August 12, 2016
Sports fans, these are
doggone good days, eh?
By KEITH GAVE
Whoever dubbed these steamy, sultry weeks of August the “dog days of summer” are barking up the wrong tree – especially in matters of sport.
The Tigers, notwithstanding a four-game streak on the wrong side of the win column, are very much involved in a pennant chase. (Compare that to this time last year and rejoice.) The Lions, with their new front office and retooled receiving corps after Calvin Johnson’s retirement, have been in camp for a couple of weeks and are preparing for their first preseason game at Pittsburgh tonight.
The first preseason college football coaches’ poll is out and has Michigan ranked No. 8 in the land, with Michigan State a few skips away at No. 11. Our high-school football teams have already had their two-a-day camps (bless those boys and their coaches in this oppressive heat).
Our lakes are like slightly cooler bath water. And the trout in our world-class streams are rising to the terrestrials as they always do about now. Just make sure to put a little red in your hopper pattern.
Need more? OK. By the time the calendar turns from summer to fall – and we’re not that far away, my friends – both the Red Wings and Pistons, after eventful off-seasons, will be in training camp preparing to take us for another playoff ride next spring. And we may be too busy to even notice as we’re preoccupied by the Tigers with a constant eye on the out-of-town scoreboard.
But wait, there’s even more. Added to the hectic September sports schedule is the World Cup of Hockey, the first since 2004. If you enjoy watching world powers battling every four years in the Olympic Winter Games, then you’ll love this event.
In fact, it’s likely that this event will supersede the Winter Games; NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is sounding more and more like a man unwilling to interrupt his league’s schedule every four years to allow its players to compete in the Olympics. If that’s the case, the hockey competition may well turn into an event featuring primarily amateurs as it did prior to 1998.
The league and the NHL Players Association have already committed to holding the World Cup of Hockey again in 2020 and beyond.
In other words, this is kind of a big deal. The World Cup will run from Sept. 17 through Oct. 1. All games will be played at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto – giving Team Canada a ridiculous home-ice advantage – and televised by nationally in the United States by ESPN.
The format features eight teams separated into two groups for a preliminary round running Sept. 17-22. The two finishers in each group will advance to the semifinals, Sept. 24-25. Winners meet in a best-of-three final, with games played on Sept. 27, Sept. 29 and, if necessary, Oct. 1.
Group A will consist of Team Canada, Team Czech Republic, Team USA and Team Europe, which will be comprised of the top players from the four European countries competing in the tournament – Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden.
Group B features Team Finland, Team Russia, Team Sweden and Team North America, which will be comprised of top North American players who will be 23 years old or younger as of Oct. 1, 2016.
Rosters will consist of 23 players – 20 skaters and three goalies. All games will be played on an NHL-sized rink using NHL rules and NHL officials – again tilting the tournament in favor of North American teams.
All eight teams will start their training camps Sept. 4-5.
For diehard Red Wings fans in our neighborhood who like to attend training camp in Traverse City, scheduled for Sept. 23-26 this year, it’s important to note that the World Cup will mean that several of the biggest Red Wings names won’t be there. Those include: Captain Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall, of Team Sweden; Petr Mrazek of Team Czech Republic; Tomas Tatar, Frans Nielsen, Tomas Vanek, of Team Europe; Alexei Marchenko of Team Russia (with recently former Wing Pavel Datsyuk); Justin Abdelkader of Team USA; and Dylan Larkin of Team North America.
Only the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning, with 12 players each, have more players on World Cup rosters than Detroit’s nine.
Players competing in the World Cup will rejoin their NHL teams once their teams are eliminated from play, or once it’s finished. But it’s unlikely that any of the Detroit contingent will make it before camp breaks in Traverse City after the traditional Red-White game on Sept. 26.
For those planning to attend the Red Wings camp at Centre Ice in Traverse City, by the way, the team plans to skate from about 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each day, Friday through Sunday. The Red-White game to conclude camp starts at about noon on Monday, Sept. 26.
For hard-core sports fans, however, that’s light years away. For now, they only worry that their Tigers can get off the schneid and back to their winning ways by playing like junkyard dogs again in their pursuit of Cleveland in the Central Division.
We don’t need to rush the hockey season, as interesting as this coming one might be. We much prefer out baseball season to run well into October, eh?