Sunday, April 29, 2012

On the Topic Of....The World Hockey Championships

While the Stanley Cup playoffs are on-going, another big tournament is happening. While it's not the "Holy Grail" of hockey, the World Championships is something that is often overlooked because it doesn't get too much publicity in the North American side of the globe, but this year's tourney holds a lot of weight to it.

Outside of the fact that there will be some bigger name NHLers there than usual, this tournament is the one that will determine which teams will make it into the Olympics and where they will be seeded in Sochi in 2014. Considering that only the top NINE teams will automatically make it into the Olympics out of the 12 nations playing, that'll leave three teams to battle with other 20 that have declared in order to see if they'll get into the Olympic games.

Of course, the fact that this really the professional equivalent of the the NIT tournament that college basketball has really makes this tournament a little dull for some people. Yet, that's only in North America.

The European fans are really nationalistic when it comes to this tournament. It's a big deal for them and they will come out in droves to support their home nations. A lot of European NHLers see the World Championship right up there with the Stanley Cup because they grew up thinking it was the biggest deal out there. That's why a lot of them really want to play in the Olympics, especially the Russians, because it's a big honor to play for the country, more than what the North Americans see it as.

Even so, it should be an interesting World Championship, even while the old guard of the NHLers-- Teemu Selanne, (maybe) Daniel Alfredsson [scratch that], and (maybe) Nicklas Lidstrom-- what it lacks in memorable names will leave the door open for younger players to get noticed and for some of the more underdog nations (like Slovakia) to jump up and surprise some people with their performance. You'll see a lot of teams with young talent, Canada really leading the way with draft-eligible Ryan Murray invited to camp and John Tavares, PK Subban, and others being on the roster already.

Yet, the question remains on whether the players make the tournament good or the tournament makes the players good. The Olympics busted out the likes of Tore Vikingstad and Mats Zuccarello-Aasan come alive from Norway to not only put their names out there-- but the country of Norway on the map for an emerging hockey nation. This is another place for players to really break out against top-level talent and it could make their stock go up and have them get NHL contracts as a result. That's a selling point to watch right there.

Of course, most people won't be able to watch the action from Finland and Sweden with the games being early in the morning and people working or sleeping will make them miss it, but it's always nice to have if you need some break from your work life and won't get caught if you find a feed of the game somewhere.

It may not be the Stanley Cup and it may remember a Mario Kart trophy, but in the end-- it is a meaningful achievement for some players, especially when it comes to actually representing your country.

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