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  Thursday, January 21, 2021
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Twenty one years have passed since Moscow last had the honor of hosting the Ice Hockey World Championship
Twenty one years have passed since Moscow last had the honor of hosting the Ice Hockey World Championship, which kicks off Friday with the top 16 teams in pursuit of the champion's title. The teams in the major international sports event, which is being held for the 71st time and runs from April 27 through May 13, have been divided into the following four groups for the preliminary round - Group A: Sweden, Switzerland, Latvia and Italy; Group B: the Czech Republic, the United States, Belarus and Austria; Group C: Canada, Slovakia, Germany and Norway; Group D: Finland, Russia, Ukraine and Denmark. Group B's encounter between the United States and Austria will tee off the championship at the Mytischi Arena, to the north of Moscow, at 4.15 p.m. Moscow time (12.15 p.m. GMT) and will be followed at 9.15 p.m. Moscow time (5.15 p.m. GMT), with the tournament hosts meeting the Danish team (Group D) at Moscow's Khodynka Ice Palace. Although the Russian team is currently ranked 5th in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), Russian hockey fans are pinning great hopes on their national team, which has not won the championship for 13 years. However, Russians consider Moscow a lucky venue bringing gold to the Soviet Union team in 1973, 1979 and 1986 - the last three times the Russian capital hosted the World Championship. Russian team's head coach Vyacheslav Bykov is expecting his team to win gold this year, as Russian hockey has not enjoyed much success on the world arena since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Bykov, 47, is a former hockey player and was the captain of the Russian team in 1993, when the team last won world championship's gold medals in Munich, Germany. The most embarrassing performance for the team was at the 2000 World Championship in Russia's St. Petersburg, when it lost four games in a row to teams from the United States, Switzerland, Latvia and Belarus and as a result finished 11th. Since then Russia has won silver at 2002 World Championship in Gothenburg, Sweden, and bronze at the 2005 World Championship in Vienna, Austria. Last year at the Winter Olympics in Turin the Russian ice hockey team finished a disappointing fourth, failing to reach the finals after losing 0:4 to Finland in the semifinals. It then lost 0:3 to the Czech Republic in the playoff for the bronze medal. All the games in this year's championship will be played in two stadiums in Moscow, which are the Mytischi Arena, located to the north of the city and capable of seating 7,500 people, and Moscow's Khodynka Ice Palace, which was just opened in December last year and is capable of seating 14,500 spectators.
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