Pulling for Teams Europe & North America at 2016 World Cup of Hockey

by | Aug 21, 2016 | Soapbox | 49 comments

World Cup of Hockey 2016 I’m taking a cynical approach to the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, aka “The NHL’s Attempt to Replace Winter Olympics Men’s Hockey as a Meaningful International Hockey Tournament”. I’m just not feeling excited for this contest.

Maybe it’s because it isn’t the Winter Olympics, where the players are in mid-season form and participating in an event that means so much to them.

Perhaps it’s because the last World Cup of Hockey, staged in September 2004 against the looming backdrop of a season-killing labor dispute between the NHL and NHLPA, lacked the emotion of its 1996 predecessor.

Maybe it’s because, since the fall of Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe in the early 1990s, these September tournaments no longer resonate with hockey fans as they once did.

Perhaps it’s all of these reasons.

To be honest, if I wasn’t my job to provide some coverage of the World Cup of Hockey, I wouldn’t watch it.

As a sports fan, I’m more interested in the baseball playoff races at this time of year. As a hockey fan, the storylines coming out of NHL training camps are more compelling than a meaningless international hockey competition.

But I don’t have a choice, so I’m looking for something to get me excited about the World Cup of Hockey.

Expect plenty of hype over whether Canada can maintain its dominant Winter Olympic and World Championship form, if the United States can achieve the success of its predecessor at the inaugural World Cup 20 years ago, if Russia’s pros can overcome its recent disappointment in international play, and if Sweden, Finland or the Czech Republic can finally win an NHL-backed, North American-based tournament.

More interesting to me, however, is the possibility of Team Europe or Team North America surprising the favorites and winning the World Cup.

The European squad is composed of players from nations deemed to be lacking significant depth in talent to ice competitive clubs. The North American roster, meanwhile, is a roster of players who didn’t make the final cut for the Canadian and American squads of Canadian and American players 23-and-younger deemed “ineligible” to play for Canada or the United States, seemingly for no other reason than to ensure an eight-team competition. 

Team Europe has a decent-looking squad. It’s largely a veteran-laden bunch with many of them – Zdeno Chara, Mark Streit, Marian Gaborik, Marian Hossa and Thomas Vanek – past their prime.

Still, they’ve got a goalie in Frederik Andersen capable of stealing some games. Roman Josi and the always-underrated Andrej Sekera patrol the blueline. All-world center Anze Kopitar, two-way specialist Frans Nielsen, speedsters Mats Zuccarello and Mikkel Boedker and young forwards Leon Draisaitl, Nino Niederreiter and Tomas Tatar can generate offensive havoc.

Team North America is a younger, deeper squad. John Gibson and Matt Murray are the goaltenders. The blueline includes Aaron Ekblad, Shayne Gostisbehere, Seth Jones, Colton Parayko, Morgan Rielly and Jacob Trouba.

At forward, the depth is formidable. In Connor McDavid, Johnny Gaudreau, Jack Eichel, Nathan MacKinnon, Sean Monahan, Brandon Saad, Mark Scheifele, Dylan Larkin, Jonathan Drouin and Auston Matthews, they’ve got a strong mix of speed and skill. Many of them also have previous international tournament experience.

Team Europe is the true underdog of this tournament. If some of the older players on their roster can rise to the occasion, they could pull off an upset or two. They have the experience and leadership to make it happen.

The North America roster, meanwhile, has sufficient talent to skate with the big boys. It’s a hungry group composed of the next generation of NHL stars determined to show up their older opponents. 

So, I’ll be pulling for both of those clubs. Having a couple of wild card teams with the potential to upset the status quo is just what this tournament needs.

And if Team Europe or Team North America wins the tournament, I’m looking forward to the awkwardness of deciding which anthem gets played and which flags the players wrap themselves in for the big team photo posing with the kitschy table lamp called the “World Cup of Hockey”.







49 Comments

  1. The North American squad is under 25 and who were not eligible for the Canadian and American squads.

    • The Canadian and US GMs tend to lean toward veteran talent in selecting these teams. In my opinion, the players on Team North America wouldn’t have made the cut with the Canadian and US squads. This ridiculous rule was implemented in order to ensure maximum participation of North American talent.

      • I doubt that Mcdavid, Eichel and Gaudreau woudl have been passed over by their respective teams.

      • Don’t be so sure McDavid, Eichel or Gaudreau wouldn’t have been left off their respective teams. 10 years ago at the Turin Olympics, Team Canada left Sidney Crosby at home and made Eric Staal an alternate.

