Number of Olympic Teams Should Be Reduced

Most hockey fans can’t wait for the men’s hockey tournament at the Olympics to start, but this best-on-best always gets off to a mediocre start at best. There is an easy solution to that by simply trimming a couple teams from the Games.

In the first three days of men’s hockey there are two of a possible nine games that the legitimate hockey fan is really looking forward to. These two games being the Czech Republic against Slovakia, which airs at the far from primetime hour of about midnight tonight and at the same hour tomorrow night when the Slovaks face off against offensive-charged Russians.

You don’t exactly have to be a rocket scientist, brain surgeon or have other worldly hockey intelligence to know that there are seven teams with a real shot at winning this thing, so why are there five other teams?

I know it’s very prideful for nations such as Latvia, who have fantastically loud and underrated fans, to see their team get walloped by the world’s best, but that’s not showcasing hockey. If this tournament wants to be all that it can be cut down the number of teams to between eight and 10. This way you get two pools and there isn’t three days of teams romping the lesser lights by five goals or more.

When this tournament finally gets going I’ll be glued to my television, but for now the outcomes are totally predictable. The games such as last night’s and tonight’s with those two exceptions will make you yearn for a Toronto-Chicago matchup.

Yesterday both the Latvians and the Norwegians looked like the Washington Generals to Canada and Russia’s Harlem Globetrotters. It was pretty surprising the Canadians didn’t have the lead after 20 minutes, but they sure made up with it with eight goals in the next two periods. The Russians made quick work of the Latvians 8-2.

The only game of the day that was worthwhile watching was the American game, which revealed a seemingly weak team in Uncle Sam’s skaters. Sure, the U.S. handily beat Switzerland 3-1, but it was a tough task. America showed that it has plenty of work to do before their next game, but luckily for them that game is against the notoriously sub-par Norwegians.

In essence, the first two games for America are glorified practices to allow their team to gel, but wouldn’t it be far more entertaining and better for hockey if they were playing another of the Big Seven Teams? These teams also have to learn how to play together in a short period of time. It is amazing to think how well these teams were able to play with just one practice under their belts, but that is the situation.

With a smaller number of teams rivalries could be enhanced. Rivalries such as the Americans and Canadians could be promised two games against each other with a possible third later on. And who wouldn’t love to see the Americans play the Canadians or the Russians take on the Swedes another time instead of watching a blowout?

These earlier games, which probably wouldn’t be as good as the later ones because the team hasn’t gotten used to each other yet, would be stage setters. By the gold-medal or playoff rounds these countries could have built a rivalry with a non natural rivalry and non-hockey fans would be rewarded with more entertaining games.

For this Olympics, however, wake me up when things get important.

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