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2016 World Cup of Hockey: The Frozen Warm-Up

[lead align=”default”]For the first time in 12 years, there will be a World Cup of Hockey as a prelude to the NHL season.[/lead]

Unfortunately, the last time one of these went down, a season was cancelled days thereafter. This time, however, the players union is cool and Gary Bettman hasn’t pissed anyone off recently enough.

The pretournament ended a few days ago, and tomorrow, in the midst of a college football Saturday, the World Cup of Hockey begins. Competing in the tournament are Canada, the United State, Sweden, Russia, Finland, and the Czech Republic, but that’s not all. Two other teams — Europe and North America — feature the rest of the countries across the Atlantic and under-23s from North America, respectively.

Now, if the latter sounds a skosh complicated, it is. Yet, the intent of this is to get more players into the tournament because (a) they wouldn’t have made the roster of their country, or (b) their country did not field a team. As such, the talent pool cascades.

2016 World Cup of Hockey: The Favorite

Isn’t Canada always the favorite in these things? It’s like America in Olympic basketball: sure, there’s talent in other countries, but this is a matter of national pride. Up and down Canada’s roster, the talent smacks you in the face. Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Ryan Getzlaf, Drew Doughty, Braden Holtby, and the list goes on from there. Oh yeah, and Canada is the host country, therefore, this makes them extra super favorites.

2016 World Cup of Hockey: The Rest

However, just because Canada is stacked does not mean other teams lack firepower. For example, Team USA includes Patrick Kane, Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, and Jonathan Quick. On Team Sweden, Henrik Lundqvist, the Sedin brothers, and Victor Hedman. As for Team North America, it’s names like Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau, Connor McDavid, and Aaron Ekblad. There is no shortage of name-brand players on any of the eight teams.

2016 World Cup of Hockey: The Tournament

Pool play occurs over almost the next full week, from Saturday to Thursday, September 22. Twelve total games, two per day, until all group play is complete. Amongst the most notable matchups are Team Sweden vs. Team Russia on Sunday afternoon and Team Canada vs. Team USA on Tuesday night.

As of next Saturday, the playoff rounds begin. The top two teams in the respective groups meet in the semifinals, followed by a best-of-three final. The World Cup of Hockey could go as late as October 1. For your reference, the NHL season begins on October 12, just eleven days later. Some of these players will be warmed up already, despite spending more time on ice.

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