For those who cannot remember, hockey used to be on ESPN. Thanks to the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, hockey is officially back on the cable giant, giving us goosebumps once again as we listen to this beauty of a theme song:
On Saturday, Sept. 17, eight international teams will compete in a round-robin style tournament in order to determine the best hockey country in the world. With questions looming over future NHL player participation in the Olympics, the WCH is aiming to provide hockey fans with an international competition similar to soccer’s World Cup. While plenty of opponents of the WCH complain about the tournament being a shameless cash grab or just a complete waste of time, most hockey fans will rejoice as competitive hockey comes a month early and even the pre-tournament games showcased some bad blood:
However, while many have probably heard about this tournament at least once with the corny commericials on ESPN, what exactly is this tournament all about?
The inaugural year of the WCH was instituted to allow hockey fans around the globe an opportunity to witness the best players in the world represent their countries. Since NHL players were not allowed to compete in the Olympics until 1998, the tournament was a welcome site for those who loved international hockey.
The first WCH brought about a monumental victory for the United States. Not quite the same as the “Miracle on Ice,” but still significant nonetheless. Our own Dustin Nelson wrote a piece describing the NHL Network’s “Orchestrating an Upset” documentary. Aside from the surprise upset win, the tournament was designed to replace the Canada Cup which ran from 1976-1991. A brief description of that event can be found here. At the time, Canada and the USA were joined by Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Russia, Germany, and Slovakia.
A second tournament was played in 2004, where Canada defeated Finland for the championship. Unlike the 2016 version where all games are being played in Toronto, the prior two were separated into two groups: North American and European pool, where all games in the European pool were played overseas.
This year brings about a bit of a different flavor to the tournament. No longer under IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) rules, all games will be played in Toronto under NHL rules, and the tournament will now be run by the NHL and NHLPA. Besides the usual suspects (Canada, Sweden, Finland, USA, Czech Republic, and Russia), two new teams will be present: Team North America and Team Europe. Team North America consists of 23-and-under players from North America, while Team Europe is made up of the remaining players not from the above mentioned European countries.
Group A is made up of Canada, Czech Republic, USA, and Europe while Group B consists of Sweden, Finland, North America, and Russia. Each team will play each other in their respective groups, with the top two from each group advancing to the semi-finals. The winner of the semi-final games advances to the finals, where they will compete in a best-of-three series.
Regardless of what you think of the event, the fact is there will be competitive hockey being played in September instead of October. While coaches, GMs, and fans of those participating in the event will collectively hold their breaths as their players take a hit, hockey fans will still tune in to watch what should be an entertaining and outstanding display of hockey. And with each team participating in three pre-tournament games, all participants should have much of the rust from the summer off their shoulder pads.
Remember, for all of your WCH needs, make sure to check out THW’s WCH page.