The World Cup of Hockey has finally arrived, with camps open and pre-tournament games under way as of Thursday.
This will be the first true best-on-best international tournament since the 2014 Olympic Games and, depending on whether the NHL decides to go to South Korea in 2018, quite possibly the last for a while.
Whether it’s the World Cup or the Olympics or the old Canada Cup, these big international tournaments are always fun. You never know quite how things will play out, with upsets, injuries and breakout performances combining with a compressed scheduled to create a sense that nothing can be taken for granted.
And yet, there’s a certain familiarity to be found. Once you’ve been around long enough to live through a few of these things, you start to realize that there are some recurring characters that seem to show up each and every time.
So today, let’s look at 15 of those people – players, fans, coaches and beyond – that you can count on crossing paths with at every major international hockey tournament.
1. The player from your favourite NHL team who plays for another countryThis one’s always a bit tricky. You like this guy – heck, he might even be your favourite player – but for the next few weeks, you can’t cheer for him.
When it comes to international hockey, country comes first—even if only temporarily. You might have this guy’s jersey hanging in your closet, but for now, he’s the enemy.
But that raises a host of ethical questions. Are you still allowed to want him to do well? As long as he’s not playing against your country that night, then it should still be OK, right? After all, you don’t want him to come back to the NHL in the middle of a prolonged slump.
Then again, if he heats up he could end up knocking your country’s team out of the playoff round, so maybe not. Besides, maybe a bad tournament would give him something to prove for the season. Well, unless it wrecked his confidence…
It’s confusing. In the end, you’ll usually settle for just hoping he doesn’t get hurt. Ideally, he’ll stay healthy but not play especially well, which you can then blame on the coaching staff not using him properly.
2. The player from your country that you usually hate but will grudgingly cheer forUgh. You can’t stand this guy, with his diving and whining and cheap shots and that face that just makes you want to see someone punch it. When it comes to NHL action, you’d never root for him.
But this isn’t the NHL. This is international hockey, and national pride comes first. So for just a few weeks, you’ll put the past aside and cheer this guy on. Maybe not all that loudly, but you’ll do it.
It might leave a bad taste in your mouth, but that’s just the kind of sacrifice you’re willing to make for your country. Not all heroes wear capes.
3. The player from your country that you usually hate and will never cheer forNo. Just… no. Not this guy.
Look, you love your country, and would do almost anything to support it. But there is a line, there has to be a line, and that line must be drawn right here.
(An entire nation is looking in your direction right now, Brad Marchand.)