Brussels, Belgium - In a country that was one of the founding members of the International Ice Hockey Federation and has had a junior national team competing since the late '70s, the Royal Belgian Ice Hockey Federation has no good excuses for not being better than they are. In fact their best ranking in an IIHF World U20 Junior Ice Hockey Championship was in their inaugural entry when they came in dead last. It just so happens that there were only 16 teams participating that year which is why they finished 16th. Before diving into Team Belgium, check out some stats about them.
IIHF Record: 20-41-1
2012 Final Results: Division II Group B Fourth Place with 2-3-0 record
Head Coach: Domin van der Locht (BEL)
Much like their government, the history of the Belgian junior team is a head-scratcher. Depending on which source you check, the Royal Belgian Ice Hockey Federation has been around for over 100 years now; and after all that time in a country of over 11 million people, there are only 16 ice rinks in the country. Maybe there is a language barrier considering there are three official languages (Dutch, French, and German) with various others also being widely spoken there.
Or perhaps it was the two World Wars that ripped through the heart of the country. After all, anybody who remembers 8th grade history will recall that Belgium was known as the battleground of Europe. But this country flourishes economically and invests into sports that it collectively has an interest in such as tennis, cycling, and judo. Maybe that's it though; it could be that there just isn't enough of an interest to pull people from the arts or individual sports.
However, the real reason is all of the above. First off, the fact that the Belgians have never fared well on the international level is not going to give people a desire to pick up the sport. Secondly, having troops from all over the world duke it out within Belgium's borders made it extremely difficult to maintain expensive recreational sports (which hockey is regardless of how accessible we all want to believe it is). This made soccer and individual sports excel. If you had the means to, you could compete during those times and didn't need to rely on a community.
The country really is divided by language sects when it comes to sports and that isn't helpful either. Due to the fact that French speakers play certain sports that the Dutch speakers don't touch for example, makes Belgium unlike any other country in the world. Cultural diversity is truly a wonderful thing, and that is something the Belgians have. All over the place they flaunt great food and drinks, extravagant fine arts, and a well-rounded education system. As a country, they flourish but as a hockey program, they need to stop waffling around.
For previous team articles, click the links below
Division III: http://www.juniorhockey.com/news/news_detail.php?news_id=75142
New Zealand: http://www.juniorhockey.com/news/news_detail.php?news_id=75122
Intro to 2013 WJHC: http://www.juniorhockey.com/news/news_detail.php?news_id=75064
Matt Prosser, Featured Writer for JuniorHockey.com. Owner of Fifty8 Productions and freelance writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. Voice of California State University, Sacramento Hockey and host of The Sports Cycle with Matt Prosser on KSSU1580 Sacramento. For comments and writing ventures e-mail Matt@Fifty8productions.com. Follow on Twitter @MattProsser58 or visit www.kssusportsycle.com.