2018 Olympic hockey for Belarus if Russia disqualified?


2018 Olympic hockey for Belarus if Russia disqualified?

Russia may not go to the Olympics in Pyeongchang. Belarus neighbors are pressed by various international organizations for doping offenses in Sochi. The IOC is conducting several investigations at once and their results will be announced in about a month.

The worst outcome for Russians is the removal of the full team from the next Games in South Korea. There is still an option to play under the neutral flag, but the Russian side at the highest level considers such a scenario unacceptable.

Russia has already been deprived of four medals from Sochi 2014. All of them came in cross-country skiing. One of Sochi's medals - bronze - went to Belarusian Sergei Dolidovich as a result.

Why Belarus?

In case Russia is banned from the Olympic hockey there will remain only 11 participants of the tournament. Thus the IOC and the IIHF will select one more national team. It is logical to assume that they would pick Belarus. Here's why.

First, the current team rankings. Right now Belarusians are on the 10th place in the rating. Belarusians are the best among non-participants of the Olympic Games. The next loser is Latvia and they are in 12th place.

Secondly, Belarus was the best in the ranking during the qualification for the Games. Then Belarus was 9th. Of course, it is above all other unqualified teams.

Thirdly, Belarus was the best among the teams that did not go to the Games in terms of points scored in the final Olympic qualification matches. If we form a virtual table of "losers", then Belarus again becomes "lucky losers":

1. Belarus - 7 points (net victories over Denmark and Poland, defeat by bullets from Slovenia)

2. Latvia - 6 points

3. France - 5 points

4. Kazakhstan - 5 points

What officials say

So far, nothing. And this is not surprising. The Belarusian Federation of Ice Hockey refuse to comment. They say this is premature, and it is incorrect with regards to the Russians.

Belarusian press has made a request to the International Ice Hockey Federation, but it has neither confirmed, nor denied Belarus' possible participation. "At the moment, the IIHF is waiting for the IOC decision on the Russian team. We will give comments only after the end of the work of the two Disciplinary Commissions."

Selection headache for Lewis in Pyeongchang?

Even when Olympic favorites are weakened without Russia, Belarus, if it does go to the Olympics, will have serious troubles. The KHL said that if Russia is banned from the Olympics, the League will ban its players (including the core of Belarus' squad - HC Dinamo Minsk) from going to Korea. Dave Lewis will face a very big selection headache. He will have to seek for other players in the Extra League (Belarus top ice hockey league) and other less obvious tournaments.

There is another utopian option, which at least somehow strengthens Belarus in case it goes to Korea: to dissolve Dinamo Minsk before the KHL break. The Dinamo players will formally join Extra League sides, and their places will be occupied by the less experienced hockey players from the championship of Belarus. But this scenario is a sheer fantasy.