Thursday, September 29, 2016

2016 World Cup of Hockey Team Europe Anze Kopitar Jersey

Tonight is the second, and perhaps final, game of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey between Canada and Team Europe, an amalgamation of players from the European nations outside of Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic.

WCOH 2016 photo WCOH2016 banner.jpg

The formation of the team was a two-pronged effort by the NHL and the NHLPA to create a more competitive team than Slovakia, Switzerland or Germany would be able to send on their own and a pretty blatant way to include Slovenia's Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings in particular as well as the New York Rangers Mats Zuccarello of Norway, who otherwise would have had no place in the World Cup.

The final roster included players from eight countries, Thomas Vanek of Austria, Mikkel Bodker, Jannik Hansen and Frans Nielsen of Denmark, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare of France, Leon Draisaitl, Christian Erhoff, Thomas Greiss, Phillip Grubauer, Tobias Reider and Dennis Seidenberg of Germany, Zuccarello of Norway, Zedeno Chara, Marian Gaborik, Jaroslav Halak, Marian Hossa, Andrej Sekera and Tomas Tatar of Slovakia, team captain Kopitar of Slovenia, Roman Josi, Nino Niederreiter, Luca Sbisa and Mark Streit of Switzerland.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare France photo Pierre-Edouard Bellemare France.jpg
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare of France

Outside of Canada, Russia, Finland, the United States, Sweden and the Czech Republic, who are the top six ranked nations in the current IIHF World Rankings, Switzerland at 7th and Slovakia at 8th seemed like the two most likely teams to be included in the World Cup if the organizers had not gone with the Team Europe and Team North America 23 an under "young guns" concept.

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Belarus at 9th, is the highest ranked team not represented by a player on Team Europe. Germany (10th) would be the obvious choice to participate if Slovakia or Switzerland had been passed over.

Mikhail Grabovksi photo Mikhail Grabovksi.jpg
Mikhail Grabovski of the New York Islanders is the NHL's all-time
career point leader from Belarus with 296 points

The rankings for the other nations included on Team Europe are Norway in 11th, Denmark at 13, France is 14th, Slovenia in 15th and Austria 17th.

One surprising omission is Latvia, ranked 12th, as there was a time that they would have had a good chance at multiple players on a Team Europe in the decade after the breakup of the Soviet Union, such as one time NHL regulars Arturs Irbe, Sandis Ozolinsh or Sergei Zholtok. The lone remaining nation ranked above Austria without a player on Team Europe is Kazakhstan in 16th.

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Latvians Irbe, Ozolinsh and Zholtok

Team Europe's jerseys feature a "a modern E shield" crest "designed to signify unity between players" that "connects all of their home nations." Each players' jersey will feature the flag of their home country, a device employed by the NHL back during the era of the World vs. North America format of the NHL All-Star Game from 1998 to 2002.

Zuccarello Norway photo Zuccarello Norway.png
Mats Zuccarello carries the Norway flag on his sleeve

Additionally, the names of each European nation are printed across the sleeve as a "unity stripe" while a "continental blue color scheme highlights the harmony on a unified team".

Europe photo Europe sm.jpg

Today's featured jersey is a 2016 Team Europe Anze Kopitar jersey. A star center with the Los Angeles Kings, Kopitar is by far and away the best player in Slovenia's hockey history. While Slovenia is a national team on the rise, thanks to their unexpected qualification for the 2014 Olympics and return to the Olympics in 2018 now secured, as well as their eight appearances in the Top Division of the IIHF World Championships, Kopitar is the lone current Slovenian NHLer and one of just three in NHL history. If not for the Team Europe concept, Kopitar would be toiling at the Kings training camp instead of playing in the championship final of the World Cup on national TV across Canada, the United States and at home in Slovenia.

Team Europe 2016 Kopitar jersey photo Team Europe 2016 Kopitar F jersey.jpg
Team Europe 2016 Kopitar jersey photo Team Europe 2016 Kopitar B jersey.jpg

Today's video section begins with highlights of Team Europe's Semifinal overtime win over Sweden to advance to the 2016 World Cup of Hockey finals.

Next, Europe's opening game against the United States, which resulted in an unexpected shutout win over the Americans.

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