The nation of Slovenia has a population of two million and borders on Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia. They currently have only 150 registered hockey players. The most notable players to come from Slovenia are Anze Kopitar and Jan Mursak. Kopitar’s father, Matjaz Kopitar is the current coach of the national team and they have never finished above 13th place in the World Championships.
This is the first Olympics that the ice hockey team has qualified for, and boy are they proud of it. They expected to come in last place in the Olympics, which is what the rest of the world expected too. They are now facing Sweden, the team I predicted to win Gold (before Zetterberg was injured).
What does this mean for the country?
It means more exposure for ice hockey. According to a Puck Daddy article, there are only seven professional ice rinks in the country, and two of them don’t have roofs. With this “miracle,” there is bound to be more interest in hockey and more rinks built.
Personally, I root for the underdog, and Slovenia has captured my heart during these Olympic Games. The pure joy and excitement from a team that was destined for last place is inspiring. I’m hoping for a win over Sweden. Sure, I would lose in my pool, but it means a lot more to the country of Slovenia than $10 in my pocket.