Craig Janney, part of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2016, has a pretty good reason why he believes the World Cup of Hockey 2016 is something he and other fans should be very excited about.
"Everyone's healthy on every team," the former NHL forward said Tuesday. "It's the best players in the world. … The Olympics is great as well, but guys can be nicked up, it's the middle of the season. This is our best players in their best shape, ready to go, excited to play hockey."
The World Cup, which will be played at Air Canada Centre in Toronto from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1, will start more than three months after the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup. The teams have been set since May 27, so the coaches have had time to study their team, review the opposition and put in a solid plan.
"With this, you can design a game plan that's specific to the team," said Ron Wilson, who coached the U.S. at the World Cup in 1996 and 2004. "They have nothing to worry about like playing for their own team. And it's really going to be fun to watch. The teams are going to be the best you can possibly throw on the ice."
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Six teams represent a country: Team USA, Team Canada, Team Russia, Team Finland, Team Sweden and Team Czech Republic. There also will be Team Europe, players from other European countries than the four national teams, and Team North America, the best 23-and-under players from the U.S. and Canada, including Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid and Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel, the first two picks of the 2015 NHL Draft, and 2016 No. 1 pick Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"I'm intrigued by it," Janney said. "Gets a few more players in the tournament, some high-profile players like Auston Matthews. … I'm intrigued because I think there's great talent there and it'll be fun to watch."
Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Brian Leetch, who was captain of the 1996 U.S. World Cup team, said the World Cup of Hockey 2016 will make the perfect transition from the summer to getting ready for the NHL season.
"It's just great hockey," he said. "You get all the best athletes, everybody's in shape now. Everyone trains hard during the summer. The pace of play and the ability to make plays in small areas, move the puck, it's fun to see.
"It's an exciting way around here to transition from summer into getting ready for NHL hockey. Your kids are getting ready for school, you're back into more of a set schedule. For me to see hockey at times that I'll be able to see it, it's going to be great. It's a great event to have, and as a fan, fun to be a fan watching these things."