Due to the break-up of the Soviet Union there was a tough competition in the lower divisions of the IIHF World Championships in early 1990s as a number of new states such as Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Latvia and others, except Russia, competed for promotion.
Belarus’ maiden match was the 1993 IIHF World Championship qualifier against Ukraine, which took place in the Palace of Sports, Minsk, Belarus, in 1992 and proved to be a 1-4 defeat.
In 1995 Belarus earned a promotion from IIHF World Champions Group C1 to Group B where two years later took the first place achieving a historical promotion to the IIHF World Championship Group A. Belarus’ maiden season in the highest division at the 1998 IIHF World Championship proved to be quite a success, manager Anatoly Varivonchik’s team making it into the best eight ice hockey teams of the world.
In 1999 and 2000 Belarus took the 9th spot on both other occasions. Following the 2001 World Championship in Germany Belarus were relegated to the IIHF World Championship Division IA, which is the second most important division of the IIHF World Championship. Belarus took the 14th place in the overall standings and had to play in the Relegation Round. Japan took the last fourth place in the relegation tournament but received a 5-year relegation protection in line with a special IIHF decision, which meant that second-placed Belarus and third-placed Norway were relegated instead.
At the 2003 IIHF World Championship in Finland the history repeated itself. Belarus took the 14th place and were again relegated instead of Japan, who used their relegation protection.
At the end of the 2004 season Mikhail Zakharov’s side came back to the IIHF World Championship Top Division where they have been playing every year since 2005.
Prior to the 2005 IIHF World Championship the first foreign manager, Canada’s Glen Hanlon, was assigned to coach the Belarusian national ice hockey team. Following the 2005 World Championship Belarus remained in the Highest Division with the 10th place. Belarus’ goaltender Andrei Mezin was second only to Tomas Vokoun of the Czech Republic with the 97.14 save percentage at the tournament. Young forward Mikhail Grabovsky netted four times in what turned out to be a key 5-0 victory over Austria.
Belarus made it to the play-off stage for the first time in their history at the IIHF World Championship in 2006. The quarterfinal match against Finland ended in a 0-3 defeat for Belarus. The team got the sixth overall place, goaltender Andrei Mezin being included in the symbolic team of the World Championship.
Being 11th in 2007 and 9th in 2008 under American head coach Curt Fraser, Belarus improved their performance with Glen Hanlon’s return to the manager post. At the 2009 IIHF World Championship in Switzerland Belarus advanced to the quarterfinals where they were outclassed by the Russian team in a 3-4 drama. Goaltender Andrei Mezin got the Best Goalkeeper award and was included in the Media All-Star Team of the tournament.
From 2010 to 2012, Belarus did not achieve such high results at IIHF World Championships as before and had to labor hard not to be relegated in 2011 and 2012. Vitaly Koval made it into the best five goaltenders at the 2012 IIHF World Championship. He boasted the save percentage of 92.02.
The Belarusian national ice hockey team lost all but one game in the Preliminary Round of the 2013 IIHF World Championship in Stockholm. Apart from overpowering Slovenia 4-3 they lost against Czechia (0-2), Sweden (1-2), Canada (1-4), Norway (1-3), Denmark (2-3) and Switzerland (1-4). However, Belarus could not be knocked out of the Highest Division as it is the host nation of the IIHF World Championship that is due in Minsk in May 2014. All games will be played in Minsk at two venues, the 15,000-seat Minsk Arena and the 9,600-seat Chizhovka Arena.
At the 79th IIHF World Championship in the Czech Republic the Belarusian national team reached the quarterfinal for the fourth time in the history of its performance in the top division. In the preliminary round Dave Lewis’ men scored 14 points, the team’s best achievement at this stage of the tournament. Team Belarus beat the United States (5-2), Denmark (5-1), Slovenia (4-2), Norway (3-2), lost to Slovakia in overtime (1-2) and to Finland in shootout (3-4). Belarus also lost 0-7 to Russia. In the first playoff round Belarus suffered a 0-9 defeat from Canada to finish 7th in the IIHF World Championship standings.
The Belarusian national ice hockey team partook in three Winter Olympic Games in 1998, 2002 and 2010.
During the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics qualification in 1996 Belarus registered their biggest ever 21-1 victory in the Lithuania encounter. At the Nagano Olympics head coach Anatoly Varivonchik led the team to the seventh place.
The Belarusian national team reached the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics semifinals under Vladimir Krikunov, which is the team’s best result ever. Back then, Belarus took the fourth place beating Sweden 4-3 in a historic match. In the semifinal Belarus were hammered by Canada 1-7, while the bronze medal match saw Belarus falling to Russia 2-7. With the fourth place at the competition the hockey players also recorded the best team sport result in the history of Belarus’ participation in the Olympic Games.
The 2006 Turin Olympic Games qualification was a sheer drama for the Belarusian team. Mikhail Zakharov’s side were playing their ultimate Olympic qualifying match against the Latvian national ice hockey team in Riga. Leading 4-2 with five minutes remaining in the game Belarus somehow conceded three goals in 2:20 to hand the tickets for the Turin Olympic Games to the Latvians.
At the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games Belarus led by manager Mikhail Zakharov showed the worst result ever finishing in the 9th position.
In February 2013 Belarus took part in the 2014 Sochi Olympics qualification. The first group F match in Vojens, Denmark, turned out to be a shocking 2-4 defeat at Slovenia. Belarus then whitewashed Ukraine 6-0 but the parallel match saw Slovenia outclassing Denmark 2-1 and depriving Belarus of the chance to participate in the Sochi Olympics. On matchday three Belarus snatched a 3-2 victory against Denmark. The Belarusian national ice hockey team wrapped up the second place in their Sochi Olympics qualifying section.