We may have seen the last NHL-involed Olympic tournament in Sochi, Russia in 2014. With the World Cup of Hockey nearly upon us, the NHL looks to replace its involvement in the Olympic tournament with something it finds much more profitable for both its league and its players.
Fair enough. But for us fans is this going to do what the NHL wants? Are we going to be willing to move on from the Olympics to something less traditional and certainly less organic? As (mostly) North Americans our countries are still well represented at the World Cup, meaning those negatively affected (hi Slovenia) are less likely to be connected to us.
So does it even matter what it’s called? The International Olympic Committee isn’t going to win any Human Rights awards any time soon, but neither is the NHL. So at worst we’re looking at an equal trade in terms of the relative decency of the organizing body.
What about in terms of the hockey it’s likely to give us? There are players dropping out of the tournament, as there always are, so I wouldn’t say we’re getting a decidedly worse tournament than we get every four years at the Olympics. This year’s tournament is being held in Toronto, a decidedly shorter trip than when the Olympics are the focal point of the international hockey calendar.
So this is the tournament we’re getting. Joe Pavelski captains the Americans and Sidney Crosby is the captain of Team Canada. In that respect, there’s not much that’s different than an Olympic tournament — the Americans insist on bringing a grit and grind team that can’t match up with Canada and the Canadians bring their B team (that they think is their A team) and win handily anyway.
If I don’t sound terribly excited about the tournament it’s because I’ve never been terribly interested in international hockey. That being said, we get a great chance to watch a whole bunch of Sharks a month before the season begins — that’s something I’m quite excited about.
There’s no doubt in my mind that this will be an entertaining series of exhibitions, even if it’s not particularly competitive. Team North America should be an absolute thrill to watch and Team Europe will feature many impressive NHL players. No, it’s not the Olympics, but maybe that matters less than we think it does.
Will you watch the World Cup of Hockey? If so, who are you rooting for?