|Frans Nielsen of Team Europe tries to defend Sidney Crosby|
Credit: Nathan Denette - The Canadian Press
By Adam Bernard
The World Cup of Hockey has been great for the month of September. Usually hockey-starved fans are just getting some pre-season action right about now, but the World Cup has provided us puck junkies with competitive hockey about three weeks earlier than usual. The prelim play was good and allowed people to size up the field. Once the round-robin play got going, the games got even better. But once the semis rolled around, unless you were in Canada, the buzz went away, the urge to watch wasn’t what it was, and the end of the tournament has seemingly become stale.
Much like college basketball’s March Madness, the best part about is the beginning. At first, you have the conference tournaments before the actual tournament begins, where there’s always the possibility of a team clinching a birth in to the NCAA Tournament field that wasn’t in the mix initially. Some bubble teams burst, some improve their resumes. To me, that was the equivalent of the prelim play because we’re getting to see what teams were made of.
|The descending buzz of the World Cup is similar to that of March Madness|
Credit: Bob Donnan - USA Today Sports Images
Once the actual NCAA Tournament begins, almost everyone is in to it, whether it’s because they like good sports or because they filled out a bracket for their office pool, interest is high. This is similar to what the beginning of round-robin play in the World Cup was like: everyone (except maybe the Czechs and Team Europe – boy did Europe prove us wrong) had a chance to win this thing (with Canada being the heavy favorites), and hockey fans from all of the participating countries were in to it. But just like college basketball after the first weekend of games when most people’s brackets are in the recycling pile, the field of legitimate World Cup contenders started to thin.
Pool B had some excitement throughout (especially the North American squad), but Finland’s performance was a disappointment. While that didn’t necessarily contribute to the lack of strong interest as the World Cup is in the final stretch, Team USA’s performance certainly did. Their clunker against Europe foreshadowed worse things to come. A lackluster showing against the Canadians deemed their final game against the Czech Republic meaningless. If Team USA had anything to play for in their last game, things would have been different, especially if they had made it to the World Cup’s final four.
|USA Goalie Jonathan Quick was looking behind him for pucks more than he would liked during the World Cup of Hockey|
Credit: Frank Gunn - AP
I’m not saying Team Europe doesn’t have a chance to win tonight and force it to a third and final game. They didn’t play poorly in Game One and hung with the Canadians until midway through the third period in the 3-1 loss. Even if they do win and make it to Saturday night, do you really think Team Canada will lose two games in a row, on home soil, when they haven’t lost a game since the first prelim game (which in hindsight was probably the best thing to happen to Team Canada and the worst to Team USA)? This tournament is over either tonight or Saturday, and it won’t be over a moment too soon. I can’t promise that I won’t be flipping over to NHL.TV to check out some of the NHL pre-season slate, especially if Canada pulls away early.