The France Ice Hockey team, drafted in March to compete in this world championship following the eviction of Russia and Belarus, begins its competition this Friday.
To digest its non-qualification for the 2022 Olympics, plan for the future, and ensure that it stays in the world elite: the France ice hockey team has its work cut out for it, starting Friday, during the 2022 World Cup, it was not originally invited to.
We’ve been eating our black bread for two and a half years; we’re determined not to miss this chance,” said Les Bleus coach Philippe Bozon before the flight to Finland.
In Helsinki and Tampere, the France team returns to the World Elite, the first world division, after its relegation in 2019 and two last trying years, between the Covid pandemic that impacted the national championships and led to the cancellation in 2020 and 2021 of the 1A Worlds (the 2nd division), and failure to qualify for the Beijing Olympics after a short defeat (2-1) in the decisive match against Latvia.
The context of this return to the elite is “special,” admits Philippe Bozon, because France was recovered, in the same way as Austria, following the exclusion of Russia and Belarus after the invasion of Ukraine.
We are not talking about the Russians, the Belarusians, or the war, what is happening is dramatic, but it is not our problem, “sweeps the Blues coach, not unhappy to have recovered for this World Cup 2022.
But the Blues, versed in Group A where they will face the Canadians, reigning world champions, keep “their feet on the ground.” “Our goal is to stay in the Elite,” insists Philippe Bozon.
The temptation to make the match against Italy on May 18 the “final” to avoid the last place in the group and thus ensure the maintenance is excellent, but Bozon sweeps it away.
“The maintenance will not go through a single victory; we do not point one game or another.”
We beat Italy 2-0 in the Olympic qualification tournament, but it was with Roussel, Bellemare, and Da Costa; we will not have the same team as at the TQO, “warns the Blues boss.
Stéphane Da Costa, who plays in Russia, is out due to injury, and Antoine Roussel, who completed his 9th season in the NHL with Arizona, has skipped this World Cup.
At the same time, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare participates in the NHL playoffs with the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay but will not join the Blues if his team were to be eliminated by May 29.
The third Frenchman in the NHL, Alexandre Texier (Columbus), returns from a long injury. “He’s an incredible talent, but he must not put too much pressure on himself,” insists Philippe Bozon after summoning eight players who will participate in their first World Cup.
Since the announcement of its draft for this Elite World Cup on March 19, it has been necessary to rethink many things, especially in terms of the game, for a team that was initially supposed to compete in the World 1A of which it would have been one of the favorites.
“The game has changed,” warns the Blues boss before the first match Friday against Slovakia, the 3rd of the last Olympics.