      • If u don’t like hockey- quit your job. People who like hockey- ie: pay your salary watch / read hockey 365…can’t wait!

      • So you believe my disdain for the NHL’s World Cup of Hockey means I don’t like hockey. That’s quite the leap you made there, Brian. You should be an Olympic long jumper.

      • @Brian,
        How much was the check you sent Lyle this month?You don’t really pay his salary directly. You come here free of charge and get to p-ss and moan at no cost.

        You don’t have to agree with everything the guy says, but let’s not pretend we pay the guy for his opinions like “ESPN insider”

  2. Team North America’s players were not passed over by the Candian and American teams, it is instead comprised of Candian and American players under the age of 23. According to this article on nhl.com https://www.nhl.com/news/team-north-america-could-use-youth-to-advantage/c-778574

    “Team North America is a new concept in international hockey, grouping the best players 23 years old and younger from Canada and the United States against the best hockey nations in the world.”

    • Fixed and updated, thanks for the correction. It’s been a long, slow summer.

    • if team Canada cared about icing a team with the very best players in the world right now you at least put Mcdavid and Gaudreau on that team

      • Gaudreau is American is he not?

      • He defected by signing in Calgary?

      • yes correct…meant Monahan. But Gaudreau should be on the american team should he not? Regardless i do think the North American team will be fast talented and fun to watch.

      • Not signed in Calgary yet. He does have that good French Canadian name though.

  3. Team North America are not players that were passed over for team Canada or team USA. They are the players from North America under the age of 23. They were never allowed to be on the national teams.

  4. I’m down with watching this tournament so far. I’m going in with no expectations other than hopefully watching as many games as possible of some really skilled players. Just look at those two teams…yes please. My only fear is if it begins to take on a typical NHL all-star game. Then I’m out.

    • I would love to see Team North America show Team Canada and USA absolutely no respect and kick their asses. They got the players that could pull it off.

  5. hard to believe a “hockey fan” wouldn’t watch a tournament featuring the best players in the world.
    i am totally exited at the prospect of watching hockey a month early.
    maybe its time to find a new job,
    your disinterest in hockey is showing.
    this site was much better a few years ago.
    was there not enough habs chosen to hold your interes?

    • I’m not one who’s waiting anxiously. In fact, I could not possible care less at the blatant cash grab. What WILL pique my interest is when the first player goes down by playing at a high competitive level far too early in terms of conditioning and is lost to their NHL team for a significant length of time. And it will happen. So what’s the rationale then for those fans forking over big bucks for season tickets for that particular team? If you were a Montreal season-ticket holder you’d have to watch with fingers crossed if Price becomes the main starter for Team Canada.

      • Careful, George, he’ll label you “disinterested” and suggest you cheer for another sport! Apparently, we’re supposed to mindlessly cheer for whatever the NHL shoves at us.

      • So true Lyle. As for “supposed to mindlessly cheer for whatever the NHL shoves at us” … his conditioning must stem from blindly following perpetual losers, year after year (I won’t name names).

      • Bring back the glow puck!!!! Do people in Canada get that joke? Or were us Americans the only ones that had to suffer that brutal mess of a gimmick?

      • LOL. No, Nyr4life, we got NBC through our cable services and were on the floor laughing at “the streak” – and I don’t mean the Ray Stevens smash hit.

      • Yeah, that was REALLY bad!!!! All I could watch was the tail, and I’d lose where the puck actually was, which ironically was the entire purpose of using the glow puck.

      • I do agree it’s an odd time of the year to hold this tournament considering what you said because no way are these guys gonna want to play no hit all star hockey. There playing for their country and USA & Canada probably don’t want to lose to team North America. Although I can see NHL teams instructing players to make sure they’re not the guy to possibly take out one of his own NHL teammates playing on another team. But the injury factor is there no matter what time of year the tourney is played. At least at the beginning of the season…if injured…a player will have more time to heal and come back to play some of the season and possibly playoffs. Any other time of year that window gets shorter and shorter if the injury happens.

      • Glo-puck shamelessly shown in Canada as well

      • The NHL wants a best against best tournament every 2 years to help market & grow the game world wide. I much prefer September to shutting the season down for the Olympics in February for 2 weeks. Yes players will get injured but that’s part of the cost.

        I’ll watch as many & as much as I possibly can & miss very little baseball to do so but some. In the real world youth Minor competitive hockey; Jr B, will be in full swing as will competitive fallball; U18, for my middle son biting into both the World Cup & baseball. Can’t be in 4 places at once. Although I have certainly tried.

