MOSCOW, March 3. /TASS/. Team North America will Russian team’s main contender for the champion’s title at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, to be held in Canada’s Toronto between September 17 and October 1, Russia’s ice hockey legendary player Vyacheslav Fetisov told TASS on Thursday.
Eight teams to take part in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey were divided in two groups. Group A enlists Canada, the United States, the Czech Republic and Team Europe (comprising players from other European countries not taking part in the competition). Group B enlists Finland, Russia, Sweden and Team North America (consisting of under-23 North American players).
"I believe that the team of under-23 will be the main opponent for us," Fetisov, who is a two-time Olympic champion and seven-time world champion, said in an interview with TASS. "I would advise against underestimating this team, which will unite players with NHL experience and grand ambitions."
However, Fetisov said all eight teams have equal chances to win the World Cup.
"We [Russia] have equal chances with the rest," Fetisov, who played for the Soviet team to win Canada Cup in 1981, said. "I am glad it was decided to invite to the [Russian] squad all of the best players as of today. The teams from Canada and the United States will be under a greater psychological pressure at the tournament."
"We do all remember well our [Russia’s] victory at the 2008 [IIHF World] Championship," Fetisov said. "Canada had a stronger team than ours, but the psychological factor played the key role."
The 2008 title was a real treat for Russian hockey fans as it came to the team after a 15-year drought. That title Russia snatched in the final match from Canada, which was hosting the World Championship for the first time in its history, with 5-4 victory in overtime.
Russia will play its first match of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey on September 18 against Sweden, will face the next day Team North America and clash with Finland on September 22.
The World Cup of Hockey is an international successor of the previously famous Canada Cup (held between 1976 and 1991). After the international event was inaugurated in 1996 it was staged only once again in 2004.
The World Cup of Hockey was organized by the NHL and therefore it was played according to the league’s rules unlike annual Ice Hockey World Championships and quadrennial Winter Olympic hockey tournaments, which are sanctioned by the IIHF and are played to different rules.
The matches of the World Cup of Hockey are played outside the NHL regular season allowing best players of the league to compete in the international event unlike the annual World Championships, which usually overlap with NHL’s playoffs.
The previous Canada Cup, which ran between 1976 and 1991 was held five times with four of them won by Canada and one by the Soviet Union team in 1981. The inaugural World Cup of Hockey in 1996 was won by the United States and the next one in 2004 by Canada.