Now that Friday, May 27th, 2016, has come and gone, the 2016 World Cup of Hockey 23-man rosters for all participating teams are set. For many of the countries involved, there was never going to be a roster that would please everyone, that much was always clear. A "snub", within the context of this article, refers to a player, a good player at least, if not a great player (which, in itself, is subjective), who is excluded from their country's roster. Such a roster could be for any international tournament really, where the best of the best are invited to participate, however, the bigger and more world-class the international tournament is, the bigger the snub.
Up until the National Hockey League's participation in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, the Winter Olympics were the biggest international hockey tournament possible. With the National Hockey League (NHL), the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) unable to come up with an agreement, as of yet, for the NHL's participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, this NHL-created international tournament, the 2016 World Cup of Hockey suddenly becomes, potentially, at least, the biggest international hockey tournament. So, being snubbed from your country's roster in this tournament, to put it lightly, would be a fairly big deal.
When it comes to Canada, specifically, the hockey media always seem to make the point that this country could skate two very competitive teams in any international competition. One year, just for fun, TSN, in predicting Canada's roster for one of the big tournaments, even went so far as to create a Team Quebec. Players like Montreal Canadians' P.K. Subban and Brendan Gallagher, Pittsburgh Penguins' Kris Letang, Chicago Blackhawks' Brent Seabrook, Anaheim Ducks' Corey Perry and San Jose Sharks' Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau, for example, all had a legitimate shot at making Team Canada, but could not crack their deep roster. There is no denying that Canada has built and continues to grow a very strong hockey program, and this point continues to be emphasized every time a high-profile player (like those mentioned above) gets snubbed from a Canadian roster; that's the silver lining.
It's not just Canada though. Other hockey programs are clearly catching up, and quickly. Team USA and Sweden may not be able to skate two competitive teams like Canada, but by the glaring fact that there are such notable absences from both country's rosters for this tournament illustrate just how strong these hockey programs are. Players like Pittsburgh Penguins' Phil Kessel, Carolina Hurricanes' Justin Faulk, Ottawa Senators' Craig Anderson and Bobby Ryan, St. Louis Blues' Paul Stastny and Kevin Shattenkirk, Buffalo Sabres' Kyle Oposko, Columbus Blue Jackets' Nick Foligno, Boston Bruins' Torey Krug and Tampa Bay Lightnings' Tyler Johnson all had a legitimate shot to make Team USA's roster but could not. Player's like Anaheim Ducks' Hampus Lindholm and Richard Rakell, Detroit Red Wings' Gustav Nyquist, Ottawa Senators' Mika Zibanejad, Carolina Hurricanes' Victor Rask, Dallas Stars' John Klingberg and Jonny Oduya and Washington Capitals' Marcus Johansson all had a legitimate chance to make Team Sweden but could not.
The hockey programs of Russia and Finland may not be in the same tier as Canada, USA or Sweden, yet, but both are quickly catching up. Finland's performance at the 2016 World Hockey Championship in Russia this spring proved that. Additionally, the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and Finnish Elite League (Liiga), both premiere professional leagues in their own right, are additional foundations to continue growing their respective hockey programs.
The added bonus of this particular international tournament is that, for the first time ever, there will be a Team North America and Team Europe represented. Without going into specific detail as to the specific eligibility of each of these teams, there are a couple points on each to consider.
Aside from the very unique jerseys they will be sporting at the World Cup this September, Team North America, in many ways, represents a large portion of the future of hockey. To be a player as skilled as Montreal Canadians' Alex Galchenyuk, Columbus Blue Jackets' Boone Jenner, Buffalo Sabres' Sam Reinhart, St. Louis Blues' Robby Fabbri, Carolina Hurricanes Noah Hanifin, or Arizona Coyotes' Maxi Domi or Anthony Duclair and not crack this team only goes to show how much young talent is already embedded in the North American hockey programs of Canada and the USA. The future certainly looks bright.
Team Europe represents an amalgamation of players from different European countries, other than those specific European countries that are fielding their own teams in this tournament. This team may not serve as the best solution for full inclusion, but it's certainly a start and a creative way to get as many world-class players and their respective countries involved in this tournament. Team Europe, though its' player contingency represents 9 different European nations exemplifies that although countries such as Germany, Denmark and Slovakia are not quite their yet, they have a lot to be excited about. This team is solid and could be a major force in the World Cup.
There will always be snubbing in professional sports, that goes without saying, and on the international stage that gets amplified ten-fold, and sure it's fun to talk about, the hockey media sure loves to, but there is a bright side to all that. The sport continues to grow at a considerable rate and, may even be, at least internationally, stronger than ever. Let's just wait and see how this tournament plays out. After all, it's only a few months away. We can save the next great snubbing debate to, hopefully, the 2018 Winter Olympics.
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