4-team Men’s league and youth development program will not suffice, making it mandatory for countries to develop the sport further.

Below is a screen shot of the excel file with the Points System. This methodology is just a draft. It can include more categories, other point-values, and in general become a tool for the IIHF to Govern, Develop and Promote ice hockey around the World, by monitoring the progress of each country, setting milestones and tangible goals for all countries.

We are trying to develop the sport and the only thing that is missing from Greece is a few meters of ice. You noticed in the above graph that Greek ice Hockey grew in recent years, despite having a smaller size rink, and the only decision that halted this progress was the removal of our National Team from International competition. As we already stated, we need our National Team to participate. Our National Team is the foundation of the whole sport and only with participation can we one day have the Olympic size rink that we need.

We understand that removing us from the World Championship was a decision based on the belief that this will pressure our government. That maybe the threat of non-participation will force them to open an Olympic rink, but as you’ve seen, it had the opposite results. It actually helped the government by making their decision to eliminate ice hockey easier. Without participation of our National team, there is no point in the existence of the sport.

We would be in total accordance with the IIHF decision for removal of Greece from international competition if we didn’t have any facilities or the sport was not being developed. But this is not the case, there are permanent facilities, businesses owned by former players, and the sport was being developed with surprising increase of player registration, which was only halted by the removal of our National Team. Greek Ice Hockey was developing in all categories since our National Team qualified for the World Championships back in 2008.

It’s been a constant up-hill all these years, but we continue our efforts to progress the sport as best we can. We feel frankly that we are progressing at the same rate, if not a greater rate than teams participating now at the Division III championships.

We are not here to criticize but to offer solutions to the IIHF that can be applied to all Nations. A more detailed system with tangible objectives for all countries to follow is a more prudent rule.

I hope you take the time to examine our proposal and decide to change this Bylaw, helping us keep ice hockey alive in Greece. 

Thank you
Greek Ice Hockey