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Good And Bad Things About The Upcoming World Cup Of Hockey

Winslow Townson/USA Today

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.

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Sports Leagues Should Require Drafted Players To Sign With Organizations

Nothing is wrong with this situation. Jimmy Vesey, the 23 year old winger from North Reading, MA a town about thirty minutes away from Boston has done nothing wrong. Vesey was drafted in the third round in 2012 66th overall by the Nashville Predators. After playing four years at Harvard he now has the right to go to free agency and choose whatever National Hockey League team he wishes to go to.

Vesey played four years at college and graduated, that means the NHL team that drafted him had all those years of his rights to sign him and even had until August 15th of this year to sign him. Vesey chose not to sign. Nothing is wrong with that and THAT is what is wrong here.

A draft should mean something for both the player and the franchise. It already means something for the player. All the hard work for years has payed off and teams in whatever sport you play has indicated you're good enough to play at the top level. You are now one step away from achieving a childhood dream.

Once a player gets drafted he shouldn't have a choice on where he plays. That choice comes later in life when you have proven you are a great player at the top level. That choice comes years later in free agency.

The draft is not a form of free agency it is in fact a draft. If you refuse to sign with the team that drafted you, you should be forced to wait to play in the league until your Unrestricted Free Agent days. In Jimmy Vesey's case if he didn't want to sign with Nashville (or Buffalo where his rights were traded to) he should be forced to sit out of the NHL until he is 27.

It's not a right to play in the NHL or the top level of whatever sport you play it's a privilege. If you get drafted I don't think you should have the right to say no.

If I or anyone were to get drafted into the military and we said no we would get punished, most likely thrown into jail. Unfair comparison? Yes, probably. But if sports leagues are going to have a DRAFT enforce it. If you're drafted by a franchise you need to have one year of service to that team, if you chose to not report to that team you wait until you're 27 to enter the league as a UFA.

If you're an undrafted free agent this argument obviously goes out the window. You're undrafted, if you've proven that you deserve to be in a league you have no ties to any club you have the right to go anywhere.

Jimmy Vesey does not fall into this class. Vesey was drafted by the Nashville Predators he should be forced to play at least one season in that organization.

Vesey did this instead. After playing his entire college career with Harvard he had about five months to sign with the NHL team that had his rights. The Predators and Nashville General Manager David Poile clearly thought Vesey was going to sign the proof here being the Predators in a great season did nothing at the Trade Deadline saving a spot for their great prospect. That's fairly bad management if you ask me but that's an argument for another time.

Vesey's camp reportedly contacts the Nashville Predators a month after the trade deadline and tells them they are looking at free Agency on August 15th.

"On Wednesday, we received a call that they were thinking about free agency," Poile said. "That was the first time that that had ever been told to anyone in our organization. At that point, we kind of asked why and they said it was the attraction of free agency."

Sean Hartnett of CBSSports says that one of Vesey's factors for choosing a team is playing time and being able to thrive on a top six role. Predators GM Poile said Nashville was willing to offer Vesey that at the end of their season. Vesey could have had a top six role on a team that ended up going to the second round of the NHL Playoffs.

Another factor for Vesey is his want to play for a team near his home and family in Boston. That's sweet, you won't get much flack for saying or wanting that. But you'll get flack from me. If you want to stay home or near your hometown then don't be a professional athlete. Sports takes you all over the country, continent and world. What are the odds of you growing up, being great enough to get drafted or signed by your hometown team and then having a successful 15-20 year career? Yeah, those odds are pretty bad. There are great teams all over the NHL and if Vesey wants to sign with a winner (which I haven't heard he wants to) he has to leave his home area.

You can't blame Vesey. There is no rule against this situation and he is doing something that others have done in the past. Who wouldn't want to chose where they work while earning millions and playing a sport? I'm not mad at Jimmy Vesey at all. I'm mad at the situation he's in. I'm mad that a player who has played zero seconds in the National Hockey League chooses where he plays. I'm mad that a 23 year old who has proven nothing has the right to go wherever he wants. And I'm mad at a draft that if this is allowed to happen doesn't really mean that much in the long run.

If you're going to have a draft make sure players can't get to free agency before they play. It's my belief that drafts are not optional, if you're drafted by a sports team you need to spend AT LEAST one year in that franchises organization.

You don't have the final decision as a kid and most of the time don't have an option. You have to wait for that, you have to wait until you grow up. I think the draft and early years for athletes they shouldn't have much of a choice either. That choice comes when you've earned it and when you become a free agent.

This has been an issue for me for years going all the way back to Eli Manning refusing to play for the San Diego Chargers. It was the first time paying attention to sports where something like this happened. Since then I have had this opinion, you play for the team you're drafted by or you pay a penalty like other drafts in the world.

Let me know what you think. Most people seem to not care but this irritates me. Leave a comment or find me on twitter @CJPaigeTHL25

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How Can The NHL And NBC Avoid Another Ratings Drop Next Season?

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

As great as the NHL playoffs were this past season there was one problem that seemed to stand out throughout the two month journey to the Stanley Cup. Low television ratings. In the 89 games that were on the NBC family of networks the NHL playoffs averaged over 1.2 million viewers. For hockey that's fine but when you consider those numbers were down 14% from 2015 (1.43 million viewers) and down 15% from 2014 (1.45 million viewers) you look and those numbers with a sour face.

It's really not that hard to figure out. Chicago, New York Rangers, Detroit, Los Angeles and Philadelphia all big markets and some of the biggest hockey markets all knocked out in round one. To make matters worse another huge market in Boston missed the playoffs altogether.

