Between 14-19 April, an international sporting event will take place in Cârța, Romania, which is quite an uncommon occurrence in the region. Organised by the Szeklerland Ice Hockey Academy and the Sapientia U23 team, the World Cup of University Hockey will bring together eight leading ice hockey teams from Canada, the United States, Slovakia and Sweden. Tamás Horvát, a member of the organizing team and manager of the hosting Sapientia U23, gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the event.
The dedicated page for the upcoming World Cup has recently been launched on social media. Does this mean that the preparations are in the home stretch? Where are you now in the process of organising the World Cup of University Hockey?
Fortunately, I can say that the preparations are well under way, but there are still a lot of tasks to be done by the organising team before we reach the finishing line. We have only just reached the point where we can start to publicise the details of the event, with all the design elements in place. For a major international sporting event of this size, with eight teams, a lot of attention has to be paid to details to ensure a smooth conducting of the event.
What are the challenges of organising such a tournament, what areas need special attention?
It is an extremely complex process involving many factors. First of all, we have to ensure that the games can take place in the right conditions, without any mistakes and at a high standard. Closely linked to this is the accommodation and catering provided to the delegations and teams and the organisation of the programme. As this is an international event, we must pay particular attention to the quality of the coverage and the development of media relations. It is also important to mention relations with sponsors, as this is a big event with a large budget and we need the help of various external partners. I would like to stress that we also pay particular attention to the need to showcase local businesses, local organisations and local values during the World Cup.
The Szeklerland Ice Hockey Academy and the Sapientia U23 team have been granted the right to organize the tournament by the European University Hockey Association (EUHA) and the American University Hockey Association (ACHA). How is the cooperation with these organisations, what role do they play in the preparations?
The heads of the two co-organising associations are very helpful in technical matters and by making their international contacts available, but the actual organisational tasks are basically up to us. Their expressed position is that we have to make the decisions, there is complete and mutual trust. Even so, we consult with them on a weekly basis, reporting on progress and, if we get stuck in certain areas, asking for their opinion. We have had a very good professional and personal relationship from the start, so the joint organisational work is also going smoothly.
The host nation will be joined by Canada, the United States, Sweden, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary. What can we know about these national teams? Which players are eligible for the World Cup? What conditions do they have to meet?
The most important condition for selection is that all participants must be students or pupils. Secondly, the team members must not be from a professional hockey league. As European university hockey is not as developed as North American university hockey, there are some exceptions in the rules for European countries. Nevertheless, there can be no players under contract to a professional hockey league playing on these teams either. This is where this World Cup differs from the Universiade, where players from professional leagues are also included. Professional discussions have shown that the participating teams will represent a strong selection of players and that those who attend the event or watch it on TV will be able to witness a tournament of high quality.
Is there any information about the way the eight-team tournament will be run and the group schedules?
All information about this is already known. The eight teams will compete in two groups. Group A includes the United States, Slovakia, Hungary and Sweden, while Group B includes Canada, the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania. The top two finishers in each group will advance to the semi-finals, while the third and fourth-placed teams will continue in the lower-division play-offs. In total, 20 matches will be played at the Ice Rink in Felcsík. Apart from the rest day, four matches will be played every day between 14-19 April.
The eight participating teams represent around 200 people. Can the host town of Cârța cater for all of them, or will the surrounding towns and villages also be involved?
When the leaders of the European and North American university leagues visited Szeklerland in October, it was important to be able to accommodate all the participants close to each other. Fortunately, this is not a problem, as we can use the full capacity of the sports dorm, and there are other accommodation facilities within a few hundred metres. The sporting infrastructure has been in place for some time, the ice rink and the medical and methodological centre also playing an important role in the World Cup.
What are your expectations for the next phase of the organisation process and the tournament?
I will probably not be telling you a big secret if I say that I expect a busy and demanding period until the end of the tournament, as we are striving to make sure that everything goes as smoothly as possible and that the tournament is of a really high quality, both on and off the ice. At the same time, I am confident that all the work we have put in will pay off and that we will have a unique, successful and memorable World Cup in April, which will appeal to a wider audience than just ice hockey fans. Everyone who is interested in a truly high quality and unprecedented event in our region is very welcome to attend.