It’s been referred to as the garbage bowl, the runners-up cup, and many more uncanny names, but the World Championship of Hockey (WHC) is starting to show more significance in the sport of hockey.
Sorry to all for not posting sooner, but, when you’re not a full-time TSN analyst/writer; some things have to take precedent over writing for the readers.
The WHC, although amusing to watch (in my mind anyway), is usually completely disregarded due to the much more attention grabbing playoff action of the NHL. No excuses needed. But the tournament itself is beginning to evolve and really play a significant role on the world stage. What I am referring to and I hope some of you have noticed is the substantial amount of upsets occurring in the tournament.
Now give me a list of excuses to why teams may not be performing to their usual level, the main being not all NHL players are overseas playing for their respective countries, and I will gladly agree with you. But merit needs to be given to what is happening.
About two years ago to this day I watched a documentary featuring countries such as Switzerland, Germany and even Norway and their respective developing hockey programs. Some of which even led by amateur to semi-pro coaches from my own Canada. The documentary really hit home the message that countries, previously regarded as no-name hockey countries, will be quickly developing into fifth, sixth, maybe even a medal finish or two. No more 9-1 games. Even though it’s not the Olympics I believe it’s evident that we are seeing this trend.
Interesting games thus far;
Germany over Russia: 2-0
Norway over Sweden: 5-4 (SO)
Germany over Slovakia: 4-3
Latvia almost beating Finland: 2-3 (SO)
Norway blanks Austria: 5-0
Denmark holding their own against Russia: 3-4
Canada & USA only beating Norway & France: 3-2
Switzerland over USA: 5-3
Saying it one more time, I am well aware that not all the players are overseas representing their respective countries but it’s more than just an evolution of the final scores. Watching games where France, a former non-qualifier, is not only barely losing but actually controlling the hockey game at times and executing successful plays and strategies. The intensity level from both sides of the hockey game is incredible and it makes for much closer games.
In retrospect, past games would feature (no offense meant to anyone) Belarus vs. Canada, if the score only came out 4-0 it was usually because the Belarussian goalie stood on his head or Canada just missed a lot of shots, it was never because Belarus dominated the second period only anything along those lines. With more funding to minor hockey, development programs in these countries and some ‘damn’ fine coaching, these teams are starting to become a proverbial thorn in the top Countries side.
It all begins at the WHC, teams gain confidence playing against ‘weakened’ top teams and see what it takes to beat these teams. Confidence on top of all of the previous mentioned developments and you’re looking at a round robin where Sweden, among other top teams, has to play full force to beat teams like France, Norway & Denmark. Although I love to see Canada dominating on the world stage I am really excited, it is fantastic for the sport of hockey and the competition on the world stage. It could potentially make for some interesting Olympic matches in 2014 and 2018.
Of course this is all providing the NHL plays in the Olympics in the future, but that of course is an entirely other article for another day.