TORONTO — Greatest hockey team ever?
Let the argument begin.
With apologies to the great Soviet national teams of yesteryear that were simply outstanding but didn’t get to regularly test themselves against NHL players, Team Canada circa 2014-16 might go down as the most dominating squad to ever hit the ice in the modern era.
A perfect 12-0-0 between the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the World Cup of Hockey — with Thursday night’s thrilling 2-1 victory over Europe at Air Canada Centre as the finishing touch — is a stretch of hockey we won’t soon forget.
“It’s pretty special,” said World Cup MVP Sidney Crosby. “It’s not easy to do, and for a good chunk of us, a lot of us were together there in Russia.
“Everyone understands playing for Team Canada, you’re willing to do anything to win.”
We wanted to talk ourselves into thinking Sweden or Team USA had a chance to dethrone the champs. But really? Team Canada is a team with the best player in the world in World Cup MVP Sidney Crosby, the two best two-way forwards in the world in Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron, arguably the best defenseman in the world in Drew Doughty (Erik Karlsson might have a say in that) and certainly the best goalie in the world in Carey Price.
Isn’t that just the kicker with this team, right? When the opposition finally gets a hold of the puck for the odd scoring chance, whether that was in Sochi or here at the World Cup, the last guy standing in its way is Price, whose demeanor is perfect for this team.
“He gives your group confidence and an aura of calm like no one I’ve ever been around,” Babcock said of Price.
And what of Babcock, arguably the best coach in the game? He has been behind the bench for two Olympic gold medals and now a World Cup championship. He has sold a game plan. And once again, he got a complete buy-in from some of the very best players in the world. Zero pushback. That’s the respect and trust he has built up with these studs.
The next time Team Canada laces up for a best-on-best tournament, whether that’s the 2018 South Korea Olympics or the next World Cup, Connor McDavid will be front and center. So it’s not as though Team Canada as a powerhouse is going away.
“It’s such a good group of players, that whole age group, and there’s more young ones coming along now that should keep it going for a while,” said Yzerman.
But one day, this unbelievable stretch will end. Canada will actually lose a game in best-on-best hockey. It will lose a tournament. Team USA’s next generation of stars is at hand, a rival of equal footing perhaps soon enough.
So to my fellow Canadians, make sure to fully absorb what has happened here during this era. It won’t always be this way. Don’t take this for granted.
This was, by any measure, an unparalleled era of success.