World Cup of Nothing
The season is coming to a close with 2 of the biggest prizes in the sport on the line. The NHL is gearing for the Stanley Cup final and the World Championships are at the knockout phase. It is a historical clash and one the NHL is aiming and failing to win with its World Cup of Hockey.
The NHL has tried this before but has said some nations are not strong enough to compete with the Canada, Russia and Sweden of the hockey community. To combat this the NHL has created a team Europe and team North America to let players such as Slovenia’s Anze Kopitar or Germany’s Thomas Griess to play on a stronger side. The issue is this totally fails to capture the hearts particularly in Europe.
It does this because there is little common European identity for Europeans to get behind especially when they have a national team. That feeling is perpetuated by the fact that months earlier many of the players could have been playing for the national team Â at the World Championships.
That is not where it ends though. Germany’s win over the USA and finishing third in their group ahead of the Americans (despite being tipped for bottom spot) shows that just because they do not have a star studied NHL line up they can not only compete but win. Denmark’s performance is also as surprising beating the Czech Republic and making the quarterfinals.
Its not just this year. Belarus performance last year, France’s victory over Canada lives long in the memory as well. You could say that it is because the top players in the world are missing as they are playing in the NHL playoffs. True this year Benn, Seguin, Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin and co are missing but if you go back to the Winter Olympics in 2014 the NHL did not have that excuse. In that tournament Slovenia and Latvia both made the quarterfinals with Latvia eliminating Switzerland on the way.
If the NHL is serious about the international game then it needs to get its players into the Olympics. It is a platform for not only hockey fans or sports fans but for all and as the creditability its World Cup will never have with its cobbled together teams of Europe and North America Â and lack of transparent qualifying. Fans love a story and the fight of lowly Hungary in this years World Championships with its first win at that level since the 1930’s has captured the imagination. The World Cup of Hockey will not have that and will be glorified preseason event akin to an All Star Game.