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Nobody Roots For Goliath: Why you should support Team North America at the World Cup

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"Everybody pulls for David, nobody roots for Goliath."--Wilt Chamberlain

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The World Cup of Hockey is gearing up, and while it's going to be vaguely silly and a bunch of players bailed out with fake injuries, it's still going to be a showcase of unbelievable hockey talent.  Many of the best players on Earth are going to team up, and hahaha oh my God Team Canada is going to absolutely crush everybody.

Come on, you know it, I know it.  Here are Team Canada's forward lines from Monday.

Corey Perry is third in the NHL in goals this decade.  He is practicing as the thirteenth forward on the team.

Now, sure, their seventh defenceman is Jay Bouwmeester, which horrified people as if it's going to matter.  It is not going to matter.  There is a small chance some team is going to Arturs Irbe them, and that's essentially it.  Even Team Sweden, who are stacked as hell, probably don't have a prayer against Team Canada.

Let's cheer against them.

1.  Our NHL Team Is Exciting For A Change

For Leaf fans, Team Canada is traditionally our opportunity to cheer for a juggernaut, before returning to our inept hometown franchise.  This year, things are a bit different.  While our team is still bad, they're bad with a plan, and bad with a future.  We have three elite rookies joining the team, a new star goalie (who's too "injured" for the World Cup, natch), and a master coach.  I would be surprised if there were a single Leafs fan who's more excited for the World Cup than for October.  We don't need the hockey excitement fix like we used to.

Further, two of our hotshot kids are playing for a team.  Is it Team Canada?  Nope!  Hold that thought.

2.  Team Canada Has Been To The Mountaintop, And This Ain't It

This generation of Canadian hockey fans has been spoiled.  We had two of the greatest moments in the history of the sport at the 2002 and 2010 Olympics, and we had a team so incredibly dominant in 2014 that they sucked most of the drama out of the tournament.

Is anything that happens going to match those years?  No.  Team Canada could go down 5-0 to Team USA in Game Three of the finals--because, I don't know, Justin Abdelkader takes super serum on game day--and then come back to win 6-5 in OT.  It would not match Vancouver.  Because this tournament does not matter that much.

Two of the teams are gimmicks, which dilutes the nationalism component.  You know what's going to happen if Team Rest of Europe medals?  Everyone is going to laugh hysterically.  They're trying to invent a lyricless anthem for the ROE squad, which is too bad, because I really wanted them to write verses in Esperanto.  Nia estas imperio de absurdaĵo!

Like it or not--and nobody really likes it, because the IOC are crooked as a fishhook--the Olympics have cachet.  That's the pinnacle of the sport, where every country sends its best.  The WC is the foothill where every country sends its people who weren't able to fake a groin strain.  And Canada's probably going to sweep.  If our country wins, the national reaction will be "O Canada, well yeah, duh."

3.  Those Fucking Commercials

To compensate for the universal feeling that the WC was a second-rate Olympics, the marketers for the tournament have gone triple-strong on nationalism.  And it's awful.  Here:

Christ.  I am a deeply proud Canadian, and I think there are a lot of genuinely great things about our country.  Those commercials made me want to declare myself an Independent Republic of Fuck That.  Hockey is a game.  Maybe if we want other people to play with us, we don't have to treat them like squatters on our sacred sport.  Not to mention that, much as I love hockey, I feel like there have been at least one or two other things involved in the creation of Canada.  Like, probably.

Besides, what could be more Canadian than a discomfort with showy nationalism?  The only patriotic thing to do is to wince and cheer for somebody else.

4.  Team North America Is What Your Heart Needs

And this is where Team North America comes in.  First of all, a bunch of them are Canadian anyway, so you're basically still cheering for a Team Canada, even if it's not the Team Canada.  And one of the Americans is Auston Matthews.  Catch me doctor, I'm in a swoon.

Is there a team that's going to fight harder in this tournament than the NA 23-and-under crowd?  They're all young guns with something to prove.  And they're all really, really good.  Look at this roster (c/o Acha):

G
Matt Murray
Connor Hellebuyck
John Gibson

D
Aaron Ekblad
Seth Jones
Ryan Murray
Morgan Rielly
Shayne Gostisbehere
Colton Parayko
Jacob Trouba

F
Sean Couturier
Jack Eichel
Johnny Gaudreau
Dylan Larkin
Nathan MacKinnon
Connor McDavid
J.T. Miller
Brandon Saad
Jonathan Drouin
Auston Matthews
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Mark Scheifele

Rosterbate to your heart's content.  All of these players have destiny ahead of them.  I'm half-expecting a star over their practices to draw Mesopotamian wise men.

And yet...they're an underdog!  A team this good, fast, and energetic is squaring up against established national squads--Sweden, who remain excellent and who may actually have gotten better thanks to injury replacements; Russia, who have something to prove on the international stage and great forwards to do it with; and of course, Canadeath, waiting in Pool A should the kids avoid drowning in Pool B.

That's the beauty of it.  Imagine for a moment that Team Puberty has--against all odds--won the World Cup.  The three-game final ends with a stunning upset of Team Canada, led by Auston Matthews at centre and Morgan Rielly as a first-pair defender.  Imagine Matthews potting the OT winner, having blown past Team Canada 1LW (sad face) Brad Marchand.  Imagine the youngest bunch of never-quit little hockey players that could going absolutely buck wild as they flood onto the ice, metaphorical slingshots in hand.  And imagine Mike Babcock with a stoic face as he settles for silver, and then a slight smile--as he realizes that he's going to get to build a team with Matthews and Rielly.

You know how I said nothing in this tournament will touch 2002 or 2010?  That moment might come close.

5. It's Fun

This tournament, like I said, is kind of silly.  Embrace it.  Cheer for the team with a million nicknames.  Here are a few of my favourites:

  • Team Acne
  • Team Puberty
  • Team Getting Carded In The Hotel Bar (thanks Katya)
  • Team Only 90s Kids Will Remember Being On This Team
  • High School Musical 4
The possibilities are endless.  There's also the jersey.


Is this a logo for a death metal band?  Is it the symbol of the New World Order?  Is it the Triforce for a new emo Zelda game?  It could be any of them!  It's perfect.

Then there's the issue of the song.  What will they play if they win?  I'm hoping for the Spice Girls.  They were big in the 90s.  "2 Become 1" also is weirdly fitting with the Canada/U.S. team makeup, although it would make for a pretty suggestive podium track.


Be honest.  If Team Canada wins this second-class tournament, you won't feel that excited.  If you cheer for them and they lose, you'll feel disappointed.  If you cheer for North America, you're in for a ride, win or lose.  And isn't that what we want out of hockey?

Go Team North America.  Everybody pulls for David.