If you’ve ever been a season ticket holder in the NHL you know what a money grab those pre-season games are. Most, if not all, teams charge full price for those games. Given that there are usually about four home pre-season games each year, that’s a 10% bump up in the cost of your season tickets.
I finally gave up my tickets this year, but that was always the thing that stuck in my craw the most every year. Paying full price to see a bunch of guys that had no business being in the NHL playing meaningless games. And once I couldn’t tell the difference between the pre-season and the regular season, it was time to get out.
But enough about meaningless regular seasons, let’s talk about the World Cup of Hockey.
I don’t know about you, but this spectacle just isn’t doing it for me. It’s gimmicky. It’s meaningless. And it’s a blatant money grab. I mean, I know there aren’t any games being played here, but have you seen those ticket prices?
Speaking of money grabs, they’re so expensive Christy Clark would’ve put a tax on foreigners that wanted to go to a game if they were held here. Gotta get a cut of the action.
Anyway, besides the prices, the format itself is just not doing it for me. There’s nothing really at stake here. Not even international bragging rights like at previous World Cup or Canada Cup tournaments. Think about it, no matter who wins Canada and the US have the built-in cop-out that they weren’t allowed to pick from all of their players. Sure, neither team would likely have taken more than one or two of the kids that were restricted to playing for the North American team, but the point is that this set-up automatically ensures it’s not a best-on-best tournament, at least in perception, if not in reality.
That being said, Team North America does make things interesting from one perspective at least: it presents us with a bit of a natural experiment to test how skill and speed does against character and experience. There are plenty around the league that have this fascination with guys that “know how to win”, and this tournament will give us a chance to see how that experience matches up against unbridled skill.
Even some of the players think this way. Just this week, Drew Doughty, apparently forgetting that he was probably the best defenseman on the 2010 Olympic Team as an inexperienced kid, said that experience outweighs skill.
I guess 26 year old Drew Doughty probably does tip the scale more than 20 year old Drew Doughty, but I’m not sure that’s what he meant.
But even beyond the structure of the teams, it’s clear that the management of the Canadian team values experience and predictability over youth and skill. Just look at how many times Taylor Hall, arguably one of the top five left wingers in the game, has been passed over as an injury replacement. The same is true on defense, with PK Subban overlooked in the original selection as well as as a replacement for Duncan Keith. Instead, they went with Jay Bouwmeester, citing his “consistency.”
I guess I can fault them for that. I mean, Bouwmeester is nothing if not consistent. I’m not sure that necessarily a good thing though…
But Canada’s dogmatic roster decisions pale in comparison to the US team. The American management team very clearly think that the only way to beat Canada is to goad, intimidate and grind out a win. They’ve built the team to do that, and brought in John Tortorella to make sure that’s how they play.
And sure enough, Tortorella is living up to expectations. In the exhibition games, he had Team USA playing a belligerent style straight out of the 1990s, which I guess should be expected since they think playing like the 1996 World Cup team is the only way they can win.
But as usual, for Tortorella, the belligerence is not limited to what happens on the ice. Before the exhibition games even started, Tortorella weighed in on Colin Kaepernick’s protests during the playing of the national anthem by stating that if any of his players sat for the anthem, they would sit for the rest of the game.
I have to say, if there’s somebody that should understand the importance of showing respect for the game, it’s John Tortorella:
Anyway, we’ll see how spending most of their games playing short-handed works out for them.
And as for the tournament as a whole, let’s see if Team North America can open some eyes around the league on the question of whether creativity, skill, risky exuberance can actually overcome grit, experience, and consistency.