Following an extensive review of the current state of the sport and major success at Sochi 2014, IPC Ice Sledge Hockey has revealed the competition cycle and the qualification criteria for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
A fair and robust method of qualification progression has been created throughout the next quadrennial period for all participating teams which looks as follows:
The USA enter the next Paralympic cycle as the two-time Paralympic champions, while Canada are the reigning world champions and South Korea will automatically qualify for PyeongChang 2018 as the host nation's team.
Keith Blase, Chairperson of the IPC Ice Sledge Hockey Sport Technical Committee, said: "We are very excited to enhance the IPC Ice Sledge Hockey competition calendar for the next Paralympic cycle, which includes a World Championships C-Pool to include more developing nations in the sport and expand its reach."
The World Championships A-Pool and B-Pool have been moved to years one and three in the Paralympic cycle based on input from participating nations at the last IPC Ice Sledge Hockey Sport Forum.
In 2015, the World Championships A-Pool will bring together the world's top eight teams and in the same year the B-Pool event will include the next six best teams.
Joining Canada and the USA in the A-Pool currently are Russia, Czech Republic, Norway, Italy, Japan and Germany. The B-Pool at the moment includes South Korea, Sweden, Great Britain, Estonia, Slovakia and Poland.
The bottom two finishers from the A-Pool will be relegated to the B-Pool for the 2017 edition of the event, and the top two finishers from the B-Pool will be promoted to the A-Pool for 2017.
The last-place team at the World Championships B-Pool will be relegated to a new C-Pool tournament, which will be created and run in the second and fourth years of each quadrennial.
The C-Pool tournament, to begin in 2016, will provide the opportunity for emerging and newly practicing countries to take part at a competitive international level, contributing to the growth and development of IPC Ice Sledge Hockey worldwide. The top finisher from the C-Pool tournament will be promoted to the B-Pool for the next event.
Potential regional championships may also be included in the competition calendar for 2016.
Then in 2017, the top five finishers from the World Championships A-Pool will directly qualify for PyeongChang 2018. The bottom three teams from the A-Pool event and the top three teams from the B-Pool event will compete at the Qualification Tournament for PyeongChang 2018 that same year.
The top two or three finishers at the Qualification Tournament - depending on the status of the Paralympic host nation's team - will move on to PyeongChang 2018.
A World Championships C-Pool will also take place during the same year as the Paralympic Winter Games.
During the last Paralympic cycle, IPC Ice Sledge Hockey continued to grow, as two countries started up new national programs, the Ottobock Equipment Loaner Program was launched and a growth in media coverage brought the likes of The New York Times, NBC, BBC, Russia Today and the Associated Press to the Shayba Arena in Sochi.
IPC Ice Sledge Hockey now hopes to build off that success during the next Paralympic cycle, increasing the number of athletes and nations practicing the sport as well as international awareness.
In other news from IPC Ice Sledge Hockey
IPC Ice Sledge Hockey has initiated a call for bids to host the 2015 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships B-Pool.
Interested bid applicants are required to provide a detailed description of their event proposal to IPC Ice Sledge Hockey by 16 June. Detailed information and forms for interested bid applicants are available at www.paralympic.org/news/ipc-ice-sledge-hockey-calls-2015-worlds-b-pool-bids.
The World Championships B-Pool in 2015 will be the fifth edition of the event and are expected to draw around 100 athletes from six teams who will compete for six days on the ice.
The last World Championships B-Pool were held in 2013 in Nagano, Japan, drawing six teams on the road to Sochi 2014, as the host nation lost to Germany in the gold-medal game of the tournament.
Entering the 2014-15 season, the B-Pool includes teams from South Korea, Sweden, Great Britain, Estonia, Slovakia and Poland.
Jessica Korber, IPC Ice Sledge Hockey Sport Manager, said: "There has been an increased interest in the new IPC Ice Sledge Hockey Paralympic cycle due to a number of new nations developing teams and the heightened awareness brought to our sport by Sochi 2014.
"The World Championships B-Pool will be a great event that will feature a couple of veteran teams from Sochi 2014 and also showcase the work some of the newer nations in our sport have been doing with their programs over the last several years."
The call for bids follows the announcement of the IPC Ice Sledge Hockey competition cycle and qualification criteria for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
With the new cycle, an A-Pool and B-Pool World Championships will be held in both 2015 and 2017. The top two finishers from the 2015 B-Pool event will be promoted to the A-Pool for 2017 and the bottom finisher will be relegated to the new C-Pool event that will launch in 2016.