For the first time in its history, Kazakhstan will play host to the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A, an annual hockey tournament played amongst second-tier teams.
Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital city, won the right to host the event after Slovenia withdrew its bid to have Ljubljana host the games during the annual congress of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), held on May 18.
“It will be the strongest international ice hockey tournament to be held in Kazakhstan for many years,” read a statement issued by the IIHF on Friday.
The tournament will run from April 29 to May 5, 2019. Six teams representing Belarus, Korea, Kazakhstan, Hungary, Slovenia and Lithuania will compete to select the top two teams that will play in the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship games, in Switzerland.
Barys Arena, a multi-purpose indoor stadium in Astana, will be the venue for the six-day hockey extravaganza. With a seating capacity of about 12,000, the arena is home to the Kazakhstani hockey team of the same name.
In 2011, Astana and Almaty welcomed the VII Winter Asian Games, where athletes from 27 countries competed. The government spent $1.6 billion on the effort – about the same amount Italy and Canada spent on hosting the winter Olympics in 2006 and 2010, respectively. In 2017, Central Asia’s largest country welcomed Winter Universiade, a multi-sport winter event that saw athletes from 55 countries compete in 12 disciplines.
This year’s IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A wrapped up on April 28 with British and Italian teams ranking first and second, respectively. Kazakhstan’s second-tier team failed to qualify for the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, was chosen last week as the venue for Division I Group B, where Poland, Japan, Estonia, Ukraine, Romania and the Netherlands will face off.