2015 was pretty damn awesome for hockey. The Stanley Cup Playoffs proved once again that they are the most underrated tournament in North American Sports and we were treated to breakout stars like Tyler Johnson while watching players who we've known since they were kids (Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews) become Stanley Cup Champions again.
Yes, 2015 was pretty awesome, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that 2016 will definitely be the best year for hockey ever and I am pretty sure you will agree.
Reason 1: World Junior Championships Kick off 2016
Sure this tournament happens every year, but if you happened to be watching early today, you'd have seen Team USA beat Canada on Opening Day. This was the first time in over 15 years that the Americans defeated their bitter rivals in the early rounds and should set up a phenomenal tournament.
The Americans looked extremely ready and hearing names like "Tkachuk" in the lineup definitely brought a smile to my face, but if we know anything about Canada, it's that they will certainly be even more determined after this opening day loss.
Sure the outdoor NHL games are fun, but the IIHF World Junior Championship is the perfect way to kick off 2016.
Reason 2: New Challengers are Emerging
If things keep going the way they're going, come summertime, the playoffs will look a little different this year. With teams like the Stars dominating early on, as well as the Capitals in the East and glimmers of playoff run hopes from normally quieter teams like the Coyotes, Panthers and even the Oilers who are still only a couple games out in the very tight Pacific division, the race for the Stanley Cup looks to be extremely exciting. Not to mention...the Kings look like they're back in playoff shape.
Reason 3: The World Cup of Hockey
We start off 2016 with the World Junior Championship and then before we start the 2016-17 season, we will kick it off with the World Cup of Hockey. It's been a while since we've seen a tournament like this one, if you don't count the Olympics, but the tournament has been played before. In 1996 the USA won the first World Cup of Hockey (previously a similar tournament had been called the "Canada Cup") and then in 2004, Team Canada won. 2004 was the last time we witnessed the World Cup of Hockey as the pro's started to settle into being able to participate in the Winter Olympics.
We're still not entirely sure what the future holds for the NHL and the Winter Olympics, but if the World Cup of Hockey can tap into the head of the steam that the NHL has been gaining over the past several years, we can expect an exciting tournament and hopefully a more regular schedule in years to come.
All in all, 2016 looks to be an absolutely fantastic year for hockey fans! What are you most excited about?