In the second round you were left with these teams and markets, St. Louis, Dallas, San Jose, Nashville, Tampa Bay, New York Islanders (who aren't even close to the Rangers draw) Pittsburgh and Washington. None of those cities names are going to exactly pull in the casual fan.

All of these teams can draw some pretty solid regional numbers. St. Louis, Washington and Pittsburgh specifically all great hockey markets. But they aren't the Blackhawks, they aren't the Rangers and they aren't the Bruins. Casual fans don't look at these teams and think this city and this team is must watch.

Bad ratings for the playoffs really puts a bad picture on the NHL and NBC who before the playoffs started were doing well. According to a press release from NBCSN the NHL regular season was the most watched regular season in 22 years. Their report said that the NHL on NBC (11 games) averaged 1.545 million viewers up 6% from the previous season. NBCSN (94 games) averaged 378,000 viewers which was up 8% from the season before.

The regular season is obviously easier than the playoffs where you don't have control which teams go far. During the season you can schedule months in advance. In the season you can cling onto the top five ratings getters, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, and Boston in that order. At the same time you can avoid bottom dwellers like the Ducks, Islanders, Coyotes, Devils and Panthers.

A few days ago the national TV schedule came out for the NHL and there was some negative feedback. The Chicago Blackhawks specifically are on the national broadcast 21 times. The Blackhawks get ratings, they generate revenue which is why they get so many games on the national stage and why they continually get outdoor games.

These are the next highest teams,



Penguins & Rangers-15


Red Wings-13

Wild & Blues-12


So let's just be real for a second, the National Hockey League ideally would want a Blackhawks-Rangers Final. Obviously they are the easy teams to latch onto and the casual fans can easily watch them based on the amount of TV time they get.

But in my opinion this is where the NHL gets it wrong. The Blackhawks do not need help drawing numbers. This where you'll get the argument against them showing up on the national schedule 21 times. I differ on this argument. Show the big teams all you want. Show all 82 games if you need to. Where the NHL goes sideways is which teams the Blackhawks play.

Looking at the Blackhawks national TV schedule I counted four teams, just FOUR teams that need help in getting ratings. The Hawks play Nashville, San Jose, Montreal and Tampa Bay. Those are the teams that when or if the Blackhawks don't make a long playoff run you might rely on to keep the ratings up.

Instead the NHL and NBC are going to show the Blackhawks play other high rated teams in hopes that they do in fact get regular season ratings. This is who Chicago plays on national TV and how many times they play them.

St. Louis-4






New York Rangers-1

If any of those teams make long playoff runs the ratings would be fine. These teams don't need help getting ratings like a Nashville would.

The Predators are a team that needs more air time. They have a good team that was one game away from the western conference finals. They have a new star in PK Subban and they only get two appearances on NBC next season?

If the casual fan doesn't see them often in the regular season why should they magically start caring about them in the playoffs when or if they big drawing teams are gone. If you have the Predators play more times on national TV against the Chicago's or against the other big drawing teams you will have good games and casual fans could care about them in April, May or even June.

Let's skip over to the Bruins. The Bruins last season were the second highest rated team while on national TV behind only Buffalo. So if we stick with my argument and try to put in some lower teams to try to get the casual fan care about other teams when the Bruins can't make it far in the playoffs or even make the playoffs maybe fans in Massachusetts will care about a different team.

But much like the Blackhawks the majority of the Bruins opponents don't need help in the ratings category. In the 17 times the Bruins play on national TV only four times do the opposing team need ratings help. Boston plays San Jose, Montreal and Dallas twice obviously capitalizing on the Seguin trade. The Bruins then play these teams.


New York Rangers-2

St. Louis-2





Would it be so bad to have the Islanders play the Bruins on national TV? The New York team that is in the bottom five for average regional ratings. Would it be so bad if John Tavares got some more time?

The Islanders get 6 national appearances and they play

The Lightning-1, Neither team a huge draw.

Penguins-1, They get help here

Flyers-1, More help here.

Canadiens-1, A game that American fans won't care about.

Hurricanes-1, Seriously?

Rangers-1, Obvious rival.

So the Islanders who are one of the best teams out east gets just 6 times to show their abilities they have to play three teams that won't elevate their popularity and just one game against the Rangers who they play four times this season. The Rangers play 15 games on the national schedule and just one against the Islanders?

Meanwhile you have the Blackhawks vs Blues, big rivals, division foes and they play four times this season and neither of them need ratings help.

If you play teams that get good ratings against teams that don't get very good ratings you could generate more interest in the lesser teams. I have no problem with teams getting 20 national TV spots but when you're not helping the smaller hockey markets grow during the season why should we care about them in the playoffs?

This is why I think if you pair teams up better in the season you could help teams like Nashville or Anaheim or even San Jose so your ratings don't bomb in the playoffs and Finals again. Look at the league right now, San Jose is now a huge threat to get back to the Finals out of the west what if they have to play Tampa Bay instead of Pittsburgh? What if Nashville another huge western threat, what if the Preds play the Lightning? You have two teams in that instance where NBC spent very little time hyping up during the season.

The NHL will never be the most popular league or sport in the States. It's not a huge participation sport, it's not a sport you can focus on stars like the NBA or NFL and it's a sport that's only popular in colder climates.

But instead of continually putting big teams against each other you have to try to get the smaller teams some TV time. Will the ratings in the season drop? Probably but you could see a benefit later in the season and playoffs. You can still have the big teams match up on rivalry night on Wednesday or Sunday's saving the other days for big vs small.

If the NHL doesn't focus more on the smaller teams, for the foreseeable future ratings could go down in the playoffs.

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