Nothing Super about this Series

The CHL is starting to hit second gear with their promotion of the 7th annual Subway Super Series (taking place November 16-26), a six-game series pitting the best of the WHL, QMJHL, and OHL against what is supposedly the best selection of young hockey talent that Russia can assemble.

My reaction? Who cares!

Look, Canada-Russia is nothing if not a talent-rich hockey rivalry, and there could very well be a new chapter added next February if the two countries meet for gold at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. And yes, that rivalry moves seamlessly to the junior level at each year’s World Junior Hockey Championships.

Unfortunately, this Subway Super Series has come off as a force-fed, artificial attempt to match that same intensity and it simply hasn’t worked.

Since the event began as the Canada Russia Challenge in 2003, CHL teams hold a dominant 30-6 record against their Russian counterparts (not what you would call ‘Super’ competitive). To the Russians’ defence, this imbalance can at least be partially attributed to an unfair structure in which they are expected to go overseas (the Series has always taken place in Canada) and visit OHL, WHL, and QMJHL teams on their provincial home soil.

The Russian hockey federation has come under fire in the past for not putting forth their best roster of junior talent for the event (neither Alex Ovechkin nor Evgeni Malkin have ever competed), but can you really blame them when they know they are exposing their players to major jet lag and potential injury for no clear purpose just weeks prior to World Juniors?

In a review of the 2005 event, writer Leslie Treff alludes to its intrinsic inequality in saying that “the Challenge was first played in 2003, and not surprisingly, given its format, Canada has won in each previous year.”

So this Super Series really comes down to watching exhibition games between teams of OHL / WHL / QMJHL all-stars against a road-weary collection of largely B-level Russian players in the midst of a six-game-in-11-day stretch in three provinces and two time zones.

Sure, everyone loves international competitions that inspire patriotism and fan the flames of nationalistic pride, but it is difficult to fully invest in an event where the two sides are not a) fully invested and b) competing on an even playing field.

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