Friday, August 10, 2007

"Super Series" of hockey coming soon

The hockey world has been generally quiet since the first few days of the ‘free agent frenzy’, except for ownership issues and a few offer sheets here and there. Hockey fans can get a quick fix now and then with brief stories on SportsCentre, sandwiched between stories on Michael Vick and Barry Bonds, but a Top 10 list of Crosby’s greatest NHL moments is little more than a tease.

The good news – check that, great news – is that the summer hockey drought is about to come to an end. The Canada Russia Super Series officially begins August 27th in Russia and ends on September 9th in Canada. This eight game series will showcase the best junior players in a format that is very familiar to each nation.

It has been 35 years since the original Summit Series was played between the best players in the Soviet Union and the best players in Canada. Many people believe that the best hockey in history was played during these eight games. At the time, it was assumed that the mighty Canadian NHL players would easily sweep the series and humiliate the Soviets, but Team Canada’s ego was put in check when they lost the first game 7-3 in Montreal. However, in the end, it was Canada that was victorious in the Series, thanks to a goal by Paul Henderson with 34 seconds remaining in the final game.

While the original Summit Series caused nationwide interest, and most Canadians tuned in to watch the final game, I do not believe that the current series will enjoy the same interest. There will certainly be a number of Canadians who will tune in to watch the games, but the interest will not be near what it was during the Olympics (especially the Salt Lake City Games) or maybe even the World Junior Championships.

Even though this Super Series does not showcase the best of the best Canadian/Russian players, it does have the best teenaged players from these two nations – the next generation, if you will. I think that we will see great hockey, and it will be a chance to peek into the future of the NHL. A lot of players have something to prove in this tournament: Cherepanov and Esposito will have to prove that they are players that should have been top 5 draft picks, Turris will have to prove that he can be as successful with CHL players as he was in Junior A, and Tavares will have to prove that he is the player that everyone believes him to be. Should be an interesting show!

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