World Cup of Hockey Shouldn’t Replace the Olympics

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Iginla… Crosby. CROSBY SCORES! THE GOLDEN GOAL! AND CANADA HAS ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME OLYMPIC GOLD!”

Nearly five years since Sidney Crosby‘s now infamous Golden Goal on February 28, 2010, Chris Cuthbert’s call still rings through the memories of the millions of Canadians that watched that Olympic Men’s Hockey Gold Medal Final. And now, five years later, it seems as if generations to come will never get the opportunity to watch their NHL heroes don their nation’s jerseys and fight for the most coveted medal in international hockey.

World Cup of Hockey Shouldn’t Replace the Olympics

Yesterday in Columbus, Ohio, Gary Bettman addressed the media to announce a few big events coming in 2016. The was the first outdoor game of the year, a Montreal-Boston Winter Classic to be played at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro on January 1st. Then they announced the NHL Stadium Series, which will see the Minnesota Wild host the Chicago Blackhawks (another outdoor game, really?) on February 21, 2016, at TCF Bank Stadium while Detroit will head over to Coors Field to play the Colorado Avalanche.

Then came the most important announcement yet. The NHL announced that the league will host the World Cup of Hockey, to be played in Toronto, from September 17 to October 1, 2016.

And yes, you read that right, the NHL will host this tournament, meaning they will generate all revenue from it, which will then be split among the league and the NHLPA.

The tournament will feature eight teams, the traditional hockey powers of Canada, U.S.A., Czech Republic, Russia, Sweden and Finland plus two brand-new, unconventional, international hockey squads; the European All-Stars and the Youngstars. The European All-Star team will be filled of NHL players from countries outside of the big six, like Slovakia, Switzerland, Slovenia, Germany, Norway and Latvia.

The Youngstars team is an even stranger choice, considering it will be made up of under-23-year-olds from Canada and the U.S.. Don’t forget, Canada and the States have a very strong rivalry going, particularly at the World Junior level, and mixing players that battled against each other in the annual junior tournament up to three years prior might not be the smartest idea.

A lingering problem for the two new teams is that they are not a nation and this is supposedly the World Cup. Now, just imagine if a team comprised of the world’s best under-23 players and the best players of non-qualifying nations were to compete in the famous FIFA World Cup. It would be extremely ridiculous, right? Bettman doesn’t think the same for the World Cup of Hockey.

Jack Eichel, Connor McDavid, Alex Galchenyuk, Aaron Ekblad, Johnny Gaudreau, Seth Jones, Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon are just some players that will be deprived from their nation’s teams and forced to settle their national differences and play an international tournament under the Youngstars name come fall 2016. Of course that is a good team, but they won’t be anywhere  as good as the six senior teams or even the other made-up team. Goaltending will also be a big issue, as most goalies don’t get their shot in the NHL until around their mid-20s and only hit their prime around their 30s.

John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks will have just celebrated his 23rd birthday by the time the World Cup rolls around and is looking to be the early favourite to be the Youngstars goalie in the tournament. He would have to go up against the likes of Carey Price, Jonathan Quick, Pekka Rinne, Henrik Lundqvist, Sergei Bobrovsky and Ondrej Pavalec.

I guess you can say the Youngstars are most like Young-Underdogs.

Bettman has a mission with this tournament; over-rule the Olympics and make it become the greatest international senior-level hockey event. He’s dreaming if he thinks that will happen. Those who have won Olympic gold will say things like, “I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a kid” and “it’s almost a dream come true.” Those players won’t say the same about winning the vased-trophy of the World Cup of Hockey, that’s for sure.

Martin Brodeur, Shane Doan, Dany Heatley, Jarome Iginla, Roberto Luongo, Patrick Marleau, Brenden Morrow, Scott Niedermayer and Joe Thornton were all on the Vancouver ice celebrating Crosby’s gold five years ago, and they also won the 2004 World Cup of Hockey for Canada. With the exception of Brodeur and Niedermayer, who won multiple Stanley Cups, any of those guys will tell you the 2010 Gold Medal was the best thing to happen to them in their careers. It’s way ahead of the World Cup on the list of highlights of their career.

Bettman isn’t a fan of the Olympics because something of green (or multi-coloured and plastic in Canada) called money. The NHL makes no revenue off the Olympics and the players get relatively small bonuses if they win a medal for their country. The World Cup of Hockey would allow Bettman to suck out as much money from displaying an international ice hockey tournament as possible. He sees dollar signs all over the World Cup and wants to use it as an excuse to not send his players to the 2018 Olympics.

Pigs will fly when the World Cup could be considered an alternative to the Olympics. Only eight teams compared to twelve- but only six true nations- will compete. Sean Campbell of TSN 690 Montreal said yesterday “this is more of a showcase. It shouldn’t be called the World Cup. Maybe it should be the International Series. It will be a great hockey tournament to watch, but it’s not the Olympics.” He couldn’t be more right about that.

For fans, this will be a great, exciting and competitive tournament to watch, with all of the eight teams fielding a good roster. But for the players and for smaller hockey nations, this isn’t the best tournament available. That’s what the Olympics are for. The World Cup of Hockey could be used to showcase great hockey on the Olympic off-years but it shouldn’t be replacing the Olympics. The Olympics is the best there is, and Bettman’s money and new tournament shouldn’t be stopping that.

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