When the puck officially drops to commence the 2016 World Cup of Hockey on September 17, it will be done in Toronto, where a majority of the best-on-best, eight-team competition will be held.
Pittsburgh will factor prominently into the World Cup, as four Penguins players plus head coach Mike Sullivan, as well as three Pittsburgh area players, will have roles in the tournament.
Before the tournament begins, hockey fans will have the chance to experience the World Cup up close, as CONSOL Energy Center will host an exhibition doubleheader on Sept. 14.
The marquee matchup that day will be the nightcap between rivals Canada and Russia at 7:30 p.m., a contest that will pit Penguins star Sidney Crosby of Canada against the Russians’ Evgeni Malkin.
This will mark the first time that Crosby and Malkin have gone head-to-head since May 2015 when Crosby and Canada beat Malkin’s Russian squad in the gold medal game at the World Championship. That win made Crosby the 26th player to join the illustrious Triple Gold Club, which is comprised of players who have won the Stanley Cup and gold medals at the Olympics and World Championship.
Earlier that day, Team North America, which is comprised of the best players age 23 or under from the United States and Canada, takes on the Czech Republic at 3:30 p.m.
Not only will the North American roster have Penguins goaltender Matt Murray, but it will also feature Whitehall, Pa. native and Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson; Gibsonia’s Brandon Saad, a two-time Stanley Cup champion who now plays for the Columbus Blue Jackets; and New York Rangers forward J.T. Miller, who is from East Palestine, Ohio.
Gibson, Saad and Miller all played youth hockey for the Pittsburgh Hornets travel program.
In addition to Murray and the Pittsburgh kids, Team North America will have the top-two picks from the 2015 NHL Draft, centers Connor McDavid from the Edmonton Oilers and Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres.
All four teams will spend the week leading up to the exhibition games practicing both at CONSOL Energy Center and the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, Pa.
More details and ticket information will be announced at a later date.
Joining Crosby, Malkin and Murray on initial World Cup rosters is Finland’s Olli Maatta.
Maatta was the highest-scoring blueliner on Finland’s bronze-medal winning squad in Sochi, contributing five points (3G-2A).
The four Penguins players have combined to win 17 medals in major international tournaments, which include the Olympics, World Championships, World Junior Championships and World Under-18 Championships.
Coach Sullivan will serve as an assistant coach to John Tortorella on the United States’ coaching staff, the fourth time that he has coached the Americans internationally. Sullivan was the head coach at the 2007 World Championship and was assistant coach at the 2006 Olympics and the 2008 World Championship.
The six countries participating in the World Cup are the United States, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic.
Team North America is one of two teams not made up entirely of players from the same country. The other is Team Europe, which has players from all the remaining European countries.
While Team North America will ice the youngest team in the tournament, it figures to be one of the most exciting, as the past three No. 1-overall selections, McDavid, Florida’s Aaron Ekblad and Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon will be on the team.
The eight competing teams must complete their 23-man rosters no later than June 1, 2016.
Prominent players representing the four teams that will train in Pittsburgh include:
|CANADA ||RUSSIA ||CZECH REPUBLIC ||NORTH AMERICA |
|SIDNEY CROSBY ||EVGENI MALKIN ||DAVID KREJCI ||MATT MURRAY |
|STEVEN STAMKOS ||ALEX OVECHKIN ||JAKUB VORACEK ||CONNOR MCDAVID |
|JAMIE BENN ||VLADIMIR TARASENKO ||ONDREJ PALAT ||JACK EICHEL |
|TYLER SEGUIN ||PAVEL DATSYUK ||TOMAS PLEKANEC ||AARON EKBLAD |
|JONATHAN TOEWS ||ARTEMI PANARIN ||DAVID PASTRNAK ||DYLAN LARKIN |