Upstart Team Europe to face Canada in ice hockey World Cup final
By Steve Keating
TORONTO (Reuters) - Hosts Canada, the two-time reigning Olympic champions who are deep in both tradition and talent, were always expected to reach this week's World Cup of Hockey final.
Their opponent, Team Europe, a gimmicky squad of players from smaller European hockey playing nations, were not even expected to advance beyond the preliminary round.
What it means is a confounding but intriguing best-of-three final starting on Tuesday with hot favorites Canada taking on the longest of tournament longshots.
At one end of the ice will stand Canada, the Goliath of the hockey world, while a group of Davids without a country, flag or anthem and whose coach's day job is chairman of Premiership club Southampton FC will stand at the other.
"Well, personally, first and foremost, just so pleased that these peripheral countries in the world of hockey have had an opportunity to compete with the best in the world for the first time in their life and to truly believe in being competitive," said Team Europe coach Ralph Krueger.
"That's not possible when these players show up alone at tournaments. They're forever fighting just to get to Olympic Games, forget about competing for anything at them."
Russia, Czech Republic, Finland and Sweden, who Team Europe knocked out with a shock overtime semi-final win, have all gone home leaving Krueger's crew from Slovenia, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Slovakia, Austria and France playing for a trophy they would never normally get close to hoisting.
Team Europe, created solely for the 2016 World Cup in a bid to avoid lopsided results that would likely have occurred had the next best European team been included, have defied the odds. Continued...