Why Is There A World Cup Of Hockey?
Aaron Doster, USATSI

The idea that the World Cup of Hockey makes no logical sense is one that is absolutely tried, true and tested. 

As little as soccer impacts the American sports scene, the game takes the rest of the world by storm every four years for what can be considered the greatest of all tournaments: the World Cup.

It needs no clarification.

When referring to an international hockey tournament, an event that usually occurs only during the Winter Olympics, clarification is necessary. This year in Toronto, the World Cup of Hockey will be played.

First of all, the World Cup of Hockey is a rare event. The tournament is not yearly, nor is it every four years. It almost seems to be a spontaneous occurrence. First, in 1996 and again in 2004, this would only be the third time the tournament has been played. The lack of teams and lack of reason is something that is turning true hockey fans away from the event, yet again. That doesn’t sum up, however, everything that doesn’t seem quite right about the World Cup of Hockey.

One of the best aspects of the World Cup (of Soccer) is that there are so many teams. Every four years there are hundreds of countries trying to qualify. At the end of qualifiers, there are thirty-two teams that make it, who are placed into eight groups of four. Every country plays all three other teams in their group just once, and based on wins and goal differential, two of those teams move on to a sixteen-team knockout stage … so on and so forth. In the World Cup of Hockey, there are eight teams. Only eight.

Even worse than that, two of those teams aren’t even represented by countries. There are six countries (Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden, and the United States), and two continent teams.

Yes, continents.

Those two teams are Team Europe, which consists of players from European countries that don’t have enough players to create a whole team, and Team North America, which thankfully does not consist of Mexican and Central American hockey players, but rather all players from Canada and the United States that are under twenty-three years old.

It just seems a little cheesy.

The worst part about it all is that it’s being played in September. In what world would it make sense for all of the NHL’s All-Stars to come together in a tournament, that truly bears no great reward, right before their paid professional season begins? Especially for fans from the Hudson River Rivalry, Henrik Lundqvist (Sweden) and Cory Schneider (United States) are starting goalie options.

No New York Rangers fan, nor New Jersey Devils fan wants to see their goalie get hurt, just weeks before the season. Fans will sit back and watch, and wince every time a player seems to be in discomfort.

The World Cup of Hockey is just a moneymaker for Mr. Gary Bettman. It was his idea, after all. It’s truly impressive the amount of damage he has done to the league, and how much more damage he can do, especially with this ridiculous tournament.

NEXT: World Cup Could Create World Class Problems For The New York Rangers


  1. This article misses an important point and is factually misleading. First of all, the tournament goes back 20 years from 1996, as it was previously named the Canada Cup and was held first in 1976, then again in 1981, 84, 87 and 91. Canada won all of them except for 1981 (The USSR was motivated that year after having lost the Miracle on Ice embarrassment in the 80 Olympics). Anyway, it has a long history. Remember too, the raison d’etre for it is the rivalry between the dominant Soviet Union teams of the 70s and 80s, who would win the Olympic Tournament and World Championship year after year in those days. Canada’s best players were prohibited from playing in those tournaments because the World Championships are held during the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Olympics previously only allowed “amateurs” to compete. Yet the USSR sent their best players on a stacked team because under the Soviet/Communist system, all players were considered “amateurs.” In 1972 we had the Summit Series, but it seemed like a good idea to have other countries participate in a tournament if only to give the Canadian and Soviet teams a chance to warm up before squaring off in a best 2 of 3. The dominant Soviet team of the 80s, in my opinion, was the best ever (beaten only by the Team Canada of 87 when both Gretzky (26 at the time) and Lemieux (22) were in their primes (a pass form Gretzky to Lemieux for a one-timer was the difference in that final!). I agree this tournament has gotten “gimmicky” with the addition of the two extra teams, but let’s not forget that it gives us a chance to have the best-on-best teams compete for bragging rights. And though the Soviet system that produced such a great team is gone (and its military-style rigorous training has been adopted by everybody!), we still have a chance for the best to compete against the best. As Hockey gains new players in the USA and youth development programs increase, look for the USA to overtake Canada as the team to beat in the future! They already have on the Women’s side….