World Cup of Hockey Finals: Canada vs. Team Europe
Where: Air Canada Center in Toronto Ontario, Canada
7pm Saturday (if needed)
Where to Watch:
ESPN, CBC, TVASports on Tuesday
ESPN2, CBC, TVASports on Thursday
ESPN2, CBC, TVASports on Saturday (if needed)
Bruins Playing: Three Bruins enter the finals. Zdeno Chara for Team Europe, Brad Marchand & Patrice Bergeron for Team Canada.
How we got here:
Canada is/was/remains the odds out favorite in an international hockey tournament. I'm sure this shocks you.
The only interesting thing about Canada's overarching success is that how much of a bar Canadian hockey has effectively been used. It's conquests and talents are respected, their skills were (unsuccessfully) attempted to be offset by something other than skill, they happily trampled every team that entered their domain and the most amount of consternation the Canadian public got watching this squad was being down a goal for half a period to Russia. The hometown team in this tournament was effectively a write off and probably had a bunch of people decide to tune out and wait for their oncoming game against sweden.
Except that didn't happen.
And that's what makes this preview so intriguing.
Team Europe, by all accounts, played hockey eternally from behind. Nobody assumed they had a prayer going into this tournament. And yet, after the jitters of the prelims, Scrapping and scraping to fantastic victories both in keeping pace with Sweden and eventually getting to where they are, to keeping the game close enough that they could overpower both USA and Czech Republic in stunning fashion. They are in the finals. This hodgepodge group of gentlemen from across the European Union (and Switzerland) decided that they would make their gimmick of journeyman europeans more than just a gimmick. It would be a gimmick with a habit of surprising you by somehow, someway, playing really good hockey. Even if it meant sometimes leaning on goaltender Jaroslav Halak like a man without a foot might lean on his cane. Even if it meant waiting in agonizingly long defensive sequences for just the right moment to spring a forward out to try and beat both defense and goaltender. Whatever they had to do, they did it with the dramatic flair only an underdog team could. And they should be proud of themselves. The ride was supposed to end yesterday. And yet...
...They punched their ticket, paid their money and said "I wanna see how far this goes."
This tournament by all accounts is mostly the NHL telling the olympic committee that they can shove their two week tournament right up their collective wazoo. It is a cash grab with goofy jerseys, a dumb shoulder logo sponsor, and the trophy is made out of urethane plastic that looks like your mother's third favorite vase. The one she keeps out way too long. And right now, if you're wondering how to actively shock the world? Team Europe winning this best of 3 would be it. It is the seinfeld of tournaments. It means nothing, it acheives basically nothing, and it will be carted out when the owners complain too much if/when players start getting too hurt for a gaudy hunk of plastic.
Right now? It would probably mean the world to Team Europe. And I can't wait to see them give it a shot.