The IIHF has announced the men and women’s national ice hockey teams that intend to compete in qualifications for the 2014 Winter Olympics. The participating women’s teams, in order of their placing in the IIHF World Rankings, are:
Russia automatically qualify as hosts. The top five other teams after this April’s Women’s World Championships automatically qualify for Sochi. The remaining teams must participate in qualification tournaments. The Olympic qualification tournaments are open to any IIHF member that wishes to participate. Hence the reason for last time’s debut of the Bulgarian team, notorious 82—0 losers. This is also one of the reasons for the participation of South Korea this time. (The other is fact that they are hosting in 2018).
As of now, the format of the upcoming World Championship ensures that the four teams in Group A— United States, Canada, Finland, and Russia— cannot finish worse than 6th place. This clinches direct qualification spots for the United States, Canada and Finland. The remaining teams, all in Group B— Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, and Germany— are all mathematically able to directly qualify. However, only Sweden and Switzerland have realistic hopes. There are numerous scenarios that result in them qualifying directly, and I’ll discuss some of them in my World Championship preview posts come April.