With practices, fan events, and even coverage starting to kick into gear for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey set to officially kick off with some exhibition games in the next couple weeks, it seems that a total lack of apathy has gripped many in hockey fandom. If you’re unsure where to start, Greg Wyshynski’s piece at Puck Daddy, World Cup of Hockey: 10 baffling questions, answered gives a good synopsis on where things stand. If you’re still not sure you should interrupt your regularly scheduled beginning of football season to watch some hockey, here’s 8 reasons that might help.
- Hockey is hockey and even semi-competitive hockey is better than preseason hockey. Although I’m a football fan and looking forward to the kickoff of the season, I’d rather watch hockey any day of the week. With that in mind, despite the flaws and/or players leaving, the World Cup of Hockey is at least some level of competitive hockey, featuring the best in the world.
- This might be your best chance to be excused if you’re an American and you don’t want to cheer for Team USA. Most American hockey fans I’ve ever met cheer for US National teams in every international competition; the Olympics, the World Junior Champions, and the IIHF Championships. I’m no exception, except this year. First off, the team is coached by John Tortorella. He is neither someone I want representing my country, nor coaching my hockey team. Secondly, the lack of Stanley Cup Champion and breakout playoff performer Phil Kessel, even prior to revelations of a hand injury, is an embarrassment for this team and shows the likelihood that Tortorella will not bring his best to the tournament. Lastly, there’s always Team North America, which… why not, eh?
- It’s accessible for fans across the Eastern US with exhibition games and practices held at local rinks in Buffalo, Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC. While it might be another month before regular season hockey allows us to enjoy truly meaningful hockey, the World Cup of Hockey spread out the pre-tournament games and practices at rinks across the United States, including several practices at the Penguins’ practice facility in Cranberry that are open to the public.
- It’s not the Olympics. Personally, the Winter Olympics are great, especially when NHL’ers are allowed to participate and teams bring their best players and the desire to compete for their country and bring home a gold medal. The WCoH is not the Olympics and that’s a good thing. Instead of tension running high and players pushing through injury to play, we could get an enjoyable level of hockey beyond an exhibition or preseason game, with the added bonus of some intrigue.
- It’s not the IIHF World Championships either. At the end of each season, players from teams that either didn’t make the playoffs or had early exits join their fellow countrymen to compete in the IIHF World Championships, which aren’t really watched by many, and don’t often include participation from the best around, by nature of the best still usually participating in the NHL playoffs.
- Team North America could be fun to watch. A team full of players, under-23 years old, who no one really has any expectations for against teams like Canada or Sweden. For example, in practice, the top overall draft pick, Auston Matthews was slotted on the 4th line. Also, I hear that Team North America is the only team in the tournament that will be starting a goaltender who won the Stanley Cup this past year. Just saying.
- Because the finals game between Team Canada and Team Sweden should at least be somewhat entertaining. One of the things most can figure out prior to the start of this tournament is that on paper, Team Canada and Team Sweden are the standouts and poised to face each other in the finals.
- If nothing else, Hockey Twitter should be hilarious. Between the apathy, the confusing rules/format, and watching out for which of your favorite team’s players might get injured and cost the team that actually pays them in the short and/or long run, you could see the entirety of fans and media on twitter all come together to have a good laugh at how poorly Tortorella will have Team USA playing…among other things.