MOOSE JAW, SASKATACHEWAN – We’ve waited a long time for meaningful hockey since the Stanley Cup Finals. It’s been an even longer wait for those of us in New York with the Rangers and Isles making early exits from the playoffs. But hockey is finally back! The World Cup of Hockey starts tomorrow afternoon when the USA takes on Team Europe. Oh… And J-E-T-S won The Battle of The Boasters, while
Manny Hanley Ramirez and the Sawx did the Yankees in.
But back to hockey…
Team Europe is made of the “best of the rest” of the European nations that didn’t qualify directly for the tournament. So players from Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia, Denmark, Latvia, Germany, Switzerland, etc. will vie for bragging rights against the better European nations, as well as the best from Canada and the United States. The most interesting aspect of the tournament is surely Team North America, which is made up of the best players from the United States and Canada under the age of 23. The team is stacked with recent first round draft picks. Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews, Brandon Saad and New York Ranger JT Miller will all be representing Team North America. It will be very interesting to watch them play. They’re in a group with Finland, Russia, and Sweden, so the odds are stacked against them getting out of the group. But it should be fun and the kids will earn some valuable experience.
The United States, Canada, the Czech Republic and Team Europe make up the other group. The puck drops at 330pm tomorrow between the USA and Team Europe. The Americans are coached by former Rangers head coach and soundbite generator John Tortorella. The team warmed up for the tournament against Finland on Tuesday night. The US jumped out to a 3-0 lead only for the Finns to come storming back. In the end Team USA held on for a 3-2 win. It will be interesting to see how Torts responds to adversity as the tournament progresses. My guess is he will lose his sh*t in a post-game presser sometime during the group stage. That’s just his way of doing things.
Canada and the United States should ease into the knockout round from Group A. With no Jaromir Jagr, the Czech team will have a tough go of things. I know Jagr is 67 years old. But he’s still one of the better Czech players out there. Group B should be more interesting. Russia should make it through but they have a habit of underperforming in tournaments like this. I wouldn’t be surprised if Finland and Sweden represent group B in the knockout stage. And Team North America could make some noise and play spoiler in this group.
Canada should win the tournament. The USA should be right there in the finals. My prediction is that Sweden and Finland will round out the semifinalists. And in another week and a half, there will be preseason NHL hockey to report on. It’s all happening. Our long national nightmare is over. Hockey is back!
Tune into ESPN tomorrow for team USA’s opener. Steve Levy and Barry Melrose called the warm-up games. It’s a good thing ESPN doesn’t broadcast the NHL games because these two have found a way to make the most exciting sport in North America boring. It seems like Levy and Melrose got into mommy’s valium before the broadcasts. But at least ESPN is showing hockey.
P.s… Just wondering how DJ Eberle feels about his latest Buffalo Bills predictions.