(Source: BleacherReport.com) – If the original news went by without being noticed, here it is again: The World Cup of Hockey takes place from Sept. 17-29 (if necessary, the third game in the best-of-three final will be played on Oct. 1) in Toronto, with eight teams competing for a trophy that unfortunately looks like a piece of glassware made by an inebriated craftsman. But, hey, who cares what the trophy looks like? These are bragging rights for a country to call itself the best in hockey. Yes, yes, there are too many international tournaments now, and the resumption of the World Cup (it hasn’t been played in this format since 2004) runs the risk of indifference from a larger sporting public that usually doesn’t start to notice hockey until the first snowfall.
Are we excited about this World Cup of Hockey? Yes? No? Does it matter? Who knows.
What we do know is that the World Cup, alongside the Winter Classic, is essentially the newest giant marketing event for the NHL. The league gets to make a ton of money on the product which in turn helps the visibility of their league. Over time this also helps the players make more money. It doesn’t hurt that ESPN is now involved so it’ll be thrown in front of as many unaware American eyes as possible. And for those of us who are already hockey fans the timing of the event couldn’t be any better. We’re ready for real games to be back. From a league standpoint this is a brilliant opportunity.
Personally, I’m not a “face painted red, white, and blue” fan of the World Cup of Hockey. Yes, I appreciate the entertainment value of it. You can’t ignore the best players in the world going head-to-head. But to go as far as to care about the outcome, I don’t. If anything I’ll be rooting for the young kids on Team North America. If they even get to the final it kind shows how gimmicky the entire thing is. However, it’d probably be the best thing for the ratings and certainly create a ton of unforeseen storylines for the media.
The only outcome I care about in this all-star showcase is that Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask, or any other Bruin get through it healthy. I’ve felt this way about NHLers in the mid-season Olympics too. It’s just not my thing. My international hockey interest lies in the World Juniors. There I can see future NHL stars and be exposed to new players for the first time. In a weird way, the World Juniors reminds me of the Little League World Series or the NCAA’s March Madness. There’s this greater sense of meaning and drama when you’re pulling for kids and teens, relative unknowns, when for some this may be their only shot on a huge stage.
And maybe that’s just a cultural thing. Canadian and European countries fans have always united and valued hockey wins at the international level more than American fans. 1980 kind of ruined current international competition for us that involves NHLers. The “Miracle on Ice” can never be replicated again and nothing can come close to what it meant. A bunch of hardworking American college kids, during the Cold War, taking out the Goliath Russian’s and Finn’s to win Gold. It’s impossible to top that. It’s not to say USA winning would be meaningless, but it won’t have any “us against them” national pride buzz to it. Today we love our own NFL more. And in terms of hockey, fans in the states are far more regional (NHL) and far less national.
So I guess you could say I’m just excited to see some hockey back on TV. And the World Cup of Hockey is going to be great entertainment. Is it enough for me to be invested in who wins? Not a chance. But if it ends up being a big hit for the NHL’s finances and salary cap growth then it’s all worth it.
Just stay healthy, Bergy.