At last count, there are eighteen NHL players already out of the World Cup of Hockey due to injury. The tournament has not even begun and there are almost 20 players that have had to be replaced on various teams, the latest being Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars.
As the tournament is set to get underway next week, many fans and media outlets are asking the same question as I am: Is it really worth it? The Pittsburgh Penguins have six players spread out across the tournament teams, all are vital parts of the team roster.
Coming off a Cup- winning season and wanting to start this coming season on a much better note than last, is the risk of injury so close to the season worth the international "glory?"
The answer, in this humble writer's opinion, is a grey area.
It is a true honor not be asked to represent one's country/continent in an sporting event that will be seen around the world. But think of this scenario:
Picture yourself getting the phone call saying you were selected for the team. The pride you feel for being chosen over so many other qualified players. One team. One tournament. One chance and no guarantee you will make the next team (if there is one). You get to your teams training center and begin your workouts and get set for your first exhibition game. the game begins and WHAM, three minutes in you take a check to the boards that leaves you dazed and with a concussion. You get checked out and find out that the injury is worse than expected and will be missing up to 8 weeks of the regular season with your "everyday" team.
This is a very real scenario and one I am sure has come to mind more times than you can shake a (hockey) stick at. It's "the nature of the game". But this tournament does not lead to the Stanley Cup which is the ultimate prize. The fact that possible severe injury could take out some of the NHL's biggest stars before the regular season even begins could put a damper on some teams chances of hoisting the Cup. Not to mention added pressure to the NHL stars to put on a show worth watching and showing that they genuinely want to be there (something that was called into question early on).
When interviewed by ESPN as Team Sweden's camp opened, veteran goaltender Hendrik Lundqvist had this to say:
"...It doesn't matter if it's the World Cup or the start of the NHL season. This is a tough sport, and people think you just snap your fingers and you're ready to play. No, that's not how it works. You put a lot of pressure on your body physically and mentally and injuries are a part of it. If you can't be there giving it your all, I think it's better not to play. You've got to be honest with yourself, but injuries are always going to happen. It's a physical sport".
"In today's world, with what's going on and what are troops are doing over there in all facets, unconventionally, it's just nuts. This is about your country. This is a platform for us, for our country. If you're not ready and you're not ready to give, I just don't know how you'll ever live that down as you go through this, and that's how we are presenting it. It's hockey, but this is about your country first and foremost." (taken from the same ESPN article).