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In Defence of the World Cup of Hockey

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Sure it is gimmicky, but the NHL does not need the World Cup of Hockey to be a best on best tournament anymore.

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The World Cup of Hockey is coming back and there are already a lot of complaints about it. The reasons are because there are gimmicky teams involved and that means it is not a true World Cup. There is also the whole thing that the World Cup of Hockey will only ever be played in North America. It is time that we embraced it for what it is, instead of hate it for what it will never be.

The World Cup of Hockey stems from the Canada Cup; an event that Hockey Canada (then the Canadian Hockey Association) started in 1976 as a response to the rules against professional players playing in International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) events. The participation of Soviet players in the Olympics and World Hockey Championships was a sore spot because even though they were serving the Soviet Union in the military, their role in the military was to play hockey and train for it year round. Hockey Canada wanted a best on best tournament to be played, and so they created one that would let their professionals play against professionals from other countries. Not a bad plan.

The World Cup of Hockey unofficially died in 2004. Before the 2014 Sochi Olympics, rumblings came about of the NHL and NHLPA trying to get something going again and reviving it. They finally did, announcing the tournament for September 2016. The complaints about it came out almost instantaneously. There is the whole "Rest of Europe Team" and the beloved "U-24 North America Team" because adding these teams make the event a gimmick versus a serious best on best competition like it used to be. And that's okay.

The NHL will continue to go to the Olympics. Not because it is convenient or easy for them, but because the players love it. The NHL and NHLPA have created another revenue stream with the World Cup of Hockey. There is no need for another true best on best competition. Instead of having another event identical to the Olympics, the NHL is putting all their best in a tournament and ensuring that players from minnows will for sure play. The event will be on small ice, always. It will be the best NHL and various European League players in the world playing hockey. No good player gets left behind. Young players will not be snubbed and no European player will not be included because his country is a minnow.

There are some odd rules, sure. The fact that the only way U-24 players from Canada and the United States of America play in the tournament is if they are on that team seems limiting (and something that may have to be revisited before the event) and the inclusion of the Czech Republic is a bit surprising (until you realize they are storied participants since the days of the Canada Cup. Getting the World Cup of Hockey back is a good thing.

The NHL and the NHLPA see the World Cup of Hockey for what it is: a showcase. There is no longer a need for a best on best tournament anymore because the Olympics are a thing that the NHL does now. The NHL and NHLPA have approached the tournament from a different angle because of that. They have figured out how to get the most star players into the tournament without sacrificing the quality of hockey being played. Instead of making the World Cup of Hockey an Olympic replacement, they have made it an Olympic supplement, allowing the Olympics to be a viable option going forward. This is smart on the NHL and NHLPA's part. For the fans? More good hockey without goons.