A part of a two-article series, read the first piece here. The United States men’s hockey team was disappointing, to say the least, at the 2016 Hockey World Cup. There is no getting around that.
On the way to going 0-3, the team got shut out by a weaker Team Europe, worked up and down the ice by Team Canada and—to top it all off—lost to the Czech Republic. Not a great look for American hockey. But here’s the thing—America will be just fine. This isn’t nearly as bad as it looks, and U.S. hockey is trending upward.
One huge damper on Team USA was the creation of Team North America, consisting of the best American and Canadian players under the age of 23. Throughout the tournament, they had been the most fun to watch and the U.S. could have benefited from some of those guys. They’re fast and creative with the puck, which is the exact area where Team USA lacked.
Many of these players, like Buffalo Sabres’ center Jack Eichel and Toronto Maple Leafs’ center Auston Matthews, will be on Team USA when they are of age, without a doubt. The young Americans on Team North America were electric, and that’s the future of the game. Pair those guys with veterans and pure skill players like Chicago Blackhawks’ right wing Patrick Kane and the U.S. will be in good shape.
That’s not to say that our roster absolutely shouldn’t have put up better numbers, but the scores of the games don’t necessarily reflect how close the games were. The U.S. heavily outshot Team Europe. Furthermore, Team Canada—widely known as the greatest team in the world—had the advantage of playing in front of their home crowd. Moreover, the Czech Republic game was played after the U.S. was mathematically out, so the effort may not have been there—which, admittedly, isn’t a great excuse.
Regardless, U.S. hockey is on the rise. The men are changing the game and the whole world is closing the gap on Canada. American coaches and pros are working every day to develop the game and to make it more accessible, which is a foolproof method of improving the sport.