It seems like the World Cup began just yesterday, but it's over just like that.
Canada are champions – that's no surprise. That it took tight 3-1 and 2-1 wins over a competitive European squad to get it done is.
Here’s what we learned over the past few weeks.
September hockey can be glorious
Pick one: the World Cup of Hockey or preseason hockey.
For all the tournament's criticism, hockey of the absolute highest quality was played for three weeks in September. Canada and the U.S. played each other three times, and you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who could point out which two didn't matter.
An Under-23 squad of the finest North American players on this planet, arguably the fastest team ever – ever! – assembled, played six games, winning four of them.
Three-on-three overtime is a new phenomenon, but North America and Sweden gave us the best five minutes of the format we’ve ever seen.
Hockey is fun. Especially in September, after two months without it, featuring the sport’s finest players. You should have enjoyed it.
Rooting for Marchand is weird
The most super-pest to ever super pest, Marchand is the classic "Hate him unless he's on my team" player. The type who Bruins fans would go to the ends of the earth to support – and rightfully so. That he's loathed by most outside Boston is, in the end, a sign that he does his job well.
There's no denying Marchand's talent. He's a five-time 20-goal scorer and would have hit the mark in 2012-13 if not for the lockout. He exploded for a career-high 37 goals and 61 points last season, and picked up where he left off this fall.
Marchand looked remarkably calm and comfortable playing alongside Sidney Crosby, and finished with a World Cup-best five goals – four of them in the semifinal and final.
They were big goals, too – none bigger than Thursday night's tournament winner.
The World Cup offered a glimpse into life as a Bruins supporter. Patrice Bergeron and Marchand are world-class players, and when No. 63 exchanges black and gold for red and white, the hatred is traded for admiration. When Marchand's not pissing you off, he's actually quite enjoyable to root for.
Respect, Mr. Marchand. But now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
The World Cup mattered
Think this tournament didn’t matter? Europe captain Anze Kopitar would like a word:
With all due respect to Slovenia – Kopitar's homeland – it will never find itself in a tournament final against Canada, best-on-best or not. So the magnitude of Kopitar's experience wasn't lost on the 29-year-old, or his teammates, as they proved worthy final opponents.
“There has never been a team in a tournament like this with no past and no future,” head coach Ralph Krueger famously said earlier in the week, and the Europeans forged an identity based on that ethos.
Canada's dominance over the past six years has gone all but unchallenged, which made it hard to root against the Europeans in their upset bid Thursday, with the game tied 1-1 and Drew Doughty in the penalty box. At the very least, we would have had one more game.
Europe fell short, but the squad leaves Toronto with its heads held high.
No past and no future, but that was some present.
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