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Ivey: Hockey’s World Cup is the real deal

| Thursday, September 8, 2016

On Monday, training camp for the eight teams participating in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey began. The rare tournament will last from Saturday, Sept. 17 to Saturday, Oct. 1 and will feature eight teams, Canada, the United Sates, Russia, Finland, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Team North America and Team Europe. All tournament games will be played at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto and will be broadcasted on ESPN networks.

The tournament will look a lot like the FIFA World Cup, with the best hockey players in the world representing their respective countries and competing against one another for world hockey domination. However, this tournament features a few twists. Only four teams will advance past the preliminary round and compete in the semifinals. The winners of the two semifinal games will play each other in a best of three final round. Two teams, Team North America and Team Europe, represent a number of countries, not just one. Team North America features players from Canada and the United States who are younger than 23 years old, while Team Europe features professional hockey players from European countries not known for hockey, like Slovenia, Italy and Germany. This is intended to ensure that the best hockey players in the world get to participate, making the tournament more exciting to watch.

The first World Cup of Hockey was held in 1996, when Team USA defeated Canada two games to one in the best of three final. The next World Cup wasn’t held until 2004, when Canada beat Finland in the final.

After a twelve-year hiatus, the tournament is back and the majority of the hockey world is excited about it. However, not everyone feels the excitement.

Many hockey writers and fans are criticizing the tournament for taking place too close to the NHL season and disrupting NHL training camps and the preseason schedule. Many of them claim most of the players don’t even want to play in the tournament and cite the fact that many players who were selected to play for their country’s team, like Duncan Keith, Sean Monahan, Jeff Carter and Henrik Zetterberg, have all dropped out of the competition in the past few weeks due to injuries they want to rehabilitate. They also fear the players who will play in the tournament risk injuring themselves by participating.

All I have to say to those people is this: Why not give the tournament a shot?

Those who know me best know that I’ll watch any international sporting tournament. Whether it’s the FIFA World Cup, the World Baseball Classic or the Olympics, there’s a good chance I’m watching it. My favorite international sports tournaments are the men’s and women’s ice hockey tournaments at the Winter Olympics every four years. The tournaments at the last two Winter Olympics in particular have been absolutely spectacular. Canada has won the gold in every one of them, but many memorable moments happened to Team USA also, like T.J. Oshie’s performance in USA’s victory over Russia in 2014. There are rumors that the NHL will not allow their players to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, so this might be the last chance in a while to watch NHL players compete for their countries on an international stage.

For the people saying the players don’t want to participate, my argument is simple: If they didn’t want to play they wouldn’t be playing. They could have said no to the invitation, but instead they accepted it because they want to represent their country and participate in a rare event. They know the injury risks. There are injury risks in every international tournament. But the players continue to play.

Instead of looking for flaws and things to complain about, why can’t we hockey fans just be excited about having the opportunity to watch the best players in the world play meaningful hockey against one another a couple of weeks before the actual NHL season starts? What’s so bad about that?

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