Sunday, January 25, 2015

The World Cup Of Hockey Returns... Sort Of...

"We'd like to announce that we're going to make a buttload of money."
The NHL and NHLPA announced yesterday that the World Cup of Hockey would be returning in 2016 after a 12-year absence on the hockey calendar. There are so many great memories from previous tournaments and they were all brought back during Gary Bettman's announcement with a montage of Canada Cup highlights and the '96 and '04 World Cup events. Unfortunately, the 2016 tournament will be nothing like those.

Made up of eight teams, only six will be true national teams for the international tournament. Canada, USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Republic will now be joined by a European All-Star team and a North American Youngstars squad (here's's projected rosters for the All-Star teams). The Euro team will consist of players outside of the "Big Four" and the Youngstars will be Canadian and American's under the age of 23 which should give the tournament a nice "All-Star Weekend" feel when these two teams play in the tourney.

While the Euro Team is pretty straight forward with players from Switzerland, Germany, Slovenia, Austria, Norway, Denmark, and Latvia, the Youngstars team seems pretty tricky. Canada and the USA - arguably the biggest hockey rivals since 2002 at the men's level - will need to cooperate to put together a team of youngsters to compete against players in their primes. They will benefit from getting any North American player under the age of 23 however as any players U-23 that might make a national team (Nathan MacKinnon, Alex Galchenuk, Seth Jones, etc) will not be permitted to represent their country at this event. Throw in the fact that the players don't have to be exclusive to the NHL and you could have some teenagers playing in the tournament as well. It's gimmicky and we hope it's a one-time deal.

It seems the only good news about the tournament is the return of the best-of-three final which was greatly missed in 2004. The whole tournament screams money and takes away from the patriotism you experience during international events such as the Olympics and World Junior Hockey Championships. The World Cup of Hockey was already the best hockey tournament in the world with only eight national teams compared to twelve at the Olympics which made for a more competitive tournament with fewer blowouts against qualifying teams. Hopefully, the tournament can return to it's former self in 2020 as while this is a guaranteed cash cow for the NHL and NHLPA, it leaves a sour taste as not a true World Cup of Hockey.

To get that taste out of your mouth, watch Gretzky and Lemieux highlights from 1987 and marvel at how wide open Larry Murphy was.


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