Back on September 28, 1972, Paul Henderson created a moment that has echoed through the hallowed wings of hockey history.
With his golden goal, Henderson not only etched his name permanently etched his name in the annals of history, but inspired a generation of Canadians to pursue the dream of professional hockey and the pursuit of creating a moment that lived up to the iconic one scored by their idol.
However, the sad part for many players is they never got the opportunity to achieve that iconic moment. With all due respect to Sidney Crosby’s golden goal at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, or Jordan Eberle’s buzzer-beating tying goal in the 2008 World Juniors, there are countless moments that any hockey fan can draw upon from a global tournament such as the Olympics or a World Championship. However, the Canada Cup has since fallen by the wayside.
There is also evidence that a resurrection of the a provincial best-on-best tournament may have some tangible benefit to this country. Over the last several years, we have seen the amount of Canadians being drafted in the first round of the NHL draft decrease at times to record lows. With deference to all other sports in Canada trying to grow, hockey is seemingly being chosen as a potential career path less and less. This is heavily due to the fact that many kids growing up have had very few icons to look up to, with the last Stanley Cup won by a Canadian NHL team taking place over two decades ago.
So how would this tournament look? Well, the first six teams are very easy to put together; Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. However, the other provinces provide their very obvious challenges. While it may be tempting to just include those six teams, you cannot hold a Canada Cup without having Sid the Kid taking part in it. Therefore, you would have a Team Maritimes. This team would consist of players from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Labrador, and Prince Edward Island. However, having a seven-team tournament is difficult to situate, especially considering it would be much easier to have an eight-team tournament, and the World Cup of Hockey has set a precedent for this kind of team. Therefore, the eighth and final team in this tournament is Team Nationals. The players who would make up this team are players who were not selected by any of the provincial teams. The requirements for this team is you must be a Canadian and play for one of the seven Canadian NHL clubs. This team not only addresses the need for an eighth team, but also ensures that as many good players are able to take part in this tournament.
Now that we have an idea of what the teams are, it’s time to delve into who makes each 23-man roster:
Ryan O’Reilly – John Tavares – Steven Stamkos
Mark Scheifele – Connor McDavid – Corey Perry
James Neal – Tyler Seguin – Claude Giroux
Logan Couture – Joe Thornton – Jeff Carter
Sean Monahan – Mitch Marner
Cam Fowler – Brent Burns
Mark Giordano – PK Subban
Jake Muzzin – Drew Doughty
Matt Murray – Cam Talbot
As you can see, Ontario boasts probably the best-looking roster out of any team. As is usually the case for the Olympics teams, many of these players are natural centers so quite a few have to move to the wing. However, this team is loaded with players who can move the puck and score goals. It also has some guys who can step in up front and play a tighter, grittier game, such as O’Reilly, Scheifele, Perry, and Monahan. On the back end, there is again lots of skill and puck moving ability, but also some solid D-zone coverage, specifically from Giordano and Muzzin. Lastly, in goal, there should be no fears about being able to stop the puck, as Ontario is backstopped by one goalie who propelled his team to straight Stanley Cups in Murray, and very plausibly the best goaltender in the Edmonton Oilers organization in a decade.
Jonathan Drouin – Patrice Bergeron – David Perron
Jonathan Huberdeau – Paul Stastny – Jonathan Marchessault
Alex Burrows – Antoine Vermette – Anthony Mantha
Phillip Danault – Mathieu Perreault – Derick Brassard
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – David Savard
Marco Scandella – Kris Letang
Thomas Chabot – Jason Demers
Corey Crawford – Marc-Andre Fleury – Roberto Luongo
There is a lot to like about the team that Quebec could field. Up front, they have the ability to score goals throughout the lineup with Drouin, Perron, Stastny, Marchessault, Huberdeau, and Brassard. They also have the ability to check with the third line that can be sent out to play against the other teams’ top lines. What really is the strong point of the Quebec team is the backend and in between the pipes. They have six blueliners who are going to play in an NHL top four, and guys who compliment each other nicely. Vlasic can play well in every area of the ice but can use his defensive ability to let Savard carry the puck and jump into the rush. Much the same on the second pairing, where you have one of the best offensive blueliners in Letang, supported by a stay-at-home defender in Scandella. Finally, in goal, you cannot go wrong no matter who you put in goal. Crawford and Fleury are likely the top two choices, however, Luongo can still play a half decent game.
