Liechtenstein: IIHF’s Second Smallest Member Looks To Make A Big Splash On The Rink

Passion shouldn’t be evaluated by how good you are at something. It shouldn’t be evaluated by who does it, or what country it comes from. Passion for a sport shouldn’t measured by your history, but what you are doing now. Hockey is a passion all around the world from the biggest countries such as Canada, and even the smallest such as Liechtenstein. Although young, Liechtenstein is getting ready to bring their country to the world stage of hockey.

Liechtenstein is a small country in-between Switzerland and Austria. Liechtenstein is only 160 square kilometres in size. To put that in perspective, Toronto is 630 square kilometres in size. It’s the second smallest member of the IIHF, with only China’s territory, Macau, being smaller.

Liechtenstein joined the IIHF in October of 2001. In the twenty years since, they have only had two official international games against Luxembourg, both of which they have lost. Now, the country is looking to develop the sport even more with international and national recognition.

“Because we don’t have an ice rink, we have to get ice times from the Swiss or Austrians, said Silke Bernard, Co-President of Eishockey Liechtenstein. “That is a big problem because they need them on their own.”

IIHF rules state that to enter the main IIHF-sanctioned tournaments, the member has to have an Olympic-sized indoor ice rink. Even though Bernard can drive to a rink only 10 minutes away, the federation needs a rink that is on their own land.

Liechtenstein has several outdoor rinks, but the size of the rinks doesn’t make it safe enough for a proper game to be played. The best option is to get an ice rink, but in a country of small proportions, there are many obstacles to get through.

“Liechtenstein is mountainous, so there is not a lot of space to put an ice hockey rink in,” Bernard said. “The ground is very expensive because we don’t have that much. There is not a city, there is a lot of grass and green and they don’t want to build on farmer’s land.”

Michael Zanghellini/Eishockey Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein recently played in the 2022 Development Cup in Fussen, Germany. Despite having a resume of minimal achievements before the tournament started, the country accomplished a lot. The team won their first international game, and also secured a silver in the tournament.

But the most important part of the Development Cup for Liechtenstein is what is produced off the ice. The Development Cup gives the chance to those involved to prove to their nations that they should get recognition from the government. Recognition from the government usually means funding.

“We have discussions with a lot of politicians,” Bernard continued. “But I believe if we go on with the Development Cup every year, every time, we will be recognized and they will see that we can’t compete at the same level without an ice hockey rink.”

Hockey in smaller nations is also about getting the youth involved. The team that was sent to Fussen had some young players who mainly played in Switzerland, but had connections with Liechtenstein. Bernard also believes that once kids see the sport, they will instantly fall in love. “Once they see the sport played by the people of Liechtenstein, they will see how cool the sport is,” he said.

Michael Zanghellini/Eishockey Liechtenstein

Usually for these countries, the trek ahead of them isn’t always sunny, but it isn’t always cloudy. Liechtenstein has a lengthy road ahead of them to bring their nation successfully into the IIHF tournaments. But right now, they are focusing on the first few steps. Hockey wasn’t built in a day in nations that are constantly holding the gold medals of the sport. Liechtenstein will have to zero in on their next steps, but as long as the direction is forward, there will soon be a small, but mighty country joining the other hockey nations.

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