TORONTO -- It all began so humbly. Ten skaters and two goaltenders gathered on the ice at Videotron Centre in Quebec City for a practice that lasted barely half an hour, in front of few onlookers. The team was missing half its players, 11 of them still traveling from Europe after Olympic qualifying, and its expected starting goaltender was about to be declared out of the World Cup of Hockey 2016 with an injury.
It was hard to believe in Team Europe then. This was an embryo, up against teams that had played together for years, teams with federations behind them and support systems and structures. This was a team with elite players, sure, but with some of them past their prime, with some yet to reach it.