For the uninitiated, the World Cup of Hockey is a bit of a weird tournament. It’s international and at least wants to hold the same weight as the Olympics — but it’s not the Olympics. I don’t just mean it doesn’t come with the same cache, it comes with a whole different set of rules than we’re used to seeing in International Hockey.
So let’s answer some frequently asked questions about the tournament and get everyone up to speed on what we’ll be getting ourselves into over the next couple weeks.
Why the World Cup of Hockey instead of the Olympics?
Okay, so I’m begging the question here. NHL players may still play in the Olympics in 2018, but don’t count on it. The NHL has been unhappy with its players participating in the Olympics for years, in part because it disrupts the NHL season and because there’s no monetary incentive for the NHL or its players to participate.
This tournament solves both of those problems. As the World Cup of Hockey is sponsored by the NHL and NHLPA, the players and league should actually make some money on this thing if it’s a success. Making it a preseason tournament also keeps it from screwing up the league schedule.
Where is the tournament being held?
At the Air Canada Center in Toronto.
Will the tournament use NHL rules and rinks?
Yup! The game will be identical to what you see in the NHL.
Who’s in this tournament?
There are two groups of four teams each, they are as follows:
Team North America
Team Europe? North America? What the hell?
I know, I know, it’s pretty stupid. Team Europe is an all-star team of players from European countries that don’t get to play in the tournament. Anze Kopitar is on this team, for instance. As for Team North America, that’s filled with under-25 year old players from Canada, the United States and Mexico, I guess. Connor McDavid is doing his thing there.
How many players are on each team?
23! 20 skaters and three goaltenders.
How do you win this thing anyway?
Great question! The top two teams from each group advance to the semis. It’s a winner-take-all game between a Group Winner and the second place team from the other group. The finals are a best-of-three series between the winners of the semifinal games.
Canada’s gonna win this stupid thing, right?
Are there Sharks playing, at least?
Hell yeah! Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are all playing for Team Canada and Joe Pavelski is the captain on Team USA! Mikkel Boedker is on Team Europe and Joonas Donskoi is playing for Finland. So there are plenty of ways to watch your favorite Sharks early!
Okay, I’m in. Where can I watch it and when?
All of the games will be on the ESPN Family of Networks. I know! Hockey back on ESPN! Crazy! The bad news is that not all of the games will be on ESPN or ESPN2, because, you know, they’re not THAT committed to hockey. Here’s the schedule (all times Pacific):
Preliminary Round (round-robin)
Saturday, Sept. 17
Team Europe vs. Team USA, 12:30 p.m., ESPN2
Team Canada vs. Team Czech Republic, 5 p.m., ESPNEWS
Sunday, Sept. 18
Team Russia vs. Team Sweden, noon, ESPN
Team Finland vs. Team North America, 5 p.m., ESPN2
Monday, Sept. 19
Team Czech Republic vs. Team Europe, noon, ESPN2
Team North America vs. Team Russia, 5 p.m., ESPN2
Tuesday, Sept. 20
Team Finland vs. Team Sweden, noon, ESPN
Team Canada vs. Team USA, 5 p.m., ESPN
Wednesday, Sept. 21
Team North America vs. Team Sweden, noon, ESPN
Team Canada vs. Team Europe, 5 p.m., ESPN2
Thursday, Sept. 22
Team Finland vs. Team Russia, noon, ESPN
Team Czech Republic vs. Team USA, 5 p.m., ESPN2
Semifinals (single elimination)
Saturday, Sept. 24
Group A1 vs. Group B2, 4 p.m., ESPN2
Sunday, Sept. 25
Group B1 vs. Group A2, 10 a.m., ESPN
Tuesday, Sept. 27
Final Game 1, 5 p.m., ESPN
Thursday, Sept. 29
Final Game 2, 5 p.m., ESPN2
Saturday, Oct. 1
Final Game 3, 4 p.m., ESPN2 (if necessary)