Leave it to the NHL to fuck up international hockey.
There's a yearly tournament that features Team USA led by Trevor Lewis that is more engaging, compelling, and is more of an actual tournament than the NHL's attempt at the World Cup of hockey. The "World" portion being limited to NHL players only by the way, with the exception being some guy named Boris or whatever. You would figure for naming your tournament the "World Cup" you would try and emulate the much larger and successful and corrupt FIFA World Cup. You know, by trying to get all the best players in the entire damn world involved. Maybe FIFA let this copyright infringement slip by because they were busy getting arrested.
But let's be blunt. And I know this is not news to anyone. This tournament was about the all mighty dollar.
For the NHL that is. Clearly ESPN had no interest.
It's not exactly news either that the NHL and ESPN/ABC/Disney don't mesh well. The NHL wants the wider coverage, and, well, ESPN doesn't give a fuck. But not everyone feels that way. There's high school teacher who dresses like a student John Buccigross! He loves hockey. And there's nothing wrong with that. He's just sort of weird and wants to be taken seriously at ESPN, much like how hockey does. That being said, he's an anchor on Sports Center and not a play-by-play guy. Dropping goofy lines over highlights is showmanship, admittedly tacky. Blurting out "he plundered the cookies with his saucy mitts like the Hamburglar at Humburger Church" during a game just makes you look -more- like an idiot. Partly because it's gibberish (though that's pretty rich coming from me), and partly because while Buccigross is sputtering out mad libs there's a 2-on-1 going back the other way.
Sure, there was...that other guy. The mini Brendan Fraser guy. You know the one. And there was Barry Melrose who just looks like he is waiting for death's sweet embrace. And we got to learn Chris Chelios has been generously donating his flesh to Brett Hull. ESPN saw this opportunity to appease the few people at the office who cared about hockey and to hopefully just get them to shut the fuck up about it for a while.
To be fair, these few poor misguided souls were definitely into it. They got to treat the tournament with all the enthusiasm of high school kids in a video production elective class with their big year end "movie". They got to play it up and have a ton fun with it, but to everyone watching it was amateur hour and painfully lame.
The rest of ESPN handled it how they have handled hockey the past decade. By not giving a shit. There was zero promotion. The resources given to it were minimal. Yet you couldn't blame them because the NHL gave them a shitty product. It was classic NHL and ESPN again. Hockey wants to be noticed, ESPN says no, hockey keeps pushing, ESPN says fine, hockey gives them a slapped together haphazard product, ESPN knows it's a dud and doesn't help, and the whole thing sucks while every party involved gets pissed at each other only to have the cycle start back up. It's a Möbius Strip that took a little longer this time and on an "international" level.
Again, for a WORLD Cup you would imagine a plethora of countries. The NHL could come up with six, and two continents. I get Team Mexico might be a hard sell, but I think Team Europe was mostly running purely on spite of each other. Maybe it wouldn't be akin to making the Mexican and American soccer teams join forces to play against Brazil or Germany, but they got plenty of hockey players in Slovakia and Switzerland. But the NHL was playing by the NHL rules, and the lists of NHL players from some of these countries were lucky to get into double digits. Still, FIFA didn't rule out players who didn't play on some European soccer club for their World Cup. THAT WOULD BE STUPID.
Instead we get treated to Team "Anze Kopitar and the rest" along with Team "Poor kids drafted to shitty Canadian teams over the past couple of years". If the NHL couldn't work out a real international tournament involving other leagues around the world to take heat off of them bailing from the Olympics, that's on them. Maybe don't attempt a big World Cup on like six months notice where the players getting named to the teams are actively looking for ways to avoid it like Jeff Carter -suddenly- having an injury. OR don't try to build up hype for it in the last week before it by suddenly playing exhibition games. Meanwhile the actual NHL has been having camps open and this shitty ass tournament is sucking life out of anyone subjected to watch it.
However the coup de grâce of NHL ineptitude was the fact that nothing went well and the cash grab worked about as well as an outdoor game in Minnesota. No one cared. No one watched. It was laughed off. There will likely be more of Paul Walker in "The Fast and the Furious 8" than there were fans in the arenas at these games. As for building interest in the game here in good ol' America, Dean Lombardi apparently thought the tournament was a best of seven layout and put together a team resembling the Chiefs' opponents at the end of Slap Shot. Team USA has struggled lately anyways, so may as well commit to the suck. They lost every game, resoundingly. Hockey has fallen behind soccer here, which is no easy feat given how ass-backwards they've looked too. God bless America.
As for growing the game abroad, maybe France and Bulgaria are good friends now after their time shared with Team Europe. Or Denmark and Slovenia. Or maybe no one watched. Probably that. Canada won, which everyone figured was going to happen anyways so don't whine about trying to make this farce actually competitive. Is this garbage still going on? Who even knows anymore.
The NHL did do one thing correctly though. The under 23 team was by far the most entertaining. Everyone seemed to enjoy watching the kids play, and that should translate well to when the NHL bars all their players from the Olympics and the teams are filled with non-pro kids. Now that's gonna be an entertaining tournament.