World Cup of Hockey, begins Saturday with Team Europe — an amalgam of standouts from countries that lack the depth to ice competitive squads — facing Team USA. Team Europe, led by Kings captain Anze Kopitar, is a new entry and has no tradition. Nor will it have an anthem played before its games because it would take too long to play the national hymn of the more than half-dozen nations represented on its roster.
But Team North America, an intriguing mix of Canadians and Americans 23 years old and under, will hear “O Canada” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” before its games. Those might be the only occasions its speedsters will be seen standing still.
The NHL and the NHL Players’ Assn., in a rare example of cooperation, revived the dormant World Cup but altered the format. Instead of following the models of 1996 and 2004 — when Slovakia and Germany competed against the U.S., Canada, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic and Russia — Team Europe and Team North America were created to encompass many skilled players, including those from Slovakia and Germany.
“We wanted to have the most competitive tournament of its type ever played. That was one of the goals here and I’m pretty sure that we’re going to hit that goal,” Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHLPA, said in a telephone interview.
With NHL players’ participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics uncertain, the World Cup can be a major international marketing venture and source of revenue for players and the league, who get nothing from the Olympics and face the prospect of paying for transportation and insurance at Pyeongchang, South Korea. The entire World Cup will be played at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre.