On Monday both Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports, and Pierre LeBrun of ESPN wrote about the possibility of a Ryder Cup style tournament coming to the NHL. For the people who are not familiar with golf’s Ryder Cup it is a tournament were a team of golfers from the United States plays a team from Europe, much like a head-to-head playoff series. The NHL’s version would be North America versus Europe. Rumors are that this tournament will be played mid-season in 2017-2018 in Europe
First of all, I love the idea. They already take a 5 day break for the All-Star game. Why not take a 7-10 day break and play a 4 or 5 game series instead? A hockey Ryder Cup series would be a big TV draw and like the World Cup of Hockey the NHL will be able to put the broadcasting rights out on the table for highest bidder (ESPN will be broadcasting the World Cup in 2016). Also, having the tournament in Europe will potentially open more doors for advertising dollars. This could be a win for both NHL and NHLPA. It will be a new global hockey event that will increase revenue for the league, which will increase the salary cap, which will make player salaries increase.
A mid-season Ryder Cup style tournament for the NHL would be so much better than an All-Star game. The players would have take pride in the games, and after a few games it could get nasty once the competitive juices start flowing. I think this type of format would draw more casual fans to watch than the traditional All-Star Game as well. There is no doubt about it this tournament would be a lot of fun to watch.
The only issue that has me worried about this potential tournament is the timing of it. If the NHL and the NHLPA agreed to this it would most likely mean that NHL players are not going to the Olympics. The next winter games are in 2018, the same year the Ryder Cup style event would take place. Certainly an international event like this would be great, but it is not the Olympics. There is something extra to be said when you can say you are an Olympian, and you represented your country at the highest level. A Ryder Cup style tournament would not be that. It is a money grab by the NHL, which I am okay with. I just do not like the idea of not having the NHL players at the Olympics if it came down to it.
In the past the NHL has not been afraid of doing something different at the All-Star game. They have done a North America versus Europe game already, and they are currently having a player run fantasy draft to determine the rosters. The tournament would be so much better than a “football score” 17-14 All-Star game where the goalies are hung out to dry. I would be fine with the NHL keeping the Skills Competition portion of All-Star weekend as a part of this new tournament. Just do the tournament during the 2018-2019 season, not in an Olympic year.
If this tournament replaces the NHL players going to the Olympics I will not be happy about it, but I will still watch it and I am sure it will still be great. It will be interesting if/when more details come out about this concept and if the NHLPA would be willing to accept this instead of going to the Olympics. The jerseys would probably be sick too. As long as Adidas does not screw them up by trying to incorporate their logo into everything on the jersey.