Hull, Chelios see pride in World Cup; bigger stage with Olympics

24 Feb 2002: (L-R) Steve Yzerman #19 of Canada, Chris Chelios #24 of the USA, Brett Hull #16 of the USA and Brendan Shanahan #14 of Canada pose with their medals after the mens ice hockey gold medal game of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games at the E Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. They all play together in NHL with the Detroit Red Wings . DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images
(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

According to two legendary hockey players, the World Cup of Hockey doesn’t exactly replace the Olympics. In fact, both aren’t totally comparable.

On a conference call after the first day of World Cup action, ESPN commentators and Hockey Hall of Famers Chris Chelios and Brett Hull agreed that both tournaments aren’t the same even though both stoke nationalistic pride.

“(The Olympics are) a much bigger stage, at least it was to me as a player, and even as a coach,” Chelios said. “The fact that the village, the ceremony, it’s just a much bigger stage than the World Cup. It’s important playing in the World Cup because again, you’re wearing the jersey and representing your country for the World Cup, but just having all those other sports and the atmosphere (with the Olympics), the different countries we’ve been to, it’s such a big stage.”

The NHL has struggled to find a solution that could involve their players in the 2018 Games, which has made the World Cup appear as a possible replacement in some regards.

But according to Chelios and Hull it’s hard to swap a tournament with a different creation.

“The Olympics stand alone,” Hull said. “I don’t think anything could ever make you not react or be a part of the Olympics. It’s the greatest sporting event that’s ever been put on this earth and so I don’t think anything could either sway you to be more excited to play or I certainly don’t thing anything can deter your enthusiasm to go to the Olympics so I don’t think it really has a bearing on it.”

The World Cup has fewer national teams and instead has two teams that mesh players from different countries – Team North America and Team Europe. The rules also have more of an NHL bend while the Olympics follow international guidelines.

The World Cup takes place before the start of 2016-17 while the NHL has stopped its schedule mid-year to accommodate the Olympics in the past. Overall Chelios and Hull believe the earlier start date has no impact on the players’ readiness or the quality of play in today’s game.

“These kids and even the veterans – the fitness level of these guys compared to when we were their age is a totally different animal,” Chelios said. “That I would say is the biggest difference. These guys are going to be in great shape. I don’t think it makes a difference now – whether it’s going to be September or during the break during the Olympics. Guys are just in phenomenal shape and the speed, obviously the speed indicates that.”

Instead the issue has more involved players pulling out of the tournament, which Hull says is an issue for the World Cup. Before this tournament’s exhibition slate began, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter and San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl all decided it was best to mend their injuries rather than play in the event. Also, Jiri Hudler reportedly opted to sit out the World Cup.

“I think we’re missing a number of really good and great players for a number of teams in the tournament because of injuries that happened just at the end of the season and they’re just not healed enough to play,” Hull said. “Maybe if it was in the middle of the season, I guess you could still get hurt early in the season and not be able to play, but I think more guys would be available if it was mid-season.”

At least through one day of competition the biggest plus has been Team North America, which dazzled in a 4-0 drubbing of Team Europe. The North American team’s speed and skill quickly endeared the group to those watching.

“We were all talking and we were all excited about watching those guys and their talent and their speed and skill and we were wondering if there was going to be nerves and what not going in. From the opening shift we looked at each other and said ‘OK, these guys are ready to go,” Hull said. “They’re not afraid of anything and they are very confident – almost to a point where Chris and I told each other after the first period that they’re almost too skilled. They’re overpassing, they’re over-stickhandling and if they could just kind of tone it down a little bit and take some shots and stop the extra move or the extra pass, that game could have been a lot worse.”

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!