Battle of the Ice: Armenia hosting international ice hockey championship

Armenia will be in action at home against three other nations in ice hockey beginning Wednesday night.

Yerevan is the city hosting the 2010 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Division III World Championships, April 14-18. The rival nations in Division III Group B Tournament are Armenia, South Africa, Mongolia and North Korea.

The main 16-nation IIHF league that embraces the world’s leading ice hockey nations is followed by three divisions, Division III being the lowest. Each division is subdivided into two groups – A and B that have an equal status.

Before engaging against South Africa tonight, Armenia celebrated a smashing 22-1 victory against Georgia in an exhibition game on Monday.

Armenia has been an IIHF member since 1999. Currently, its main men’s team is officially ranked last among 48 participating nations. (See full rankings here).

After a fiasco in the 2005 World Division III Championships, including a 0-48 loss to Mexico, Armenia improved a little, achieving several victories, including over Ireland (6-0) and Luxemburg (10-6) in 2006. It was also that year that Armenia achieved its highest place in the Division, finishing third in the five-nation group, just outside the promotion spot.

Last year Armenia was suspended from IIHF competitions for one year after being found at fault for entering numerous ineligible players during U-20 and men’s World Championship events.

Armenia has no longstanding record or traditions in ice hockey, a sport dominated by North Americans and Nordic nations. The former Soviet republic, however, boasts of about 125 players as well as two indoor and three outdoor rinks.

One such indoor rink is the venue for the current championships – Karen Demirchyan Sport and Concern Complex, the other is the figure-skating arena in the Shengavit district where there is also an ice hockey section. The outdoor rinks include one in Vardenis, one in Gyumri and one in Yerevan – the Swan Lake near Opera House turned into a rink in winter months.