PRAGUE – Here we are during the quarterfinals of a sport’s world championship and the game is decided almost immediately after it begins. To be exact, Brent Burns put Canada ahead just 27 seconds in. After the first period, the Canadians had four goals to Belarus’ three… shots! This disparity that still exists is precisely what’s wrong with international hockey, and moreover, illustrates that hockey as a whole has a a long way to grow.
Small Strides, But Not Enough
Let’s not be mistaken, the game of hockey has made great strides over the last 20 or so years. For instance, we’ve seen Slovenia qualify and win during last year’s Olympic Games (only to be relegated at these world championships) and also watched Latvia take Canada to the brink.
While seeing these underdog stories play out have been inspirational, it hasn’t been enough. We’re still waiting for someone outside the power nations to rise up and become champion. Switzerland has been knocking on the door for quite some time and came extremely close, capturing silver at the 2013 tournament. Maybe some consider Slovakia’s 2002 gold medal to be that major upset and a marginal turning point.
However, the real point is, the game needs to enter its next stage of evolution and capture more of the World’s attention. Parity is good for hockey’s growth and we need to see more of it, specifically at the international level.
The best way to achieve this is through diversity. That means getting more peoples from more places involved in the game. While the NHL has made an effort with initiatives such as the Hockey is for Everyone program, more can be done, specifically from the IIHF.
One way this can be done is by expanding where its world championship is held beyond traditional markets. Understandably, attendance is a concern as well as finding suitable facilities, but this is nothing some creativity couldn’t solve. For instance, imagine hosting the Worlds in a place like London, which hasn’t been done since 1950.
It’s great that last year’s tournament was held in Minsk and in 2017, the tournament will be held in Cologne and Paris. That will certainly be worth keeping tabs on. This is just one small step that can be taken. Beyond that, the IIHF needs to carry out more grassroots initiatives around the world, specifically doing a better job of supporting its registered nations.
Not Even Canada’s Best
While many were salivating before the tournament as they scoured Canada’s line combinations, the scary thing is, this isn’t even close to the best team the country could ice. Particularly, the defensive corps. and the goaltending could still be improved. Meanwhile, give or take one or two players, this is the best Belarus has to offer. And even still, Belarus is eons away from what Canada has to offer
In the end, the game was never even mildly interesting and the Canadians let off the gas, as they cruised to a 9-0 victory. Canada will play the winner of the Czech Republic-Finland game (a game that should be significantly more exciting) in its semifinal game
In other World Championship news from the early quarterfinals games….
USA Advances to Medal Round
Across the country in Ostrava USA overcome a 1-0 deficit to beat Switzerland 3-1 and advance to the medal round for the first time since 2011. They’ll look to capture just their fourth medal since 1963. Late addition to the roster Charlie Coyle scored the game-deciding goal and added an assist. Team USA will travel to Prague and play the winner of the Russia-Sweden game,
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As an American based in Amsterdam, Joe provides a unique hockey insight, bringing a global perspective to the game. Joe has several years of experience covering the game on both a domestic and international level, including being credentialed for multiple World and World Junior Championships.