Mens and womens teams will compete against the likes of Russia and Canada at home at the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics. Last time the IIHF granted the host nation an automatic berth was in 2006, in Turin. The home team went 0 and 3 together with two respectable ties vs Switzerland and Germany. The game against Team Canada ended in a 2:7 loss. Not too shabby for a team that now isn’t good enough to qualify for world championships these days.
Since Turin, the host nation had to qualify. Canada and Russia easily did that in 2010 and 2014. So why did the IIHF do an about face? Like with most things it probably came down to money. If the host nation invests in the sport and fosters interest in hockey during the four years leading up to the Olympics and possibly beyond, it is a win for the IIHF. South Korea isn’t a traditional hockey market by any means, and this may be a chance to change that.
What would the games vs Canada, USA and Russia look like for South Korea mens and womens teams? Blowouts and embarrassment to the host nation in this event will do little to further the aims of the IIHF. You can’t pay for respect, you must earn it. It took Switzerland twenty, plus, years to become a fixture of international hockey. The world isn’t going to end if South Korea is not in the Olympics for hockey.