The World Cup of Hockey is just around the corner and I know what you’re going to say…
“It’s a money grab by the NHL.”
“The North America and Team Europe teams are stupid.”
And to that, I say, you’re partially right!
The World Cup of Hockey has an uphill battle for fan buy-in, but I guarantee you one thing: it will not suck.
You don’t care about the World Cup right now, but you will. And you’ll watch.
Why? Because it’s hockey that is going to be played at the highest level. We get so few opportunities to see best-on-best tournaments, so why bemoan a chance to see top-level international hockey?
The tournament, which starts September 17th, has its warts but will be worth watching anyway.
Here’s a few reasons to get on board with the World Cup.
1. It’s going to be great hockey
Let’s start with the most obvious reason: the hockey.
Team Canada 1st power play unit: Tavares-Crosby-Stamkos-Getzlaf-Doughty. Canada using 4 forwards on the PP
— Brent Wallace (@tsn_wally) September 5, 2016
Do you want to see what a power play unit consisting of John Tavares, Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Ryan Getzlaf, and Drew Doughty can do? I do.
Despite the fact that a few players have chosen to forego the tournament, the talent level will be better than any tournament we’ve ever seen.
The Olympic tournament is a watered-down tournament, by comparison to this.
Canada’s preliminary round in Sochi consisted of games against Finland, Austria, and Norway. In the quarter-final, they played Latvia.
It wasn’t until the semis and the final that things got interesting against USA and Sweden.
Say what you want about ‘Team North America’ and ‘Team Europe’, but they’ll put up a good fight.
2. Team Europe, Team North America
Yes, I know the very idea of ‘Team Europe’ and ‘Team North America’ is pretty stupid, but damned if it won’t be intriguing.
Have you seen the under-23 North American team’s roster?
— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) September 6, 2016
That’s going to be a fun team to watch.
And Team Europe? How fun will it be to see players like Anze Kopitar in a tournament that he actually has a chance of winning?
— Team Europe (@TeamEUR_WCH) September 6, 2016
Nearly every player on this team will know this is their only realistic chance to win a major tournament.
So they don’t have a national anthem to sing, get over it!
For the record, the NHL has previously stated that future World Cups will not include a Team Europe or U23 North American team. Long term that’s probably for the best.
3. Training camps
Unlike the Olympic tournament where teams are immediately put into games, teams at the World Cup of Hockey are holding two-week training camps.
That’s going to give a chance for teams to gel instead of players introducing themselves at the morning skate.
4. The preliminary round matters
Teams will not have the ability to sleepwalk through the preliminary round like they do in the Olympics. Consider that the just two teams will advance from each four-team group, and there’s a possibility for any team – even Canada – to be eliminated.
Forget about the “we’ll get better as the tournament goes on” kind of attitude in this tournament. When the tournament starts, the pressure will be on.
5. Game times
You remember watching games in the middle of the night during the 2014 Olympics, right? That’s another plus of the World Cup of Hockey. There’ll be two games on per day during the preliminary round, usually on at 12 pm PT (3 pm ET) and 5 pm PT (8 pm ET).
6. All games in one central location
Whether you live in Toronto or not, having all the games in a central location is a big improvement over previous incarnations of the World Cup/Canada Cup.
Centralizing the tournament will allow for more traveling fans, and more of a festival atmosphere. Spreading out games, as this tournament has done in the past, only serves to dilute the hype.
7. Best-of-three final
What’s the best part of any tournament? The final.
The World Cup of Hockey will feature a best-of-three final, just as they did in 1996. Single game elimination is exciting, but this will give fans more of the two best teams, and that’s going to be fun.