Ryder Cup of Hockey?

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:47 PM ET

DETROIT — The roars of the giddy crowds lined up on the soggy fairways in Wales this weekend have provided a testament to the success and popularity that the Ryder Cup has imprinted on the normally understated world of golf.

Playing off the “Us Against Them” concept, the U.S. versus Europe rivalry has ignited passion and enthusiasm not really seen in any other event in that particular sport.

Could a similar setup work in hockey?

Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson certainly thinks so.

While it has yet to progress beyond the talking stage, Nicholson has discussed the idea with his colleagues from U.S.A. Hockey.

The basic premise? A Canada-U.S. competition involving the all-star teams, junior teams and women’s teams of the two countries going head-to-head in a total-points challenge.

“We’ve brought up a Ryder Cup of hockey during our chats,” Nicholson said. “Right now it’s just a blue skies thinking type of deal, but wouldn’t a hockey version of the Ryder Cup be neat?”

“Canada and the U.S. have forged such a great hockey rivalry at all levels. Look at the World Juniors. Look at the men’s teams, especially with what happened at the Olympics. And the women’s teams have been rivals for a while now.

“We haven’t even got to the stage of details or the basics of how it all would work. But it’s definitely something we’ve chatted about.”

At the professional level, the U.S. has usurped Russia as Canada’s fiercest foe. That point was underscored at the Vancouver Olympics, where the two teams had their respective countries holding their collective breaths before Sidney Crosby’s golden goal in overtime netted Canada the title.

On the women’s side, the only games that are consistently competitive for the Canadians and Americans are the ones against each other. Former Canadian star Cassie Campbell says emotions between the two run so deep, players from each team often do not talk to each other when stuck riding in the same elevator together.

As for the youngsters, who will ever forget the exhilarating 6-5 overtime victory by the U.S. over Canada at the 2010 World Juniors? It doesn’t get any more dramatic than that.

However it would work, whether it be one specific tournament or a number of events sprinkled across the calendar, hockey types from both countries are enthused at the idea.

“Absolutely. I would love it,” said Mike Babcock, the head coach of the gold medal-winning 2010 Canadian Olympic team. “The history of the rivalry between Canada and the U.S. is well documented.”

Among the many issues that would need to be ironed out: A name.

How about the Michael Ryder Cup?

On second thought, maybe not.

Fehr or foul

Yes, it’s true that NHLPA executive director-in-waiting Donald Fehr has started informing players that a work stoppage in 2012-13 is an option.

At the same time, it is premature to start panicking about the possibility of yet another lost season due to a labour dispute between the league and its players.

Fehr is on record as stating a strike would be “a last resort.” Having said that, it is his job to educate the players about all their options, even if some might seem, well, distasteful at this time.

Fehr, who was endorsed by the union’s selection committee Sept. 11 as the best candidate to take over the players’ association, is going from team to team to meet with the players. A vote of the general membership rubber-stamping Fehr’s appointment is expected to be completed by the end of October.

Official concerns?

The NHL pre-season entered its final weekend of play with the league’s officials still lacking a new collective bargaining agreement.

And while the zebras have worked the exhibition schedule without a deal, there should be reason for concern.

After watching first-hand the incompetence of the officials who worked soccer’s World Cup in South Africa this past summer, a new appreciation was developed for the generally outstanding job the NHL’s referees and linesman turn in on a nightly basis, especially when compared to their colleagues in other sports.

The idea of bringing in replacements from the minors can be construed as nothing more than a Band-Aid solution. Without having the regular NHL officials out on the ice for games, you are screwing around with the integrity of a sport in which teams thrive on power play opportunities.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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