The Plus Minus: Get Over Playoff Sorrows with IIHF World Championship

It’s that time of year again, your team either didn’t make the playoffs or they got bounced early. But have no fear, because the worlds are here.

Every spring the men’s IIHF World Championship tournament kicks off from some exotic or bleak location in Europe. The European teams live for this tournament, after all its their only chance to best a team Canada who’s best players are usually busy pursuing something called the Stanley Cup. However, to their disappointment, Canada still brings the gold more often than not, despite low interest from the North American market. Personally, I love this tournament and despise it all in once.

The Plus

Roster spots are filled in most cases for Canada by players who would never crack the real national team roster due to the abundance of talent here. So it’s nice to see guys get that chance to dawn the jersey. It’s also nice to see other countries that have little hockey tradition qualify for their chance with the big boys. In the past, Japan, South Korea have had a shot and this year it’s Great Britain and Italy.

It’s important to have this tournament for the scouts too. NHL teams often find some obscure player or goalie on a team that got absolutely killed by say, Canada, USA or Russia but individually showed he could produce against NHL level talent. So then a desperate team like the Florida Panthers step in sign the Slovenian (or pick random small Eastern European country) and now he’s in the big time playing in front of eight hundred people in Florida.

Finally, it’s good for the sport because it keeps rivalries alive. Four years ago, Canada absolutely stomped Russia who had Ovechkin and Kovalchuk and the other usual bad guys in the gold medal game 6 to 1. The Russian team felt it not important to wait for the National anthem of the winning team (Oh Canada) and promptly left the ice before hand. Absolutely taboo and ugly but in Ovechkin’s defence, he waited, so ok, props, I guess?

The minus

The refereeing is beyond atrocious. In gold medal years for Canada, a common strength was that they scored a lot of goals but more importantly had an incredible penalty kill. I know I am a clear team Canada guy but it’s not even arguable that they give Canada penalties at a three to one (at least) disadvantage. It can be so frustrating to watch. It can make your blood just simmer with the obvious collusion amongst the European referees to stop the Canadians.

Another interesting trend in this category is that the European teams are allowed to pretend to try and fight with the Canadians in the scums in front of the net. They can face wash, they can shove even punch (with gloves on) and if we retaliate we get the penalty. It’s automatic. But when same said European players are playing in the NHL they don’t seem to engage in the same way. Hmmm, I wonder why… Oh yeah we allow fighting here to resolve such differences and they aren’t too hot to trot under our circumstances.

The final frustration for NHL fans is to watch a player like… William Nylander, who couldn’t score a goal to save his life in Blue and White here in Toronto (after demanding top dollar). But guess who is amongst the point leaders over here in this tournament? Guess can you? Yeah little Willy.