Whether you believe it to be good, bad, or indifferent, one of more eyebrow raising aspects of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey is the creation of "Team North America", the U-23 team featuring skilled youngsters from Canada and America.
That intrigue was raised for many Americans with the management, coaching and roster construction of Team USA. Aside from the moral questions of cheering for Dean Lombardi (over his handling of the Slava Voynov and Mike Richards incidents), John Tortorella (a moron) and Patrick Kane, there's other concerns too. Exciting, worthy players like Kevin Shattenkirk and Justin Faulk were left at home in favor of lesser players like Jack Johnson and Erik Johnson. Ditto with Phil Kessel, Tyler Johnson and Kyle Okposo in favor guys like Brandon Dubinsky, Justin Abdelkader and Ryan Callahan (the last having to withdraw due to injury).
Winging it in Motown had an interesting summation of the process detailing some of the issues fans have with Team USA.
If John Tortorella ever asks me if I’m proud to be an American (oh, I bet he would), I’ll tell him, "SIR, YES, SIR!" then salute, but I’d be lying if I said I was proud of this year’s USA Hockey team.
For Pittsburgh fans especially, Team North America looks pretty appealing. Other than Mike Sullivan (an assistant for his old boss Torts), there's no current Penguins connection to Team USA. Team NA has not only Matt Murray but also three players with youth ties to Western Pennsylvania in goalie John Gibson and forwards J.T. Miller and Brandon Saad (who you may have heard is from Pittsburgh).
Further, the young guns have Connor McDavid, the most electric Sidney Crosby -esque player to enter the league since Crosby himself and other exciting, fun-to-watch players that happens to include Americans like Johnny Gaudreau and Dylan Larkin.
This question is mainly aimed towards our American audience, but let's embrace the debate. Would you cheer for a team over country? Does the country earn loyalty no matter what, or is a unique team (including 12 Americans) worth cheering for?