Who Cares About The Hockey World Championships?
On May 9 the IIHF World Championships starts in Belarus. But my question is, who cares?
This is a tournament that has lost all of its prestige years ago, as they continue to have the event every single year. It sure doesn’t help that it takes place during the NHL playoffs or that it’s being held in Belarus.
The European teams are mostly made up of players from the domestic leagues as the top talent is still involved in the NHL playoffs. And even if some of the star players missed out on the quest for the Stanley Cup, a lot of them say “no thanks” when the national coaches comes calling. It has been a long season with the compressed schedule and the Olympics in Sochi. So why even bother having the World Championship during an Olympic year?
If IIHF would change it so that it would be held every fourth year, I believe a larger amount of NHL players would answer the call as it wouldn’t be something where they could say “eh, there’s always next year.”
For example, Sweden put out calls to over a dozen NHL players, including stars like Erik Karlsson, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Victor Hedman, Niclas Bäckström and the Sedin twins. All said “no thank you” for one reason or the other. The Swedish team that got announced on Monday only included three NHL players (Anders Nilsson, Mattias Ekholm and Mikael Backlund).
The stars for Team USA, when writing this they still have yet to fill the last five roster spots, are Tyler Johnson, Seth Jones and Johnny Gaudreau. Only one of the seven defencemen is born in the 1980s (Jeff Petry born in 1987) the rest are born in the 90s. In fact, Team USA only has one (!) player over the age of 30, and that’s Tim Stapleton who plays for AK Bars Kazan in the KHL.
And while it’s going to be interesting to see these kids play, it shows how USA Hockey views this tournament, which is as a way to give young players a chance to get some senior international experience.
Team Canada has pretty good team, they still have five spots open, with a healthy mix of young and old. They have young guns such as Sean Monahan, Jonathan Huberdeau and Mark Scheifele to go along with veterans like Jason Chimera, Joel Ward and Kevin Bieksa. But this team is far from the best team they could put on the ice if all available players would accept the invitation.
I’m still going to watch the games because I’m a hockey addict. But even if Sweden would somehow manage to win the tournament, it wouldn’t feel like a historic moment such as an Olympic medal does.
So I hope that IIHF will reconsider and make a change for the better so that the World Championships can become something that the casual fan or even sports fans in general actually gets excited for. Because right now, it feels like if you’re not a hockey junkie, the tournament is irrelevant.