While some NHL rivalries are being swept aside in the name of national pride, others are being renewed for the first time since the 2014 Sochi Olympics as the World Cup of Hockey begining in Toronto on September 17. It is the first time since 2004 that a World Cup title will be awarded for Hockey; national teams usually compete at IIHF World Championships in May.
This NHL sanctioned championship will be a little different from IIHF Worlds. Because IIHF Worlds takes place in May, the top players from the NHL tend to be leading their teams through the playoffs. The NHL players on the IIHF Worlds rosters are from teams that did not make the playoffs or got eliminated in the first round. Placing the World Cup of Hockey right before NHL training camps open increases opportunity for some of the NHL’s stars to play for their country again.
The tournament itself begins similar to IIHF Worlds, where participating countries are split evenly into two groups, A and B. Six games are played within the groups, with each of the eight teams playing three games, before advancing to a knockout stage. Group A’s top two teams will play each other in a one game semifinal with the winner advancing on to the final; Group B will do the same. It differs from IIHF Worlds in the final round, where the World Cup champion will be decided in a best-of-three series.
The teams are a little different from the typical National teams. In addition to the six regular national teams: United States, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Republic, there are two special teams. Team Europe is essentially made up of the best of the rest of the world. European countries like Germany, Slovakia, Switzerland and France are all represented under Team Europe. Team North America is the eighth and final team of the tournament, made up of the best American and Canadian players under the age of 23.
Among those playing in the World Cup are recent Stanley Cup champions Sidney Crosby (Canada), Carl Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist (Sweden), Evgeni Malkin (Russia), Matt Murray (North America) and Olli Maatta (Finland).
Selections from the other teams’ 23-man rosters include Tyler Seguin, Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Toews, Shea Weber and Carey Price (Canada), Jack Eichel, Connor McDavid, Brandon Saad and Aaron Ekblad (North America), Patrick Kane, Joe Pavelski, Jonathan Quick and Ryan McDonagh (USA), Mats Zuccarello, Anze Kopitar, Marian Hossa and Zdeno Chara (Team Europe), Gabriel Landeskog, the Sedin twins, Erik Karlsson and Henrik Lundqvist (Sweden), Alex Ovechkin and Artemi Panarin (Russia), Jakub Voracek (Czech Republic) and Tuukka Rask and Pekka Rinne (Finland).
Each team is made of thirteen forwards, seven defensemen and three goalies.
In pre-tournament exhibition games to this point, North America has made an excellent showing shutting Europe out in a 4-0 opening game. People are saying this team could be the ones to take it all the way due to the speed they have being made up completely of young people.
Gameplay begins for the championship at the Air Canada Center in Toronto on September 17, and continues through October 1 ahead of an October 12 start for the NHL regular season.
ESPN will be airing all of the games throughout World Cup play.