Let's begin by stating the obvious: The Israeli national team hockey jersey makes us so excited we could plotz, bubbala.
Israel is one of 32 teams that have formally applied for the 2014 Winter Olympic men's hockey tournament in Sochi, along with 24 women's teams.
The field of men's teams, and listed by their current men's world ranking:
|1. Russia||17. Italy|
|2. Finland||18. Slovenia|
|3. Sweden||19. Ukraine|
|4. Canada||20. Hungary|
|5. Czech Republic||21. Great Britain|
|6. USA||22. Japan|
|7. Switzerland||23. Poland|
|8. Germany||24. Lithuania|
|9. Norway||25. Croatia|
|10. Slovakia||26. Romania|
|11. Belarus||27. Spain|
|12. Latvia||28. Serbia|
|13. Denmark||29. Korea|
|14. France||30. Mexico|
|15. Austria||31. Israel|
|16. Kazakhstan||32. Bosnia-Herzegovina|
The only differences between this list and the current world ranking: No Netherlands (25), Estonia (26) or Bulgaria (32); Israel is ranked 40th in the world while Bosnia and Herzegovina is last in the world, behind United Arab Emirates. So good luck there.
So how do these teams qualify?
The top-9 men's nations and the top-6 women's nations according to the 2012 IIHF Men's and Women's World Rankings respectively will be qualified automatically for the Ice Hockey Tournaments at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Additionally, three more men's teams and two women's teams will be determined through a series of qualification tournaments during the 2012/2013 season, starting in autumn 2012 and ending with the final qualifications in February 2013.
The groups of the men's and women's tournaments in Sochi as well as the seeding for the qualification tournaments will be determined based on the 2012 IIHF World Rankings as calculated following the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship in Burlington, Vermont (USA), 7-14 April; and the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Helsinki (Finland) and Stockholm (Sweden), 4-20 May.
The obvious question with the CBA talks looming: Will the NHL participate? It'll be a bargaining chip for the League, for sure, but Tim Wharnsby of CBC Sports broke it down thusly:
It appears both the players and league want to participate in future Olympic Games, but need to strike a deal with the IIHF and IOC that makes sense to the NHL and the players.