Max Domi – Jonathan Toews – Patrick Sharp
Alex Steen – Travis Zajac – Mark Stone
Matt Calvert – Darren Helm – Michael Ferland
Jordan Martinook – Cody Eakin – Dale Weise
Duncan Keith – Damon Severson
Ryan Pulock – Travis Hamonic
Joel Edmundson – Michael Stone
James Reimer – Chris Driedger
In order for Manitoba to do damage in this tournament, they are going to have to play a strong defensive-first style. Up front, there are not too many guys who are natural born goal scorers, aside from Domi and Stone, as well as Toews and Steen who also can put up points. However, looking throughout the forwards, there is a lot of two-way ability and grit, the latter of which is found in spades on the bottom two lines. On the back end is where this team will shine through, with guys there who can jump into the rush and help create some offense. What might work best for this team is to model after the Nashville Predators this past season, and use their talent on the backend to spark their offense. In net, there will be questions if Reimer can be the guy to backstop this team to glory, however, by the same token, if the team in front of him can play a strong defensive game, then he could be in a very could position to succeed.
Taylor Hall – Bryan Little – Brendan Gallagher
Alex Nylander – Tyler Ennis – William Nylander
Kris Versteeg – Brayden Point – Tyson Jost
Patrick Eaves – Mark Letestu – Jay Beagle
Jay Bouwmeester – Colton Parayko
Dion Phaneuf – Mike Green
Kris Russell – Jared Spurgeon
Johnny Boychuk – Thomas Hickey
Chad Johnson – Aaron Dell – Eric Comrie
This team doesn’t possess a tremendous amount of big name flash up front, however, that does not mean they don’t have some interesting forwards. Hall, Little, and the Nylander brothers pose an immediate offensive threat before you look down the lineup at guys like Ennis, Eaves, Point and Jost who all can contribute points and play some two-way hockey. Hall would also likely love having Gallagher to play with as the scrappy winger will go to the corner, get the puck to Little who will, in turn, set up Hall beautifully. On defense, though, is where this team as their best shot to win games. Much like Manitoba, their star power is mainly defensemen, with guys like Green, Parayko, and Spurgeon who can put up points, and guys like Bouwmeester, Phaneuf, and Russell who be the physical, defensive cohort. Their defense will have to be strong though as goaltending is a big question mark. Chad Johnson has proven to be one of the more solid backup goalies in the NHL, however, he is not a starter. Despite this, as he isn’t going to have to play 50+ games in this tournament, there is every chance he is able to backstop this team to greatness.
Patrick Marleau – Ryan Getzlaf – Blake Comeau
Jaden Schwartz – Tyler Bozak – Jordan Eberle
Chris Kunitz – Brayden Schenn – Derek Dorsett
Dwight King – Zack Smith – Scott Hartnell
Ryan Murray – Josh Manson
Brayden McNabb – Matt Dumba
Derrick Pouliot – Luke Schenn
Braden Holtby – Devan Dubnyk – Cam Ward
It seems like this team will only be able to really do two things; hit hard and score goals. Marleau, Getzlaf, Schwartz, and Eberle provide some sharp-shooting offensive skill and are surrounded by a lot of two-way physical players throughout the rest of the roster. The best bet for this team if they want to succeed is likely to have a game plan of wearing down the opposition with physical, hard-nosed play. On the back end, it is much the same as the forwards, with Murray being a smooth skater, complimented by a big, hard-hitting defense corps around him. Dumba also provides some offense while also having some bite to his game. Oh yeah, and they have a former Vezina trophy winner and Vezina contender in goal.
