January 18, 2009

The World Cup Of Hockey Returns

In 1976 it was introduced as the Canada Cup. Darryl Sittler scored the heroic goal. The Czechs surprised us, beating the Soviets to the finals against Canada. And Bobby Orr had his swan song.

In 1981 the Soviets stormed back with vengeance, humiliating Canada 8-1 in the championship game.

In 1984, Paul Coffey and Mike Bossy teamed up to salvage a poor Canadian tournament to beat the Russians and take the championship series against Sweden.

In 1987 we witnessed the greatest hockey ever played. . . "Gretzky... to Lemieux...." Need I say more?

In 1991 Eric Lindros debuted, and the Americans emerged as the new threat. Yet Canada would still win what would prove to be the final Canada Cup.

In 1996 there were new countries, a new trophy and a new name - The World Cup of Hockey. Games were played across Europe and North America. The Americans completed their journey to the top, and knocked off Canada to win.

In 2004 the World Cup returned, but beneath the shadows of the stormy CBA clouds. On the eve of what prove to be a lost NHL season, Canada regained supremacy.

The Canada Cup/World Cup of Hockey had always been played with great irregularity. So it comes as no surprise the tournament has been on hiatus since 2004.

But now comes word that the World Cup of Hockey will return in 2011. ESPN's Scott Burnside broke the news, saying that the NHL and NHLPA have agreed how to divvy up the revenues and expenses of the event.

I definitely have an interest in the World Cup of Hockey. After all, I helped write the book on the tournament's history.

I have mixed feelings on it's return. Both sides have slighted it with it's irregularity so much that it has tarnished the event. Though I think the September event has provided some great hockey in the past, it is small in stature compared to the Olympics. And even a die hard like myself would like to enjoy more time in the summer's sun.

If they want to bring this back, fine, then do it. But do it right, and stop screwing it up. They need to commit to this regularly, every 4 years, preferably between Olympic games.

Of course the future of the Olympic participation is in the air. NHLPA director Paul Kelly told Hockey Night In Canada on Saturday night that the players are overwhelmingly in favor of returning to the Olympics, no matter where they are held. The NHL has never had an official position on future Olympics, although it is widely accepted that the owners no longer want to continue.

I find it interesting how in the past the players cried that there was just too much hockey for the top players from each country. The top players had a long NHL season and with the Olympics, they did not want to see precious weeks of their summer time eaten up the World Cup. It's funny how their position has changed now that the new CBA is structured to give them a better say in improving NHL revenues, and therefore their own salaries.

Which might also explain why the players have welcomed the plan to continue opening the NHL regular season in Europe for the forseeable future. The two sides hope to send 6 teams to Europe to open the 2009-2010 season, and 8 teams for 2010-2011.

With no guarantee of future World Cups beyond 2011, this is clearly a cash grab by all involved. They can hide behind their stances of growing the international game. If there was any truth to that at all, they would be announcing NHL participation at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, and beyond.

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