Now that underdog Team Europe which was not supposed to win a single game at the revived World Cup is now 2-0, part of the future for the World Cup should be apparent. Right now in 2016, the goal was just to get the tournament revived again. For 2020, the goal should be to expand the participants.
The idea for Team Europe and Team North America was to avoid embarrassing mismatches between traditional “big 7″ countries and other countries stuck at the “B level” in quality of play. Team Europe is composed of players who do not play for Sweden, Russia, Finland, and the Czech Republic.
The composition of Team Europe is important to note. The heart of Team Europe is 6 players from Slovakia, a “big 7″ country that for some mysterious reason was not allowed to ice a team. Next comes 5 players from Germany, and 4 from Denmark and Switzerland. Austria, France, Norway and Slovenia are represented by one player.
The composition of the team is not surprising. Switzerland and Denmark are probably the two countries who have shown the most improvement in quality of play during the past 40 years since the Canada-USSR match of 1972 and Germany is simply a large, populous country that cannot help developing a few good players.
Therefore the goal for the next four years when the next World Cup is scheduled to be played should be to bring back Slovakia and develop the quality of Denmark, Switzerland, and Germany so that they can ice teams of their own that have a real chance to win major tournaments like the World Cup and the Olympics. Get these countries up from the “B level” of play so that there is now a “big 10″ group of teams instead of the traditional “big 7″.
At a recent press conference, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr mentioned that the Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings were hosting clinics to develop players in China. But improvements in China, currently ranked 37th in the world cannot help spread the game of hockey or expand the World Cup and other important international hockey tournaments right now. The priority should be focused on getting the large group of countries stuck at the “B level” of play – Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland are the obvious places to start, and then the other four countries listed above, up to the level of play of the traditional “big 7″ countries. Kazakhstan, Latvia, Italy, Belarus, and Poland are other countries stuck at this level.
If the World Cup of Hockey is to attain the stature and status of its counterpart in soccer, the number of participating countries have to increase and the quality of play among ALL the tournament participants has to be improved. Ideally the World Cup of Hockey should aim for a 12 or even 16 member tournament. But even a ten team tournament with Slovakia back and Germany, Denmark, and Switzerland playing up to the level of the traditional “big 7″ teams PERMANENTLY in the future would be a major achievement for international hockey, considering how little has been done to improve the quality of play elsewhere in the previous four decades.
The World Cup of Hockey has unlimited potential for growth but its potential cannot be realized until the quality of hockey is improved outside of the traditional “big 7″. The achievement of the current tournament and Team Europe is that it has shown clearly with which countries the process of improvement should begin.