Photos courtesy of Jim Orlando
Rockford, Ill. – When the 2014 IIHF World Championships began in Minsk, Belarus on Friday, five former IceHogs will be competing for gold while representing five different countries.
Forward Jimmy Hayes joins an American squad coming off a bronze medal in 2013 that is hungry to contend for gold this time around. Hayes began the 2013-14 campaign in Rockford before a trade in November landed him with the Florida Panthers where he compiled 11 goals and 7 assists in 53 NHL games. The 24-year-old recorded 76 points (36g-40a) during his three seasons with the IceHogs while also chipping in six goals and seven assists with the Blackhawks in 43 games.
Another team expected to be in the running for the top prize is the Canadian team, featuring former IceHogs left wing Troy Brouwer. Since playing for the IceHogs in 2007-08 and a small portion of the 2008-09 season, Brouwer has spent his time in the NHL with Chicago and Washington. The Vancouver, B.C. native played in 80 career games in Rockford, accumulating 37 goals and 25 assists, including a team AHL record 35 tallies during the 08-09 season.
Forwards Petri Kontiola and Mathis Olimb, along with goaltender Alexander Salak, all represented their native countries for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and will do so again for the World Championships.
Kontiola spent two seasons (2007-08 and 2008-09) with the Hogs and has since spent the last three campaigns with Chelyabinsk Traktor in the KHL, notching three 30-plus-point seasons. He will join the second seeded Finland team.
Olimb, suiting up for Norwary, skated in Rockford during 2010-11 season prior to landing with Frolunda HC in the Swedish Hockey League, where he has played since. In 2013-14, the 28-year-old center racked up 39 points (11g-28a) in 52 contests.
Backstopping the IceHogs in 2011-12, Salak spent the ‘13-14 campaign with St. Peterburg SKA in the KHL with a 18-12-4 record during the regular season and 1.96 goals against average. The netminder will split time with Jakub Kovar between the pipes for the Czech Republic.
The United States opens play on Friday against Belarus. For the full schedule, visit the International Ice Hockey Federation’s website at http://www.iihfworlds2014.com.