        Some of the best hockey I have ever seen was the 1987 Canada Cup. I watch those 3 games at least twice a year. Best 3 game series ever played. Wouldn’t have missed it or the up coming World Cup for very few things.

        I just view it as part of the evolution of the game & any time we can watch some of the best players in the world play against each other representing their country I’m in. I don’t like the under 23 restriction of players to their respective national teams but tournaments are better balanced with an equal # of teams & from a marketing perspective it makes sense.

        I’m also curious to see how this young team stakes up against the best players in the world playing for their respective teams.

        Bring it on. Getting these players up to full speed sooner should be a positive for most.

    • I’m glad you’re excited by the World Cup of Hockey, Chris. I’ve stated quite clearly why I’m not, and it has nothing to do with how many Habs were chosen. However, I’ll take the time to explain it for you in more detail.

      My cynicism of the “World Cup of Hockey” is because (in my opinion) it’s the NHL’s lame attempt at replacing the Winter Olympics as a meaningful international tournament for its players. Winter Olympic participation didn’t turn into the big cash cow the league expected it to be, so they’re hoping a tournament staged in September will be more lucrative. Quite frankly, I consider it a poor substitute. Doesn’t mean I’m “disinterested” in hockey. Just because I won’t be a cheerleader for the World Cup of Hockey doesn’t mean I’m disinterested in the sport. I hope that clears this up for you.

      I appreciate your suggestion that I pursue a new job, but I’ll keep doing this one because I still love it and I’m still making a living from it. As for the site being better a few years ago, could you be more specific? Or was that just a lame attempt at an insult? I’m guessing the latter. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to write in and enjoy the rest of your summer.

      • I can see you’re side. I’m hoping it’s not like an all-star game. I hadn’t thought of that until I read it here. Ya got me thinking about it.

    • Chris,
      I find this tournament a hair more interesting than the gimmicky joke that is the all star game. Which I literally find embarrassing to the sport. As George points out, it’s just another way to grab a few bucks for the NHL.

      • As far as cheering for another sport, I’ll gladly take the NFL over this tournament. As will most of the hockey fans in the United States.

      • Hell, in Canada too. Can’t wait for the kick-off.

      • Go Jets….. Okay maybe I’ll watch this damn tournament!!! Lmao!

      • It’s going to be fun watching the Patriots play without Brady for a while. Nothing against him, but I’d like to see Belichick fall flat on his ass. Go Bills.

      • With the first 4 games I still see the Pats going 3-1 . Arizona, Miami , Houston and Buffalo. They make me sick!

      • It’s a way for the NHL, NHLPA & IIHF to make money & to grow & market the game world wide.

        I don’t want to see the NHL withdraw support from the Olympics but the IOC is taking care of that issue for the NHL, NHLPA & IIHF.

        Having NHL players available to play in the Olympics is a huge cash cow for the OIC. No other sport in the winter Olympics allow for 20,000 fans in attendance at that price point & none of that money goes to the NHL, NHLPA or IIHF.

        The IOC’s current stance on travel costs, insurance costs, etc is a death nail to NHL’s participation in the Olympics. NHL players are now not even entitled to what the IOC makes available to all are athletes in every other sanctioned sport. Crazy stuff.

        I get their millionaires & don’t need the subsidies but you can’t have dual standards, expect the NHL to shut down it’s league & transfer these costs to them when your not doing so for all other sports & their athletes.

  6. I understand your reasoning, Lyle, but I have to say that I am quite excited. Not only do I get to see some of my favorites and others that I am familiar with, I will get to see players that I have never heard of, some of whom may somehow end up in the NHL (not that I’m holding my breath on that). I have my favorite teams, but I get excited about watching hockey in general. I watch just about every game I can during the season.

    • Don’t get me wrong, Shirley. I have no issue with anyone who’s excited about this tournament. I hope it proves enjoyable for you.

      • Exactly. If you enjoy it, great. Just don’t expect everyone to climb on board.

      • True that George O. I actually enjoy watching the players foolin around with each other at the All-Star game. It’s all in good fun. Pretty sure, after reading today’s comments, no one else feels that way. Definitely an argument I wouldn’t win.

