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Level of Play and Scoring Leaders in Past World Hockey Tournaments

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It literally isn't every year that there's a major world hockey tournament featuring the best players from every country. Here's a list of every significant international tournament over the last 40 years:

Tournament Winner 2nd 3rd Level #Teams #NHL Players
2006 Olympics Sweden Finland Czech 1.15/1.52 12/8 129
2004 World Cup Canada Finland Czech 1.31 8 139
2002 Olympics Canada USA Russia 1.34 8 132
1998 Olympics Czech Russia Finland 1.51 8 105
1996 World Cup USA Canada Sweden 1.51 8 117
1991 Canada Cup Canada USA Finland 1.39 6 68
1987 Canada Cup Canada USSR Sweden 1.47 6 56
1984 Canada Cup Canada USSR Sweden 1.31 6 50
1981 Canada Cup USSR Canada Czech 1.22 6 54
1976 Canada Cup Canada Czech Sweden 1.43 6 40
1972 Summit Series Canada USSR 1.87 2 26

The "Level" of the tournament indicates how difficult it was for an NHL player to record a point in the tournament relative to his regular season performance in the NHL. This number encompasses many things: a higher level of play, difficulty getting a regular shift, etc. As you can see from the chart, it's difficult to put together a tournament with the 6-8 best teams in the world that's more than 40-50% higher caliber than the NHL as a whole. And when the pool is extended to 12 teams, as it was for the preliminary round of the 2006 Olympics, the level of play drops substantially. At this moment, there are really only seven competitive nations, so it's no surprise adding five more drops the level of play; at the same time, culling the eight best team from that group of 12 improves the level of play in the later stages of the Olympics.

And now for something slightly different...The all-time leaders in top-level international competition. First, games played:

Player GP
Chelios 47
Gretzky 45
Numminen 36
Modano 36
Selanne 33
Coffey 33
Foote 32
Larionov 32
Messier 32
Jagr 31

There are very few surprises in the scoring department:

Player G Player A Player PTS
Gretzky 20 Gretzky 48 Gretzky 68
Selanne 18 Coffey 25 Sundin 39
Sundin 18 Modano 23 Selanne 35
Makarov 16 Sundin 21 Makarov 31
Hull 14 Messier 20 Hull 31
Krutov 14 Koivu 20 Modano 31
Lemieux 14 Kasatonov 19 Coffey 31
Bossy 13 Alfredsson 18 Krutov 30
Sakic 12 Selanne 17 Lemieux 29
Tkachuk 12 Hull 17 Koivu 29

The leaders in penalty minutes are an interesting crew:

Player PIM
Keith Tkachuk 83
Erich Goldmann 56
Ilya Kovalchuk 49
Jiri Slegr 41
Jarko Ruutu 41
Darius Kasparaitus 40
Petr Svobod 39
Mats Sundin 38
Mark Messier 36
Andrei Kovalenko 34

Keep in mind that I've only included players who played in the NHL in these top ten tables. I don't believe that any of the old Eastern Bloc stars who never came over to North America cracked these lists, though it's possible some of them could be on the penalties list. (I also didn't include some of the 2- or 3-game series like Rendezvous '87; small sample size...)