Team British Columbia
Jamie Benn – Ryan Johansen – Brett Connolly
Milan Lucic – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Sam Reinhart
Evander Kane – Kyle Turris – Troy Brouwer
Andrew Ladd – Mathew Barzal – Nic Petan
Karl Alzner – Brent Seabrook
Morgan Reilly – Shea Weber
Dan Hamhuis – Tyson Barrie
Brandon Manning – Justin Schultz
Carey Price – Martin Jones
This is, in my opinion, the second best team on paper assembled for this tournament. Up front, you have a bunch of dangerous offensive weapons that can be spread out up and down the lineup. You also have plenty of speed and skating, as well as some more physical guys who aren’t afraid to go into the dirty areas. While they could do with a bit more strength on the right side, the middle of the ice and left wings are so strong that the right wingers may be able to play a nice complementary role to their linemates. On defense, though, you better watch out, because there isn’t too much you won’t be able to get out of this group. Reilly and Seabrook both are great offensive blueliners and are nearly the same player, while Alzner and Weber can provide elite level stay-at-home help that will balance out the skill of their partners. Finally, Hamhuis and Barrie are guys who can slide up and down the lineup and can give you virtually anything you may need from them. Finally, there is the goaltending, and having the best goalie in the world backed up starting netminder as your tandem instantly means you have a pretty good shot.
Alex Killorn – Sidney Crosby – Teddy Purcell
Brad Marchand – Nathan MacKinnon – Zack Phillips
Colin Greening – Brad Malone – Logan Shaw
Zach Sill – Patrice Cormier – Liam O’Brien
Andrew MacDonald – Adam McQuaid
Brandon Gormley – Morgan Ellis
Adam Pardy – Ryan Graves
Jake Allen – Calvin Pickard
For what may be the first time in his career, Sidney Crosby is a clear underdog. While you can never say for sure that Sid has no real chance of winning something, this tournament does seem to be a longshot. Up front, after Crosby, Killorn, Purcell, MacKinnon, and Marchand, the roster is mainly made up of fringe NHLers. Something that would likely happen with this team would be a revolving door of linemates for Crosby in an effort to boost the other lines. On the back end, this team has even more problems as they do not even have one top end defenseman, unlike their forward group where they have three high end forwards in Crosby, MacKinnon, and Marchand. Despite the lack of quality blueliners, the team can be a bit more comfortable knowing they have two quality netminders behind them.
Sam Bennett – Bo Horvat – Ryan Strome
Mike Hoffman – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Sam Gagner
Zach Hyman – Nazem Kadri – Connor Brown
Paul Byron – Andrew Shaw – Zack Kassian
TJ Brodie – Dougie Hamilton
Ben Hutton – Chris Tanev
Ben Chiarot – Cody Ceci
Steve Mason – Mike Smith – Andrew Hammond
This team is inspired by the Under-23 team from the World Cup but is more fitting to this tournament than the Young Guns. This team is made up of Canadian players on Canadian NHL teams only and boasts a surprisingly decent lineup. There is clear chemistry among some guys as they play together so obviously they should be kept together as best as possible, both at forward and on defense. There is a nice balance of grit, two-way ability, playmaking and scoring touch throughout the lines, while also boasting a 4th line that can be put out to wear down the opposition’s high-end talent and contribute a little offense. On the back end, there is a lot of chemistry as two of the pairings play on the same NHL clubs. Finally, in goal, the tandem of Mason and Smith will provide very solid goaltending and could make this team a dark horse to do some serious damage in this tournament. At the end of the day, whether the NHL decides to resurrect the Canada Cup, or even have any interest in doing so remains to be seen, there is no question that such a tournament would excite hockey fans across this country, and offer those who witnessed Henderson’s magical goal a chance to relive those feelings, while also providing the chance for one of this generation’s players to create a similar moment that inspires an entire generation of young Canadian hockey players.