How to “Watch” the 2020 U18 Worlds

Watch being a loose word for what you’ll be doing

The 2020 U18 World Championships kicked off in Bratislava, Slovakia today. The eight-team tournament will run until Jan. 2, 2020.

The IIHF is streaming all of the games for free, but you better be okay with a weirdly distorted view because that’s what the stream looks like. It’s almost like watching the game in a fishbowl. Fittingly, the in-arena announcing is so garbled that it sounds as if the games are taking place underwater.

With the distortion, the players seems to be skating up hill. Numbers are barely visible, and at times it’s hard to even see which team is which. Seeing who scored — or how they scored — is near impossible.

The stream falls into direct contrast with the men’s World Juniors, as many have pointed out on Twitter. The annual men’s tournament is being played at the exact same time (another major oversight by the IIHF when they moved the U18 women’s tournament forward this year) with TSN and NHL Network providing coverage of the games.

To be frank, the IIHF seriously dropped the ball here with the quality of this stream. When fans can’t watch the games, how can you grow the game? The inability to clearly watch can only feed into the mantra of “no one watches women’s hockey” because no one wants to watch a stream of this quality.

It’s disrespectful to fans, and, more importantly, to the players. The garbage feed of their games reiterates that this is not worth it to stakeholders who couldn’t have the forethought to set up a proper stream. When this is all we have, it forces us to question whether or not something really is better than nothing.

The tournament

This is the 13th year of the U18 tournament. The eight teams are broken into two four-team groups. Finland, Russia, Canada, and the United States make up Group A with Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, and Switzerland in Group B.

All four teams from Group A advance out of the preliminary round along with the top two teams in Group B. The bottom two in Group B play a best-of-three series to decide which team will be relegated to a lower division.

Canada won last year’s tournament in a thrilling 3-2 overtime game over the US, breaking the United State’s four-year run of gold medals. Finland won the bronze medal.

Only the US and Canada have ever won U18 gold. In 2018, Sweden became the first country besides the two powerhouses to win silver.