TORONTO – The set up in the Air Canada Centre was massive for the NHL and NHLPA’s joint World Cup news conference…If this is any indication on how the event next season – which is slated to start Sept. 17, 2016 in Toronto will look, expect a large scale event bigger than a lot of imaginations would have thought.
The format will feature eight teams separated into two groups in a preliminary round, which will run Sept. 17-22, 2016. The semifinals will be played Sept. 24-25. The semifinal winners will meet in a best-of-three final. Games will be played Sept. 27, Sept. 29 and if necessary, Oct. 1.
Group A will include Team Canada, the Czech Republic, Team USA and Team Europe. Group B will have Team Russia, Team Finland, Team Sweden and Team North America – a group of the top North American born players 23-and-under by Oct. 1, 2016.
We’ve known about the World Cup of Hockey for a few months now, but yesterday they held the official news conference announcing the tournament. So now that it’s all a little more real, let’s talk about it because this seems like it’s going to be a great tournament for expanding the sport of hockey.
Teams and Grouping Format
The 6 best hockey nations in the world are all going to be represented at the World Cup of Hockey. You have Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden and the USA. But then we have those other two teams to talk about here. Team Europe and the North American U23 team. I know it’s a little confusing and I know that it takes away from the whole “World” Cup aspect of the tournament, but this is the only way to ensure that all 8 teams in this tournament can put out an entertaining product on the ice. Look at when this tournament is scheduled for. September 17-October 1. On ESPN. Right as the NFL season starts. You can’t expect to keep anyone’s attention when you are throwing Latvia and Slovenia out there to get worked every game. Could you maybe get away with making this longer tournament with teams like Latvia and Slovenia in the mix if it was played in July or early August when the entire world is starved for sports? Yeah, probably. Beggars can’t be choosers. But with the time frame of the tournament set up the way it is right now, every single game needs to be a close and entertaining one. And the easiest way to ensure that is to incorporate the European All Star team and the North American U23 team. Plus, that’s the easiest way to start promoting Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel’s brand to a mainstream audience. They are going to be the faces of the NHL for plenty of years to come, makes sense to ensure a way to get their faces all over ESPN next year.
ESPN’s Broadcasting Rights
I know that all of Boston hates ESPN right now for Deflategate/bringing up Spygate again out of nowhere. I know that all hockey fans hate ESPN because they never cover the sport. I know that NBC has done a tremendous job lately with promoting the NHL and everything from the guys calling the game to the production quality has been top notch. But this is a 2-week tournament we are talking about here. A 2-week tournament right before the season starts. Giving the World Cup of Hockey to ESPN is a very low risk, high reward scenario for the NHL and the game of hockey. Let Bucci call the games and pray to god that we can bring Gary Thorne back. Best case scenario here is that ESPN finally starts to promote the game more and hockey continues to climb into the mainstream. It’s just a fact right now that football, basketball and baseball are bigger than hockey at the moment. Out of the big 4 sports, hockey is the red-headed step child. So give it to ESPN for two weeks and just see what can happen. Worst case scenario is that we end up exactly where we are today.
U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
Nothing is better than having an international competition to watch so that we have even more of an excuse to get Patriotic as fuck all over everyone else. Doesn’t matter what sport it’s in. Doesn’t matter if it’s even a sport at all. Anytime that a group of people are representing the United States of America going up against a group of people from some other dumbass nation, it’s go time to fire it up and kick some ass. Get your shitty Molson Canadian the hell out of my face from September 17 – October 1 of next year. Get me some Bud Heavy, a Mike Eruzione jersey, fire up the grill one last time before actual summer is over and let’s do this.
Prediction: USA and Canada make it out of Group A. Russia and Sweden make it out of Group B. Canada wins but whatever.