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The World Cup of Hockey highlights international talent

By David Song, September 27 2016 —

The 2016 World Cup of Hockey has already generated a number of memorable moments on the international stage. Chief among these was Team USA’s shocking fall from grace — they did not win a single game leading up to their elimination on Sept. 20. This year’s tournament was a major success, with hundreds of hockey fans across the nation tuning in to watch Canada’s international dominance.

Once a regularly held event, the last World Cup of Hockey took place in 2004, with Canada claiming the championship. Going forward, it will be held every four years. While the World Cup may not hold significance in the eyes of some fans, its re-emergence is fantastic news for the sport of hockey.

Toronto’s Air Canada Centre has been a packed house all tournament with international representation and local fans. The electric atmosphere easily rivalled that of an NHL tilt in a hockey-rich market, and the players hold nothing back, competing as if every shot matters. In addition to the talented on-ice product, the World Cup also has several notable advantages over more established international tournaments.

The Ice Hockey World Championships — although a high-profile event in its own right — overlaps with NHL playoffs, which means that no superstars on the league’s contending squads can ever participate. While the World Championships are played with national teams, they never present a showcase of every nation’s best facing off.

One tournament that does feature best versus best is the Winter Olympic Games — at least historically. But given the complex debate over insurance between the NHL and the International Olympic Committee, it is no guarantee that NHL players will go to Pyeongchang in 2018 or to any subsequent Olympics. The Olympic hockey tournament might be changed forever, leaving the World Cup as the only event in which fans can watch the titans of professional hockey clash for national pride.

An international tournament like the World Cup of Hockey will only serve to grow the sport of hockey at home and abroad. This is done in part through the implementation of creative all-star squads like Team Europe, which brings together the best athletes from smaller European nations and gives them a chance to take on — and defeat — established hockey countries like the United States.

Arguably even more exciting was Team North America. The 23-and-under squad was one of the fastest and most dynamic in the tournament, as evidenced by their entertaining 4–3 overtime win over Sweden on Sept. 21. Team North America resembled a dream roster normally found only in a video game, and regardless of their elimination, they captured the imaginations of hockey enthusiasts from coast to coast.

This is what makes the World Cup special. By showcasing hockey’s best to an international audience in unorthodox ways, it helps grow the sport beyond nations that already love it, expanding and shoring up fandoms across the globe. While everyone hopes that NHL players will attend Pyeongchang 2018, the World Cup of Hockey in 2020 should be an adequate substitute.

It has never been a better time to love hockey.

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