There will be more names that trickle out over the coming days of NHLers who will be sent on a European 'Working' Vacation as their team's season comes to an end. The countries of Sweden and Finland -- and more specifically the cities of Stockholm and Helsinki -- will be the host sites for the 2013 World Hockey Championships. It's an event that will certainly have an Oilers angle to it. Canada will be wel- represented with the likes of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz and Devan Dubnyk. While the U.S.A. has already asked and received a yes from Jeff Petry.
First off, hockey in May is something Edmonton wants to play in North America and nowhere else. Unfortunately, that isn't possible this season. Next-best thing is to keep playing anywhere. The World Hockey Championships have never been labeled with as much importance for Canada as is the case with European and Scandinavian countries. Yet, it doesn't mean that there isn't a lot to be gained from the opportunity. Edmonton's had a history of player representation at the Worlds. How else would Ryan Smyth have earned the moniker 'Captain Canada'? Shawn Horcoff has been there on multiple occasions as was Steve Staios when he played in Edmonton. Those are just some Canadian examples. Oilers of other nationalities have also helped themselves to more post-regular-season ice-time as well.
It's not the NHL playoffs but it's still intense, meaningful and hotly-contested hockey where results matter. It truly gives young men a chance to do their best for the nation and for themselves. It's team first but it's also an opportunity to build your game up. It doesn't hurt that it happens at a great time of year in some picturesque foreign cities. An added bonus that just gives you one more reason to dedicate the first few weeks of the off-season to continue playing. It is especially the case in a shortened season. These World Championships will also be the last major international tournament before the 2014 Olympics.
Do you remember Drew Doughty turning a World Hockey Championship stint into an invite and an eventual gold medal at the 2010 games? For Steve Yzerman, the Worlds are a dry run of what he will do when deciding which Canadians represent the country in Sochi. Taylor Hall, because of injuries, hasn't been able to play the past couple of World Championships. This is a prime opportunity to build off a great season and show Yzerman and his management team that they can't help but put him on the squad. Jordan Eberle's season has been as dynamic as his roommate but he is surely on Canada's radar. His international achievements have made him a lock to be considered. A great Worlds, on the same-sized ice surface as the Olympics, would go a long way in climbing the ladder in positioning on the wing. In Devan Dubnyk's case he might be considered more of a longshot. Look around the league at Canadian goalies and you'll find about a dozen (Corey Crawford, Cam Ward, Carey Price, Craig Anderson, Mike Smith, Marc Andre-Fleury, James Reimer, Robert Luongo Marty Brodeur and Jonathan Bernier) who might be considered. Dubnyk helped Canada win the Spengler Cup and he's had a strong year as a number one on a struggling team. Throw in a strong Worlds and maybe, just maybe, that gets him an invite to the Olympic camp. Other Oilers, who also represent their country, will have their chance to impress and work on a potential Olympic opportunity.
I might be getting ahead of myself with no official confirmation on NHLers even at the Olympics. However, it has to be a consideration of the Oilers who are going to Sweden/Finland. The mindset should be, to quote John F. Kennedy, "Ask not what your country can do for you ask what you can do for your country."