International competition has provided some of hockey’s most memorable moments. From the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series and the American Miracle on Ice in 1980 to the Czech upset win in Nagano in 1998 and the US-Canada showdown in Vancouver in 2010, the intense battles between national teams have showcased hockey at its highest level, both in terms of the quality of play and the drama produced.
It’s not surprising, then, that one of the most frequently requested features for Franchise Hockey Manager has always been the addition of international play. We listened to the fans and this year, for the first time, FHM3 added international tournaments to the game. When you start a game in the 2016-17 season, the 2016 World Cup of Hockey is on the schedule. Other major championship events have been included too.
The fun isn’t just limited to the hockey superpowers, though. FHM3 includes 46 national teams taking part in 11 different competitions and qualifying tournaments. At the very lowest rung of competition, non-traditional hockey countries like South Africa, Bosnia, and the United Arab Emirates can try to climb their way up the national team rankings.
The Big 6
The countries are ranked internationally by a realistic system that takes into account their results in the last five championship and winter games competitions, particularly the most recent ones. The top of the rankings is usually dominated by the “Big 6” countries:
Canada: Blessed with spectacular depth and a never-ending supply of talent, Canadian fans expect their team to win, not just contend. With few exceptions, Canada can stack its team with four- and five-star talent; more often than not, the biggest controversy in the lineup selection is which NHL superstar gets left off the team.
USA: Not far behind Canada come the Americans, who enjoy a similar breadth of talent. While the occasional weakness does crop up, the American tendency to produce spectacular offensive talent and excellent goaltenders can cover for those issues.
Russia: Not longer the Soviet powerhouse that once dominated international play, Russian teams are still feared and respected. While the amazing, disciplined teamwork of the 1970s is a thing of the past, Russian hockey has proven it can produce individual superstars as good as any in the world, while providing solid depth on the lower lines.
Sweden: The first non-North American country to have its players make an impact in the NHL, Swedish hockey can still contend with the best. A strong national league and development system produces a steady flow of excellent players.
Finland: While currently in a bit of a downturn as far as offensive talent goes, the Finnish national team can still rely on grit and high-quality goaltending to keep it in contention for world championships. And a crop of young stars (including three of the top five picks in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft) gives Finnish fans plenty of room for optimism.
Czech Republic: Like the Russians, the post-Cold War era has had its ups and downs for the Czechs. But the Czech hockey system still manages to produce stars at a per-capita rate unmatched by the rest of the world.
Also appearing regularly at the top level of competition are the next tier of hockey powers: Slovakia, Switzerland, Germany, and Denmark, among others, have been known to surprise the big teams with an upset win or two.
Taking the Reins of a National Team
However, international management jobs, particularly for the major countries, aren’t easy to come by. The top countries tend to prefer hiring one of their own citizens to run their teams, and a would-be general manager needs a solid track record in the game before he’ll be considered good enough to carry the weight of a hockey superpower’s expectations.
It may be easier to find work with a smaller country which hopes that a foreign expert (that’s you) can boost their national program, or, if you happen to be one of FHM’s legions of fans in a place where hockey isn’t quite so prominent (hello, Australia), you’ll have a built-in advantage with at least one team.
No matter how you approach international play, keep in mind that we’re just getting started. There are still many tournaments left to be added. Now that we’ve crossed the most difficult programming barriers with getting international play into the game, we expect to make some major additions soon, and on an ongoing basis. We’ll keep you posted as they appear.