(photo via sportsnet.ca)
Day 1 of the World Cup is over… sort of. There were 3 exhibition games on thursday and maybe it was the fact that I havn’t seen live hockey in a few months, but I was pleasantly surprised with how the games were played.
Like many other hockey fans, I was skeptical about how the players would respond the this tournament. I was worried it would have an all star game vibe to it and we would be watching the best players in the world going at about 60-70% for 2 weeks.
I didn’t get that sense after watching parts of the first 3 pre-tournament games. There was some emotion packed into the 180 minutes of hockey we saw. There were some emotional celebrations after goals, hard battles for the puck and some heated scrums.
We saw Dmitry Orlov and Jakub Voracek confront each other after a collision in front of the Russian net in the first game of the day. Then we saw Maple Leafs agitator Leo Komarov get under the skin of Team Sweden, resulting in an intense shoving match between the benches. Hell, even the game between the two “gimmick” teams had some nasty cross-checks and stick work. It was genuinely fun the watch! Something I didn’t expect from this tournament, nevermind the pre tournament games.
Speaking of those so called “gimmick” teams, Team North America is no underdog. Led by their new captain Connor McDavid this team is looking like a favourite and could do some real damage when the tournament officially begins. Concerns about defense have been washed away by the maturity of Aaron Ekblad and raw talent of Reilly and Gostisbehere. Lots of folks in the hockey world thought their goaltending would be their fatal flaw, but Matt Murray was a rock in game 1. They could win this thing and that’s no stretch.
Remember back to when this event was announced and traditional hockey fans, myself included, moaned and groaned at this team. The NHL was given a tonne of grief and was accused of only adding these teams to sell more jerseys and make more money and while that may be true, this turned out to be a really solid idea and it gives fans a great chance to see how talented their young stars are.
This is probably the only team in the tournament that I will be setting time aside to watch, and I know for sure I’m not the only one.
One other “problem” that had most fans freaking out before the tourney started was the “SAP” patch on the shoulders of every player’s jerseys. But did you notice them while watching the games? Either you’re like everyone else and didn’t even remember about it until now, or you’re a liar.
Now I’m still not head over heels about this whole thing, in fact, I won’t even say I like it yet. I’m still worried we’re going to see a superstar player go down with a serious injury, but the overall list of problems and concerns is shrinking and that’s a great sign for the World Cup of Hockey.