Team Europe takes on Sweden in the win-or-go-home semifinal match today for a chance to face Canada in the first ever World Cup of Hockey final. Will this be the last chance for the amorphous blob of a team to do so? And more importantly, should it be?
The idea for a Team Europe and Team North America centered around the notion of crafting a more competitive tournament. No disrespect meant to countries like Slovenia or Germany, but as they were routinely rolled in the Olympics it became clear they’re not at the level of countries like Canada, Russia and Sweden.
Mixing in the under-23 Team North America served two purposes: first, it weakened the United States and Canada to make everything more equitable and second it infused the tournament with some much needed excitement. Besides, half of those players would’ve been left home for grizzled veterans anyway.
There’s a chance those two all-star teams could go away for the next World Cup of Hockey. If the NHL decides it wants to do some sort of a qualifying tournament (similar to what is done with the World Junior Championships) we could sea a pair of teams fight to get into the tournament while teams like Russia and Canada get automatic bids.
On some level, that would be a good thing. While Team North America has been an absolute blast to watch, I can’t help but think I’d be annoyed as a Slovenian who wants to see Anze Kopitar play with his countrymen and not a hodge podge of others who live on the continent. Still, there’s the matter of Kopitar having the best chance of winning an international trophy, something that would’ve been a huge long shot with a Slovenian team.
Of course the NHL is only tacitly interested in how interesting or competitive the tournament is. They want us to watch, obviously, but they mostly want to make money. If they think a B tournament, particularly one stationed in Europe, could make them money then that’s what will happen.
While I’d hate to see the “young guns” team go, I think it would be nice to give other countries a chance to get into the tournament. Maybe meeting in the middle and keeping Team North America while ditching Team Europe in favor of a qualifying European country.
Either way, this has been a very interesting tournament and if this is the last time we get to see the two all-star squads play, I’ll miss them.