The hockey season is starting early this year. Thanks to the World Cup of Hockey, we’re getting a little taste of the best of the best before diving into the 2016-17 season.
What exactly is the World Cup of Hockey? It’s an international ice hockey tournament that replaced the Canada Cup in 1996. It has only taken place twice, with Team USA winning the inaugural year and Team Canada taking home the gold in 2004. After this year’s tournament, which is scheduled to take place between September 17 - October 1, the plan is for it to be held on a regular basis every four years.
Six Montreal Canadiens players have been chosen to represent their country for the tournament. Some are looking to continue the success they’ve become accustomed to during international tournaments, while others are looking to finally make their mark.
Max Pacioretty - Team USA
This will be Pacioretty’s fourth time representing his country, and he’s aiming to have happier memories to bring home. The Canadiens’ captain has the least amount of international experience among the Habs who are participating in the tournament, along with the fewest medals to show for his participation.
During the 2014 Sochi Olympics, his team was defeated 1-0 by by Canada in the semi-finals and was unable to clinch the bronze medal, losing 5-0 to Finland.
In order to be in top shape for the upcoming competition, Pacioretty changed up his usual summer training, going into the September 4 training camp more ready than normal.
He admits that Team Canada will, once again, be the team to beat. But he’s looking to redeem himself after last season’s spiral with the Canadiens and his close-but-no-cigar pattern in international tournaments.
Carey Price - Team Canada
Carey Price is usually the most talked about player during tournaments. And playoffs. And, well, during the regular season, too. But the talk of the town for this tournament is: will he be ready to play? After his impressive practices with Team Canada, it looks as if he’s back and raring to go following his first taste of action in almost 10 months.
Price is no stranger to such tournaments, making his international debut at the IIHF World U18 Championship in 2005. Grabbing a silver medal in the tournament, he upgraded to gold two years later during the World Junior Championship, where he was also named tournament MVP and Top Goaltender.
In 2014, Price was chosen to be the starting goaltender for Team Canada during the Sochi Olympics and was awarded his first gold medal as an Olympian. He went undefeated in five games and finished the tournament with a jaw-dropping 0.59 GAA and .971 SV%. He was once again named Best Goaltender.
Shea Weber - Team Canada
He may be new to the Habs, but he’s a veteran when it comes to international play, and to taking home gold for that matter.
Weber’s first taste of international play, and winning a gold medal, was in 2005, when he was named to the roster for the World Junior Championship. From there he played in the 2007 IIHF World Championship, bringing home the gold yet again. Two years later when he played the championship again he finished with a silver, but was named an alternate captain, tallied 12 points in nine games, and was awarded Best Defenseman of the tournament.
Weber’s first taste of the Olympics was in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver where he became an Olympic Gold Medalist. During his second stint, he was named alternate captain for the 2014 Sochi Olympics and again, left with a gold medal hanging around his neck.
Andrei Markov - Team Russia
Markov has the most international tournament experience out of all the Habs taking part in this year’s World Cup. Joining the tournament circuit way back in the 90s, his first tournament was in the EJC-18 in 1996. He’s also the only Hab with World Cup experience, playing two games during the 2004 tournament.
Markov has done five runs with the IIHF World Championship and has three Olympic appearances under his belt.
Alexei Emelin - Team Russia
Markov may have the most experience, and Weber the most gold, but Emelin has the most medals to show for his international play.
He’s been playing tournaments since his debut in the World Junior U18 Championship in 2004. His best game was in 2006 during the WJC-20 when he tallied seven points (2G, 5A) in six games earning Most Points by Defenseman and Most Goals by Defenseman honors.
He’s played 46 games in five World Championship years between 2007 - 2016. In 2010, Emelin changed up his style a bit, and instead of claiming the title for the most points/goals, he has been named Most Penalized Player.
Tomas Plekanec - Team Czech Republic
Plekanec has been playing for Team Czech Republic since 2000 where he was first introduced to international play during the IIHF World U18 Championship. Since then, he’s played 81 games at the international level. During his second consecutive World Junior appearance in 2002, he racked up a point-per-game in seven games played (3G, 4A).
Plekanec was named captain of Team Czech Republic for the World Cup. This is his fourth time as captain, including once for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
As exciting as it will be to watch a handful of our Habs play for their native lands, we all know the real test will start next month. But in the meantime, this should be a very entertaining tournament to watch.