World Cup of Hockey Nice but Lacking
So stop the press Canada wins the World Cup of Hockey. Oh wait its not really that much of shock. Canada were the overwhelming favourites and the only real shock was that it was Team everyone else (sorry Europe) that did win. The really question in the aftermath is are the fans the real winners?
The NHL would like to think so but attendances were not great with midweek afternoon games understandably lacking attendees and atmosphere. Even a fan viewing party was cancelled for game 2 of the final after poor attendance for game 1. This is indicative of the issue the NHL faces because it has to convince fans that this is a good thing as it can not relay on history or tradition or uniqueness as it can with the playoffs or outdoor games.
This can be overcome with time. It can build on it history and the stories of previous years to produce a timeline that fans will look back on just as we do with the olympics and the playoffs. But it can only have time if the fans let it. To do this the World Cup needs some intensity. At times it felt like a preseason game or even an all star game with few hits. This is a major problem. Players will bring the intensity if they feel it is a worth while game but at the moment their priorities are to their club side not their national team.
In the past, in earlier carnations of the World Cup, particularly the Canada Cup this was not issue as players were not playing against their team mates. Kharlamov didn’t go back to playing with Dryden at the end of the tournament like Holtby and Ovechkin. To put it another way there was not enough incentive for Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin to hit Anze Kopitar hard into the boards behind the net as come the Monday morning they would be reporting to preseason camp in LA and if the Kings are to win another cup they will need Kopitar and Doughty fit and healthy.
It is not going to be easy for the NHL to overcome this. The use of selected teams was nice and did give Kopitar and Draisaitl a taste of international action that may not have come otherwise but it does not help intensity. Nor did having Team North America with Jack Eichal and Auston Matthews on it instead of the full USA team as they could have been.
It was nice competition but as it is I don’t see it replacing the Olympics or being more than a nice introduction to the season. The problem is when nice is used to refer to a hockey tournament it is not really what your hoping for.