After the NHL ended nearly 20 years of Olympic participation at the 2018 PyeongChang games, they’re set to return to the 2022 games. At least for the time being.
The first COVID hiccup of the 2021-22 season has caused the Senators to postpone games and immediately set off alarm bells regarding the NHL’s ability to withdraw from the games should additional postponements occur. How this all proceeds depends on a whole lot of factors no one can predict. The current surge in COVID cases certainly doesn’t bode well for avoiding additional outbreaks and postponements. But there’s no way to know if and when exactly another outbreak could come.
This all puts a cloud of uncertainty around if players will ultimately play in Beijing as it sounds like the league is happy to find any excuse to avoid actual participation in the games. That’s disappointing for anyone who relishes the opportunity to watch the best-on-best tournament and savors the quadrennial event. Whether or not NHL players ultimately make the trip to China for the 22 games won’t be officially determined in January, but it seems likely that if another postponement or two occurs in November or December, the league would pull the plug.
Hopefully it doesn’t come to that and the league’s stars are able to represent their countries once again. A men’s tournament with NHL talent is the best possible outcome for the event and would ideally shed more light on the women’s tournament which will have Canada and the US on another gold medal collision course.
The issues with the NHL at the Olympics are well documented at this point. The league is not shy about advertising their position on the matter, though I can’t help but think their inability to capitalize on their participation has more to do with how they manage the event and less to do with shutting down for a period each Olympic cycle.
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The return of the World Cup of Hockey coincides nicely with the Sabres’ resurgence. The puck will drop on the event over two years after Sam Reinhart was selected in Philadelphia, casting one of the largest stones of Buffalo’s rebuild.
As the Sabres continue to grow from cellar dweller to competitor, their roster will gain more and more notoriety. Jack Eichel already commands a great deal of attention and players like Reinhart, Ryan O’Reilly and Rasmus Ristolainen are growing into stars in their own right. Thanks to the format of next fall’s World Cup, the Sabres will have an opportunity to have a number of players represent the team at the re-tooled international tournament.
The introduction of the North American Young Stars and European All Star teams opens additional for many of Buffalo’s players to step onto the Air Canada Center ice next fall. Some of the names that will follow are going to be no brainers in terms of participation while others will be admitted long shots. Here’s a look at which Sabres players will be, at the very least, on the watch list for next year’s World Cup. Continue reading →
The long wait for the World Cup of Hockey’s return is almost over and I can’t wait to see the event back on the ice next fall.
There is some contention over the choice to include a pair of teams who aren’t connected to any one country. The European All Stars, made up of players from countries not named Sweden, Finland, Russia or the Czech Republic, and the North American Young Stars teams will allow the league to showcase more star talent in the short tournament. The two teams have drawn the ire of some, particularly the Young Stars team which will pull American and Canadian players under the age of 23.
While Team Europe’s melting pot roster will be star-studded, the team isn’t pulling talent from other nations participating in the tournament. The same cannot be said of the North American Young Stars who will likely wind up with three or four players who would have otherwise suited up for the Americans alone.
I, for one, love the idea of the Young Stars team. As this isn’t the Olympics and there still doesn’t appear to be a long-term answer for the structure and schedule of the tournament, there’s no reason not to introduce a new wrinkle or two to help put more star power into the games. Each time the Olympics come around there’s discussion over how good a second Canadian squad would be. This practice isn’t far off from giving the Canadians another entry, there just happens to be a few Americans sprinkled in. Continue reading →
The World Cup of Hockey will be returning. After a ten-year absence, the tournament will officially return in 2016. Per Pierre LeBrun’s report, it’s simply a matter of ironing out the final details of the agreement before making a formal announcement.
Re-instituting the World Cup could mean any number of things with some wondering if it means the league is bracing for a divorce from Olympic participation. Further, the timing of the tournament itself will likely fall prior to the regular season, which should ensure full participation of the world’s best players.
One advantage this tournament gives the league is greater control over the product being produced. Hand-picked venues avoid the time zone constraints created by many Olympic host cities (a primary concern regarding the next two Winter Games). The 2004 event saw games played in Toronto, Montreal, St. Paul, Helsinki, Stockholm, Cologne and Prague. Most of those venues also served the 1996 World Cup.
The 2016 event offers the league and the event’s organizers an chance to showcase another group of cities around the world and I have to wonder if Buffalo earns consideration as a host city. Continue reading →
Due in part to this year’s NHL lockout, the decision to send NHL players to the 2014 games has been delayed much longer than some may have expected.
A big part of the issue is the significant time difference between North America and Sochi which will drastically decrease the impact that having the NHL’s best on the Olympic stage will provide. Unlike the 2010 games in which nearly every game was broadcast in primetime and the impressive run by the US turned the eyes of the nation to the sport of hockey, Sochi is eight hours ahead of the East coast and that will cause major issues for televising games in North America.
The eight hour difference isn’t nearly as big of an issue as the potential locations for the next two Winter Olympic sites. Pyeongchang, South Korea will host in 2018 and there are no North American bids for the 2022 games either. That means that another European or Asian country will serve as host thus putting the next two Olympic games on a significant time difference from North America. With that in mind, I wonder if the 2014 games will be the last time the NHL provides the athletes for hockey at the Olympics – that is until another North American city hosts.
With that in mind, I have a strong feeling that the 2016 reiteration of the World Cup of Hockey will be more significant that a one-off of the event that was so well received (in hockey circles)in 1996 and 2004. Continue reading →