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USA Hockey Picks Buffalo; Outdoor Games for 2018 World Juniors

Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

After a drawn-out public process, USA Hockey settled on Buffalo, the same place they pick for every international event, to host the 2018 World Juniors. That was no surprise at all, especially after USA Hockey eliminated the exciting choices in their last round of cuts. But in a major surprise, a United States-Canada game will be held outdoors at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

...Why?

The fundamental joy of the World Juniors is that it is one of the rare high levels of hockey where stuff still happens(unless your country insists on picking Miles Wood every year). Shooters are skilled enough and strong enough while defensemen and goalies are not quite yet developed enough to be perfect. Goals are still scored. Third period leads aren't safe. It's hockey that is actually...fun. Which is to say, it really doesn't need the added gimmick to get people excited. Especially an added gimmick that is near-guaranteed to lower the quality of the play.

There's no guarantee that the United States and Canada will end up in the same pool in 2018. Pool groups for the tournament are decided based on the results of the previous tournament, so we won't know for sure until 2017. Pool play games do have diminished importance under the current WJC format, with four of the five teams in each group advancing to the quarterfinal round. With at least one tomato can in each pool every year, there is little to no chance of the US or Canada ever being in danger of relegation.  Eight teams advancing also means no more bye to the semifinals for winning a group. Theoretically doing better in pool play can mean an easier quarterfinal opponent, but that hasn't always been the case.

But unless selling 71,000 tickets for a single game--and I'd be surprised if less than three-quarters of those tickets sold came from Canadians--works as a bribe to the IIHF to start letting American citizens play for the US team, I can't see much sense in this. The World Juniors is a great tournament, and US-Canada match-ups are always special. There's no need to ruin one for a few extra bucks.