Hockey: An International Affair

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For the first time in twelve years, the World Cup of Hockey is being played by the stars of the game from across the planet. The current tournament consists of 6 individual countries represented, as well as 2 continental teams. Unlike other international tournaments (ie. The World Cup), the WCOH is held in a single city. That city being Toronto, Ontario.

I traveled up to Toronto with a pair of friends to see the USA men’s hockey team take on Team Europe, a team comprised of players from a handful of countries located within the European Union. Former Sabre, Miroslav Satan was selected as the team’s GM and got to work. A team of mostly veteran players, Team Europe’s average age was 30 years old. Compared to team North America, that’s a significant difference in age and experience. On the other side, Team USA has faced some questions as of recent. With the hiring of John Tortorella, to the roster selection (and snubs), the number of people whom have bought into this current team is much less than that of recent memory.

I must say, I did not know Toronto was such a metropolis. With skyscrapers left and right and the famous CN Tower pointing high above everything else, it was an impressive sight, to say the least. Now, the Air Canada Centre. Home of the Original Six Maple Leafs, and sole venue for the whole tournament. Also, home to more Team Canada jerseys than I could count (I’m not very good at math).

Production for the pregame was very well coordinated. The main feature being a trip through time to the 1996 WCOH in which the USA shocked the by winning the tournament The buildup to team introductions had many on the edge of their seats to see their countries play. Images flashing across the sheet of ice including player photos was an excellent visual for all to see.

As the game began, it was very evident that the Americans were not in sync. Missed passes, confusion in their own zone, and very little possession in the offensive 3rd was the theme for the United States all day. Meanwhile, the Europeans took full advantage of the oppositions missteps. Defensively, Europe had very few issues in their own zone. With quick 1 touch passing, they would find themselves cruising through the neutral zone with little difficulty. Marion Gaborik made it 1-0 with a slick tap-in from a great pass delivered by Frans Nielsen. Leon Drasaital made it 2-0 Europe after he and Nino Niederreiter found themselves on a 2-on-0 break after a failed US pinch along the boards broke them free. Two quick passes in front of Johnathan Quick and the Europeans took full advantage of the American slip-up. Pierre Bellemare made it 3-0 Europe shortly after with a nifty deflection that turned the line drive into a change-up which found it’s way past Quick at the near post. Easily in the driver’s seat, Europe had team USA in a headlock after 2 and coasted to a 3-0 victory to open up their tournament.

I’m not going to say that the tournament for the Americans is over. But Canada looks like they’re in mid-season form, and the US looking more like a speed bump than a hurdle.

As far as personnel selection, the US whiffed. Hard. Derek Stepan had a good year with the Rangers last year with 22 goals and 52 points and found himself in the top 6 of the US squad. Let’s look at Canada. Ryan O’Reilly was an add-on due to injured Tyler Seguin. O’Reilly had 21 goals and 60 points and was an ADD-ON. Somthin’ ain’t right in the USA hockey front office. Tortorella’s coaching style doesn’t seem to be clicking in the minds of his players. The team just wasn’t there mentally. If they don’t figure out a solution immediately, it’s going to be over pretty much before it starts for the United States.

As far as day trips go, this was a good one. Between the relief of finally being able to watch hockey again, and participating in Buffalo Bill chants (begrudgingly), it’s great to see the camaraderie between fans blossom with such little effort. Plus, the poutine at the arena was pretty damn good. Not to mention my favorite jersey I’ve seen in quite some time.

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Written by Sam Rodriguez

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