In a country where hockey is next to religion for most people, Hockey Canada has assembled the best team possible for the World Hockey Championships (WHC) in the Czech Republic. Think of it as The New Avengers without some of the big name talent. The problem is, nobody in North America is watching them dominate the tournament. As of now, the top two teams in the tournament are: Canada and the United States, ironically enough, they are the two countries with the least amount of viewers and local support. Why is this the case?
The reason that no one cares about the WHC, is because the players that are there are either from teams that didn't make the NHL playoffs, or players whose teams bowed out in the first round. It is the annual consolation prize for hockey players that failed in taking their team to the promised land of the 2nd round and beyond. Therefore, most fans of hockey in North America are glued to their television trying to see if the Canadian teams can break out of their 2-0 series hole. Fans in the U.S are also being treated to some amazing hockey as the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers are in a razor thin series, where 1 goal has decided every game so far. So, why in the world would anyone start watching the WHC during the best time in NHL hockey?
There are two critical reasons why people should watch or just have a passing interest in the WHC. The first reason could also be titled reason #87. For the first time since 2006, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins is suiting up for Canada in this tournament. Before this year, either the Penguins went deep into the playoffs, or Crosby was too injured to attend. Crosby already has 4 points in 3 games and is 3rd in the tournament in goals. Couple his impressive stats with the fact that he is on a line with Jason Spezza of the Dallas Stars and Nathan Mackinnon of the Colorado Avalanche, and you have a glance into the future of team Canada that might be going to Seoul, South Korea in the next Olympic games. The second important reason to keep an eye on the WHC is the young guns that are making a huge impact in the tournament. There are so many shining young stars one might go as blind as Daredevil if you stare directly at it. If you take a look at almost every team in the tournament, one can see a young prospect or star take over any given game. On the Canadian squad, you have the likes of AAron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers (1st overall in 2014 NHL Draft), previously mentioned 2013 1st overall pick Nathan Mackinnon, and 2010 first overall pick of the Oilers Taylor Hall. Our neighbors to the south have their own youth movement going on with projected #2 NHL prospect Jack Eichel and 2013 4th overall pick of the Nashville Predators Seth Jones. Both players figure to play a prominent role in future international tournaments as well as have lengthy careers in the NHL. Sweden can proudly say that they might have the most dynamic young forward suiting up for them as Filip Forsberg burst onto the NHL scene with a season that should have nabbed him Rookie of the Year honors. He responded to the snub by the awards committee by being a lethal force in the first round against the Blackhawks and then going over to the WHC tournament and scoring a hat-trick in his first game. All these players and more are the reason that hockey fans should keep an eye on the Czech Republic. So, how can the NHL and IIHF change the format of this tournament to make it more enticing to watch?
The biggest problem with this tournament is when it takes place. Apparently some monkey threw a dart at a calendar and decided that a hockey tournament should take place right in the middle of the NHL Playoffs, the NBA playoffs, and the start of the MLB season. With one swoop you take out a large majority of the viewership in the two of the largest hockey populations. The simple solution to this issue would be to move the tournament to early August. With this movement, the IIHF can make certain that most of the players will be well rested and less prone to injury. Another reason that August is the best time for the tournament is that players are given the chance to shake the rust off from the summer, then can transition straight into the NHL season without the first few games looking like a toddler trying to walk for the first time. Not only would this give the stars of the NHL time to warm up, the prospects and NHL hopefuls from each team will get a better look from their teams management without the distraction of having to compete against the likes of Crosby and Ovechkin.
It is a shame that Canada has put together a WHC team for the ages, a dominant unstoppable force that has no immovable object to stand in its path to golden glory; whose only problem, is nobody's watching.