As the NHL has shown their hand that the Olympics are probably not going to be in the cards for their players this year, a lot of fans have begun clamoring for the potential for a World Cup of Hockey to possibly replace the tournament for the players. While a cute idea at reconciling that the NHL could offer the player-
Wait, World Cup of Hockey? What is that?
Oh right, maybe I should’ve started there.
The World Cup of Hockey is an international tournament run by the NHL using NHL rules instead of the International Ice Hockey Federation rules, usually run a couple of weeks before the NHL’s preseason, started in 1996.
When was this done last?
2016. They plan on doing this in 2024 as well. Instead of having teams from Germany or Slovakia or the like, they had a team that comprised most of Europe (notably NOT the Scandinavian countries), and an Under-23 team for USA/Canadian rookies called “Team North America”. They had a cool jersey.
Is this seriously on an Olympic setup?
Well, funny story. This idea started in 1996 after the league decided that they didn’t need to go to the Olympics the first time, and then waited till 2004.
The year the lockout hit, and the resultant CBA let them go back.
It was only after another CBA fight that they were able to do the 2016 tournament after getting told they weren’t going back to the Olympics. And then they got to go back and my head hurts and you’re losing interest let’s just talk about why this won’t happen this offseason.
The Tournament is and would be an absolute nightmare to set up
The NHL themselves stated recently that it takes a little over a year to actually put a World Cup of Hockey together, and the last one still had quite a bit of consternation from fans given that the NHL’s hockey players suddenly showed up and began getting hurt by the truckload given that their season technically began somewhere in the middle of September.
Further, it isn’t just “organize a tournament”, it’s “announce teams, GMs and let them build a team for a tournament, where a lot of guys will probably still be having offseason surgeries and rehabbing for next season with no guarantee that ESPN will actually put any of that content on their channel, like last time.“
Understandably, it would be A Bit Of Work, and the NHL kind of hates that.
Why would the NHL players risk it at all for a medal? Isn’t the Stanley Cup the most prestigious award in the sport?
Yeah here’s the thing; this is a matter of perspective, as they’re both considered the highest honor you can get in the sport.
Sure, you might think the cup is more prestigious because of the mythology around the Cup, but an NHL player might see them as roughly on the same category, mostly because of stuff like this:
Or even the fact that this game happened or could happen again:
While obviously movies like Miracle have mythologized the college player hitting the ice and beating a bunch of hardened pros, the fact of the matter is that for many, many, many Canadians, Sidney Crosby’s “Golden Goal” is a modern classic. Kids who were 10-11 years old at the time and lost their minds watching that game are now slowly matriculating their way into the league just as much as they lost their minds watching their favorite star win the cup (maybe).
Which leads into my final, much more poignant issue...
The World Cup of Hockey just doesn’t mean as much as the Olympics
Look, say as you will about the rampant corruption the IOC deals in every waking minute it’s alive, but there’s something undisputable about the Olympics themselves, the physical games themselves.
...And that it’s generally pretty exciting? And feels like it means something?
The thing about the WCoH is that while it’s nice for the NHL to at least make back some of the cash they’d otherwise be losing from sending their players on a two week vacation to Beijing, it’s also run by the NHL. A gate-driven, ultimately very localized league that only really knows how to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs feel “big”. The thing is about the Stanley Cup, and as wonderful as it is, it’s awarded every year. You have to scratch, bite, snarl, and claw your way to the top every single year. It’s called the hardest trophy in sports to win for a reason.
But someone does win it annually. There are only very few years that the Cup was ever not awarded. And as a result, you have to do something spectacular in order to stand out. You have to really work hard to distinguish yourself as a part of the “X-ty-X Y’s that won it all.”
In the Olympics, even being there is an accomplishment on it’s own. And to be part of the team that wins it all? That launches you into a very different category. A category where you go beyond “a team you remember forever” to “maybe becoming a part of a piece of art”.
They don’t make movies about real NHL teams winning the Stanley Cup. They make movies about the Olympics if the team does something crazy like win.
And again, it’s for a plastic trophy. At least at the Olympics you get a medal. Just wait to go to Milan.
But what about the Kraken? You mean to tell me they seriously missed a chance to have an Olympian in their ranks?
No, Alex True might still have a chance as he’s typically going back and forth between the NHL and AHL. Denmark is an outside chance of medaling, but that’s not a big deal.
So we might have to become huge Alex True stans in February?
I plan to!