McDavid Calls Out NHL After Watching World Baseball Classic

According to the NHL’s best player and a voice the league and its executives should be listening to, the World Baseball Classic is a shining example of why the NHL needs to revive the World Cup of Hockey. Noting that the league is failing its fans by not offering best-on-best, Edmonton Oilers star and captain Connor McDavid spoke to the media on Wednesday and made no bones about the fact the NHL needs to do a better job of having its superstars playing each other.

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McDavid was asked for his thoughts on the baseball games at the WBC and the matchup of Shohei Ohtani vs Mike Trout. McDavid responded, “That’s what hockey’s been missing for almost a decade now.” He added, “I thought it was great. It’s what we’ve wanted for years. Best on best. Everyone is talking about it. We (NHL players) haven’t had it for a decade.”

Is McDavid Right?

While there’s been some push-back to the idea of professional baseball players playing in a tournament that could affect the MLB season — New York Mets closer Edwin Díaz tore the patellar tendon in his right knee during Puerto Rico’s World Baseball Classic victory celebration and will need surgery — you’ll find a number of players and fans who still want to see the best versus the best and the All-Star Game — a weekend now proven to be one few fans care about — just doesn’t cut it.

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The World Cup of Hockey is one way to give players like McDavid the chance to shine with the rest of the best, all while fans would love to see it. The NHL doesn’t seem too rushed to make that tournament a reality and it’s clear McDavid doesn’t love that fact. That McDavid hasn’t worn a Team Canada jersey since he was 17 years old and will likely never play with Sidney Crosby on the same Canadian team makes this even more disappointing.

It’s understandable McDavid is saddened by this. He wants to play the best and the fans want to see him play the best.

The NHL Is Missing An Opportunity To Grow The Game

As the league looks at the potential sale of the Ottawa Senators and a $900 million price tag as a big internal win for the value of its franchises, the league is still missing a great opportunity to promote and market its game. The NHL players did not take part in the last two Olympics, (2022 and 2018) and the league, along with the NHLPA announced in November that the World Cup of Hockey, originally scheduled for 2024, has been pushed back at least a year because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. They plan to work towards holding the tournament in 2025.

Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Some of this isn’t on the NHL. Considering factors beyond their control have dictated some of the decision-making, perhaps a longer leash is acceptable. At the same time, the NHL has never really been in a hurry to showcase its best talents on a global stage, always more concerned with its own best interests. What they seem to be overlooking is how good for the NHL these tournaments will be.

Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun writes about how much a tournament like this could showcase the best the NHL has to offer. He explains:

McDavid is Canadian. Leon Draisaitl is German. David Pastrnak is a Czech. Of the Top 10 scorers today in the National Hockey League three are Canadian, two are American, two are Russian, one is Czech, one is from Finland, and one is from Germany. Ten players, from six different countries.

By statistics, the top goaltenders in the game are Swedish, American and Russian, in no particular order. The top defencemen in hockey are Canadian and Swedish and Finnish and American.

source – ‘SIMMONS: McDavid, Makar, MacKinnon being robbed by lack of best-on-best in hockey’ – Steve Simmons – Toronto Sun – 03/22/2023

The league should be bragging about just how good all the best players are and just how many different countries they come from.

The NHL’s Never Been Good at Showcasing Its Best

Just look at the game on Wednesday versus the Arizona Coyotes. It features the top two scorers in the NHL (McDavid and Leon Draisaitl) and the game won’t begin until almost 9 PM local start time. Some fans in Alberta will struggle to be up just to watch their own team, while fans in the Eastern time zone will have to be up until 1:30 AM just to see the end of the game.

How does that make any sense from a marketing standpoint? If the NHL can’t even figure that out, it’s no wonder a tournament like the World Cup of Hockey is not considered a priority. Hockey fans are being robbed and Commissioner Gary Bettman seems totally OK with it.