It has been a while since the NHL sent its players to the Olympics or had any best-on-best tournament featuring the top hockey nations in the world. However, the topic of having another best-on-best hockey tournament is getting more fuel after Connor McDavid was asked about his thoughts on the World Baseball Classic.
“I thought it was really cool,” Connor McDavid told reporters last Wednesday. “It’s what we’ve been asking for in hockey for a long time, right, best-on-best?”
The 2023 World Baseball Classic championship game featured the best from Team USA and Japan. It came down to Los Angeles Angels teammates Shoehei Ohtani and Mike Trout. With Ohtani pitching and Trout at the plate, Ohtani was able to strike out Trout to win the World Baseball Classic for Japan.
It was not just the baseball world talking about what happened at that moment, the whole sports world was talking about it. Including those in the NHL, who have wanted to see their players compete on an international stage for quite some time now.
“Look, everyone is talking about baseball, ‘Did you see Ohtani vs. Trout?’ and that’s what hockey’s been missing for almost a decade now,” McDavid continued. “That’s what we’ve been asking for.”
McDavid is absolutely right about this. The last time NHLers went to the Olympics was in 2014 in Sochi. While the last World Cup of Hockey was in 2016 which saw Team Europe and Team North America replace two hockey nations.
McDavid was part of that young guns Team North American team with Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel, and Nathan MacKinnon. But McDavid last represented Canada on a world stage at the 2015 World Junior Hockey Championships.
Players want to go play for their countries and have a true best-on-best tournament. Now some NHLers when their season is over will go play in the IIHF World Championships, but it is not the same as having a true best-on-best tournament.
Fans want to see Connor McDavid play alongside the likes of MacKinnon and Sidney Crosby, wearing the Maple Leaf on the front of their sweater taking on a Team USA team with the likes of Matthews, Eichel, Jack Hughes, and Patrick Kane. But with each passing season, the chances are becoming slimmer as players are getting older.
The NHL-NHLPA wanted to have a World Cup of Hockey in 2024, but with the invasion of Ukraine by Russia it got pushed back. They have yet to announce the details for the next World Cup of Hockey. However, the tentative date is 2025.
Recently the IIHF extended Russia and Belarus’s ban to play in international events like the Men’s and Women’s World Championships, the World Juniors, and other events through the 2023/24 season.
This complicates things because a true best-on-best tournament would have to include Russia. We know the international federations pool their players from others leagues besides the NHL. Now it has worked in the World Juniors, but it is not the same.
One thing is for sure, while the race for the final spots in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is exciting, nothing beats the thrills of playing for your country. That is what gets the people talking.
Hopefully, one-day hockey can get back to having a best-on-best tournament so we can see the best players in the world on an even grander stage. With the players speaking out more than ever, maybe they can make it into a reality.