With the conclusion of the World Cup of Hockey comes the realization that the sport still belongs to its founder, Canada. There was really never any doubt as to who was going to win the world best-on-best tournament, even from the time it was announced to the final buzzer. Despite a few blemishes, the Canadians cruised their way to an undefeated round robin followed by a semi-final victory over Russia and two game sweep of the overmatched Team Europe. Besides Canada’s domination, there were some other important takeaways from the tournament as well.
It’s not the Olympics
Well, of course it’s not, but I’m talking about the hype around the tournament. There’s just something about the Olympic atmosphere that makes it so much better than this tournament. Maybe it’s the fact that the Olympics put people in the competitive spirit, or the fact that other Olympic athletes are in the seats cheering on their fellow countrymen. Whatever the case may be, there is simply no way to match the Olympic craze that brings a nation together to watch hockey, especially Canada. The World Cup lacked this competitive spirit, one that Canadian hockey fans long for. With the International Ice Hockey Federation still considering whether it will send NHL players to the next Olympic event in South Korea, fans should be concerned about the lack of entertainment the World Cup offered.
Canada Really is That Good
Canada is hands-down the hockey capital of the world and it showed why in this tournament. Despite not having arguably the best defenseman in the world in Duncan Keith and Dallas Stars’ goal-scoring tandem of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin due to injuries, the Great White North still picked other teams apart with their incredible depth. The top line of Crosby-Bergeron-Marchand was by far the best, leading the way up front for the Canadians. On the back end, all six defensemen, including 2016 Norris Trophy winner Drew Doughty, contributed to an outstanding shut down system that nullified the few chances other teams did get. If they were lucky enough get past the Canadian skaters, they still had to try to put the puck past the best goalie in the world in Carey Price. Not an easy task, to say the least. Overall, the Canadian depth is something no other country has and is really the differentiator in international play. The fact that Braden Holtby wasn’t even dressed exemplifies the amount of skill Canada has. He won the Vezina trophy last year for being the best goalie in the NHL!
There were some Awesome Surprises
You probably could have guessed that the youngsters from North America were going to be fun to watch, but seeing it actually happen was far better than anyone could have imagined. Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews, and so on and so forth, all skating for the same team – something we may never see again. Although they didn’t quite have enough to make it to the playoff round, it was very fun to watch while it lasted. Their overtime win over Sweden capped off an unreal tournament for the young guns. None of these guys were over the age of 23. The future of North American hockey looks very bright indeed.
The other great surprise of the tournament came in the form of 8 different countries. Team Europe not only exceeded expectations, but they defied the logic of chemistry and showed how guys from all over the world can come together to achieve a common goal. They were certainly overmatched in the final against Canada, but if it weren’t for a 3-minute span when the train came off the tracks, they would have pushed the series to a deciding game. Anze Kopitar, Mats Zuccarello, and Tomas Tatar can all be applauded for their hand in carrying their team of relatively average players all the way to the finals against an incredible Canadian team. Bravo to Team Europe for their outstanding success that was inspirational for all underdogs.
All in all, the two-week long tournament showed the entire world why Canada enters these kinds of tournaments as heavy favourites. Sure they’ve had their struggles in recent World Junior Championships, but the fact remains that in the world best-on-best games, Canada is 16-0 since their preliminary round loss to the United States at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Yes, that’s two full tournaments without a loss. Should Canada be worried about this streak coming to an end? Connor McDavid might have something to say about that.