      • The year before last I had some non hockey fans at my house during the all star game. I had to turn it off because I was just that embarrassed. It’ makes the nba look appealing! Score, score, score….. Funny , cute, playful moment… Score, score, score. And don’t get me started on that ridiculous all star draft. The Nhl marketing is a joke. Glow pucks, wild cards, advanced stats, rule changes, , playoff brackets and seating,shoot outs… They want to be the mlb or nfl so bad it’s beyond ridiculous!

        Just leave it alone. People will watch, or they won’t. Everything they’ve tried not only will NOT bring in a new fan base, it will shatter the existing fan base!

      • Lyle your old enough. Did you enjoy the 87 Canada Cup?

      • The Canada Cup tournaments were exciting because of the geopolitics of the day. Today, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact no longer exist. There’s no mystery regarding Russian and Eastern European players because their best already play in the NHL, competing against the best Canadian and American players. There’s no clash of societies and ideologies. The World Cup is simply the NHL’s attempt to replace their participation in the Winter Olympics, which is more meaningful for fans and players.

  7. Lyle, I agree 100% with your take. At work, I’m considered to be the hockey guru and my co-workers have assumed that I’ll be excited for the World Cup. When told otherwise, they are surprised. This, to me, is comparable to NFL pre-season. There are no more secrets as there once was (re: 1972 Canada-Russia, 1976 Canada Cup, etc.) and I look much more forward to not only Olympic play, but also, the World Junior Championships.

    • I’m the same, Neil. Not looking forward to the World Cup doesn’t equate hating hockey. It’s simply that this tournament smells phony to me, that it won’t have the same emotional impact as those old September series of the past that you noted, or that the Olympics, World Championships and WJC hold today.

  8. I like the idea of a World Cup of hockey. It cannot replace the passion felt during the Olympics. Not a chance.

    The fact they made 2 teams of no true nationality just to fill the tournament? That is just silly. I also hope one of them wins or even better, the two of them face off in the finals for that hideous looking trophy.

    The lack of consistency over the years of having the World Cup of hockey really hurts it as well. This is not the Canada Cup. It does not inspire the same national pride that tournament represented.

    I will watch because I just love hockey… but I won’t interrupt life for it like I would the Olympics.

    • I just find that with the globalization of the world the landscape is changing. Not saying I’m not a proud Canadian & I love the Olympics. The WJC’s are my favorite tournament. Those U20 players aren’t auto bots, they make mistakes & take chances that coaches in the NHL would never tolerate & show incredible passion & emotion.

      The real rivalry now is between Canada & the US. The growth of hockey in the US is astounding & in a few short years the US will start to dominate the sport like they do most sports. Simple demographics, the way sports are funded at the grass routes level & tax allowances they provide to both families & Company’s sponsoring sports that Canada will never allow.

      I have 3 boys that play competitive sports or did, only 2 left playing & the tax credits I get from the CRA are a joke, essentialy nothing. Last year I spent 22K in after tax dollars for them to play. It’s not the cost of the sport or equipment specifically but the travel. Fallball U18 runs from Sept 7th through the Canadian Thanksgiving. It will cost my over 5K when done do to travel.

      The World Cup is all about growing the game, especially in the US. A great marketing opportunity that might attract some new fans but more importantly young American kids to choose hockey over baseball, football or basketball. I think when all is said & done all hockey fans will tune in or you may miss some of the greatest hockey potentially ever played.

  9. My hope is that with having a bunch of highly skilled that the determinants of success will be more heavily tied to team systems and coaching. Yes, there is more talent on some teams than others but hopefully it’s close enough with the contenders that other factors will be more at play.

    That’s what I’m telling myself will make it more exciting to watch anyway.

  10. I’m with Lyle on this one. I’m just having a hard time getting excited for it.

    Best on best hockey will always be good, but this is different than back in the 80s and 90s when there was much more of a rivalry between the nations. Now, all of these guys know each other off the ice to some level and the intensity isn’t quite the same.

    The Olympics make it different, because for a rare time in their careers, the players are part of something much bigger than themselves or the NHL. That makes it special.

    The fact that Bettman and the owners don’t really want to be part of the Olympics (yes, they have fair reasons, I understand that) is the main reason I’m kind of turning my nose up at this. When Canada actually does play, no doubt I’ll check it out, but it’s still not the same.

    Plus, my Penguins just finished a very long season, and hopefully have another long one coming up. The thought of six of their key players not getting a full off-season to heal, rest or train isn’t helping me get excited for this NHL money grab.

    Just my thoughts, not saying I’m boycotting it or anything, but I just think with the Olympics only two years ago, this isn’t necessary.