The first World Cup of Hockey (WCH), or 1996 World Cup of Hockey, replaced the Canada Cup as one of the premier championships for professional ice hockey.
The first edition of the Cup featured eight teams divided into two groups. The European Group, whose games were all played in Europe, included the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, and Sweden. The North American Group played in North American cities and included Canada, Russia, Slovakia, and the United States. Some of the Best players in the World were missing in the tournament, some either declined invitation, such as Dominik Hasek stating "I would love to play in (the competition), but the timing is bad", or because of injuries, as Pavel Bure injured during a Russia-USA exhibition game in Detroit.
After the teams played a three-game group stage, the top team in each group advanced to the semi-finals, while the second and third place teams played cross-over quarter-finals. The quarter-finals and semi-finals were single elimination games. The championship final was a best-of-three. All playoff games were played in North America.
In the biggest surprise of the tournament, Germany defeated Czech Republic 7-1 in the European Group, which eliminated the Czechs and sent the Germans into the quarter-finals. In the biggest game of the North American Group, USA defeated Canada 5-3 to finish first and get a bye to the semi-finals. In the semis, they defeated Russia 5-2, while Canada beat Sweden 3-2 on Theoren Fleury's goal at 19:47 of the second overtime period, ending the longest game in international hockey history.
In the best-of-three final, Canada won the first game, in Philadelphia, 4-3 in overtime. Then the USA recorded a memorable pair of 5-2 victories in Montreal to win the series. In the third and decisive game, the US received spectacular goaltending from tournament MVP Mike Richter and rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the third period by scoring four goals in the final 3:18 of the game. Tony Amonte scored the game-winning goal.
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