Hockey fans, it's August. You know just as well as I do the eighth month of the year is probably the worst time for hockey fans. Somewhere in the middle of August you're usually in a situation where you are a month and a half removed from the Stanley Cup Final and a month and a half away from training camp and preseason.
But this late summer is different for another reason. Hockey and news is just around the corner thanks to the reincarnation of the World Cup of Hockey. The games are just about a month away starting on September 17th but just like any other team going into a season or tournament they need camps and practices.
It's the month where news is scarce. The draft and free agency is long gone and the majority of teams have their teams set for the next seasons training camps. This summer would have been much of the same if it weren't for a rookie who wouldn't sign for his draft team and Patrick Roy doing Roy things and leaving the Colorado Avalanche late in the offseason.
With that being the case, rejoice hockey fans, we are just a short week and a half away from hockey. For Team USA their camp starts in Columbus, OH on Monday the 5th and the same goes for Team Canada (in Ottawa, ON). Team USA and Team Canada will even play some exhibition games before the tournament begins the most anticipated being vs each other on both September 9th and 10th.
Earlier hockey. That is probably the best thing about this World Cup of Hockey. It's high level, important hockey in early September when usually you have to wait until early October for good hockey.
But not everything is great about this World Cup. There are plenty of bad things and some more iffy things. What we're going to do here is go through the good and the bad of this tournament. Since we have been looking at the positive up to this point lets start with the good.
Earlier hockey, already discussed, next point.
It's an international best on best tournament. Who doesn't love that? It's why we love the Olympics. You have stars from across the NHL teaming up. On Canada you have Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos and John Tavares while on Team USA you have Patrick Kane and Joe Pavelski etc. Watching these players and former rivals team up for their countries is always fun to watch.
On the other hand Team North America could be the most fun thing of the World Cup. When it was announced that in this World Cup there would be two teams not really representing a country there was a pretty good amount of criticism. Rightly so, when you have a international best on best tournament you want countries teams, not gimmick teams.
Since teams have been named though I think one of the gimmick teams has become very interesting. If you take Canada out of the equation team North America might be the most talented team in the World Cup. They already have one of the best players in the entire sport in Connor McDavid teaming him up with fellow 2015 draftee and media rival Jack Eichel, 2016 number one pick Auston Matthews, NHL veteran Sean Couturier and young solid defensemen Aaron Ekblad, Seth Jones and Shayne Gostisbehere.
The European audience probably could care less about this team but for fans here in America this could be the most interesting team in the entire World Cup.
This being the first World Cup in a long time it could be fun. We're going into this event having no idea how it's going to work. It could be a huge success which would be very fun to watch and get into or it could be a massive failure which is sometimes fun to watch too. This obviously isn't the Olympics and it very well could be an epic failure but I think the majority of hockey fans are going into this World Cup with some sort of intrigue. Bottom line I think this is going to be fun.
So that's the good stuff. Now the bad things.
It's a big tournament in preseason. You have star players on these teams that NHL teams are relying on. Injuries could and most likely will happen. I think as exciting as this tournament could be, you are going to have a lot of fans watching with one eye closed hoping they don't see their star seriously injured.
The argument you could come up with here is it's not the Olympics that take place in mid to late February. A star gets hurt there and your missing the rest of the season and some of the playoffs. If I'm a fan I want my star getting hurt in September not February.
Good argument, but we've seen plenty of times a team get off to a bad start and not being able to recover. The last thing the San Jose Sharks need is their number one center Jumbo Joe Thornton or their number one defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic going down for a couple of months right off the bat. This isn't exclusive to the Sharks you can say this for just about any other team.
There are two most important times of the season the start and the finish. Play well in just one of those and you run the risk of missing the playoffs. Teams want to go into the season healthy and having an important tournament right before the season puts stars health at risk.
As we talked about earlier one of the gimmick teams is quite interesting. You have young players from North America, we here in North America will be interested in how they perform on an international stage against the very best. The other gimmick team in my opinion is just bad. Team Europe. This team is basically a team full of stars not from Sweden, Russia, Finland or Czech Republic. This is a team where players come from a country that the NHL says "That countries international team is not good enough for us." Harsh but true.
But the NHL can't possibly leave some of these players out of the World Cup. The whole point of this tournament is to get the best players in the world playing in a single event. How can you have a guy like Anze Kopitar who Wayne Gretzky himself called the third best player in the world sitting on the sidelines? How can you have future hall of famers like Marian Hossa and Zdeno Chara not play in this best on best competition?
Slovenia and Slovakia apparently just aren't good enough for the NHL which is pretty much true. So how do we get these guys in the World Cup? Make a best of the rest team. That will look good right?
Why should these countries care? If Kopitar wins does Slovenia care? If Chara and Hossa win for Team Europe does Slovakia feel some sort of pride? How much does Europe care?
That questions bleeds into my next point very easily. How much does Europe care? Does this tournament to them end up like the World Championships to North Americans. A nice tournament for Stanley Cup playoff losers. Do Europeans look at this as a nice preseason competition? If you have a World Cup but only one continent in the world cares, what's the point.
And this may be the biggest concern for fans. This is a just a tournament so the NHL can get out of going to the Olympics in 2018. Fans may not like how the NHL has to stop play for about three weeks every four years but they deal with it, why? Because they get to watch a best on best hockey competition at the Olympics.
There are probably two sports tournaments that when people even just say the tournaments name glitter comes flying out their mouths, the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. Sure the Olympics might be declining in interest specifically among young people but it's still the Olympics it will draw because of its name alone. The World Cup of Hockey won't do this.
I'm not going to go into the topic to much but the NHL needs the Olympics. It's easier to drag casual fans to hockey and to the NHL from the Olympics. Hockey fans will watch the World Cup, I don't think casual fans will watch or give a damn about it. The only reason I am a hockey fan and even now a hockey writer is because of the Olympics in 2010. That's all I'll say about that.
We'll close out the bad stuff just like the good stuff. This is the first World Cup. Again, it could be fun and I think hockey fans will watch but if it's not a huge success why should fans care whenever the next one is? If the NHL decides to in fact go to the Olympics in 2018 why should we care about this second rate tournament?
Look at FIFA for this argument, everyone knows the World Cup is the biggest and best soccer tournament. Soccer at the Olympics is not very important at all. Just flip it for hockey.
The World Cup of Hockey. An NHL tournament that gives us earlier hockey and a best on best competition. Great, I'm on board. Not sure I'm going to care about the next World Cup though and I'll be watching my teams players through cracks in my fingers hoping they don't get hurt.
It has two gimmick teams neither of which I'm sure works on a grand scale. And this is honestly just a way the NHL is trying to get out of the Olympics and more casual fans will watch Olympic hockey rather than the World Cup of Hockey.
Just like everything else in life the World Cup of Hockey has its ups and downs. It's up to us fans to decide whether this has more ups or more downs. In my opinion it has more downs. Now it's your turn to decide.