I love international hockey. Men's, women's juniors, doesn't matter I love it the very idea of an international best on best tournament to decide who is the reigning hockey super power.
Unfortunately, it is in danger of becoming extinct.
I have always had my issues with the Olympics. I think the IIHF is one of the most corrupt organizations in the world and I think their tournament is heavily flawed. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy watching the hockey. I loved watching the Canadian men win Olympic gold in 2002, 2010 and 2014, but I think my favourite international hockey moment was the Canadian women'a gold medal game against the Americans in Salt Lake City 2002. The NHL didn't participate in the 2018 winter Olympics and it wasn't very exciting without them. As I said, I am not a big fan of the IIHF and if the NHL and the IIHF can't figure out their differences, I can live with no NHL participation in future Olympics as long as the NHL and the NHLPA replace it with a better tournament. This is not hard to accomplish. There are a lot of ways to improve upon the Olympic model of a hockey tournament.
In 1996, I was at game one of the finals in Philadelphia to see Team Canada vs Team USA and although we won that game, we lost the next 2 in Montreal and Team USA won the inaugural World Cup of Hockey. I loved the format for that tournament. It was a simple round robin to establish points, then your standard playoff format leading to the finals. It took place in North America so the games were played on smaller NHL ice surfaces and they had the benefit of using NHL officials. There were no shootouts to determine the winner, you played until somebody scored 5 on 5. Mike Richter stood on his head and Brett Hull got lucky and Team USA won but I am able to recognize that it was probably the best international hockey tournament since the last Canada Cup. It preceeded the NHL's participation in Olympic hockey by 2 years, I can't help but think the success of that tournament lead to the decision to go to the Olympics.
Then we had another World Cup of hockey in 2004, every game was played in Toronto which was great, because I bought tickets to all the games and got to see Canada go undefeated. But there was something lacking about that tournament. I love that I got to go to all the games, but it almost seemed to be predetermined that Canada would win. Not that I think the tournament was fixed, but the whole tournament took place in Toronto and Canada steamrolled everybody, the outcome was never in doubt and I don't think anybody cared outside of Canada. So they didn't try again until 2016. But they had a few problems. There were too many good players. Prominent NHLers would be left off their home county's roster in favour of younger faster players that the game was trending toward. So the NHL decided to invent a couple of teams. On paper, it looked exciting. Hell, on ice it looked exciting. The young guns team quickly became the darlings of the tournament because they were so fun to watch. It was perhaps the first look into the fast and talented future of the game. Team Europe was so talented they made it all the way to the finals against team Canada. But therein lies the problem. How is anybody supposed to be inspried by a gold medal game between Team Canada and a bunch of allstars from various counties in Europe? The sense of pride in winning it for your country was taken out of the tournament the second they let the gimmick teams in.