Just when you were starting to think about getting excited for the upcoming 2015-16 NHL season, the NHL would like you to pause and think about the 2016 World Cup of Hockey held one year from now.
They are trying hard, even hyping their...series of schedule and coaching announcements:
The NHL and the NHL Players' Association brought the 2016 World Cup of Hockey into focus Wednesday by putting on a grand show at Air Canada Centre that featured several of the best players in the world and plenty of information regarding the tournament.
Information! It makes for a grand show.
The schedule is out (it's here, or you can look at it at the bottom of this post), but the main takeaway I see is that it will indeed take place while NHL teams are conducting their training camps and preseason schedule:
NHL training camps prior to the start of the 2016-17 season are expected to start on time, with the players competing in the World Cup joining their NHL teams once their teams are eliminated from the World Cup or once it is finished.
So on the one hand, you have a more interesting diversion than your traditional September hockey watching (namely, international hockey instead of just guessing which non-roster invitee is on the seventh line at training camp). On the other hand, every player that is away at the World Cup is not at home syncing with his teammates, and in fact he's involved in some high-stakes competition right before a grueling NHL season.
But, that's what the revenue generators and sharers want. Or kind of want. Henrik Lundqvist's phrasing in the official story is interesting (emphasis mine):
"We've been talking about this for years now," Swedish goalie Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers) said. "The League has been pushing for it, and the [Players' Association] has been talking about it.
Overall, no doubt the league likes it as a way of generating more revenue without having their employees at the mercy of the IIHF and the Olympics. And the players, well they're patriots and competitors, so they'll want to compete for their country (or, um, their age group or continent) at the highest level.
It's just going to have to be in September, because that's the only feasible time. (And to be fair, this is when the Canada Cup and previous World Cups were always held.)
I remember the Canada Cups of yore as great times, when we could see them -- though also as factors in the wearing down of the New York Islanders dynasty's best players, with two Canada Cups mixed in amid their 19 consecutive playoff series wins.
I'm not sure anything will ever compare to the intensity and star power of the 1987 Canada Cup final.
The 1996 World Cup was surprisingly excellent, with its own epic final that lived up to tournaments' past. The 2004 World Cup was held under the specter of a looming lockout, which made the whole thing feel like a last-ditch money grab.
Which is kind of where we are now.
I'm hoping I will be able to see this one as fun and novel, even with its weird U23 and Team Europe quirks. I'm going to try. Will you help me?
World Cup of Hockey 2016 Schedule
Preliminary Round (Round Robin)
Saturday, Sept. 17
Team Europe vs. Team USA, 3:30 p.m.
Team Canada vs. Team Czech Republic, 8 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 18
Team Russia vs. Team Sweden, 3 p.m.
Team Finland vs. Team North America, 8 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 19
Team Czech Republic vs. Team Europe, 3 p.m.
Team North America vs. Team Russia, 8 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 20
Team Finland vs. Team Sweden, 3 p.m.
Team Canada vs. Team USA, 8 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 21
Team North America vs. Team Sweden, 3 p.m.
Team Canada vs. Team Europe, 8 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 22
Team Finland vs. Team Russia, 3 p.m.
Team Czech Republic vs. Team USA, 8 p.m.
Semifinals (Single Elimination; A1 vs. B2, B1 vs. A2)
Saturday, Sept. 24 - Semifinal 1, TBD
Sunday, Sept. 25 - Semifinal 2, TBD
Final (Best of Three)
Tuesday, Sept. 27 - Final Game 1, 8 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 29 - Final Game 2, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 1 - Final Game 3, 7 p.m. (if necessary)