Oilers' Connor McDavid: Best-on-best 'what hockey’s been missing'

The epic Ohtani vs. Trout showdown reminded fans and players alike that hockey is severely lacking best-on-best play on the world stage.

After Tuesday night’s dramatic Japan-USA showdown in the World Baseball Classic final came down to an epic Shohei Ohtani vs. Mike Trout finish, the best-on-best debate has once again sparked up in the world of hockey.

With eyes peeled on Ohtani’s epic slider to whiff his Angels teammate, it’s no surprise that Connor McDavid, a giant already in his own right amongst the NHL’s best, was impressed by the stakes of the matchup.

“It’s what hockey’s been missing for the past decade,” McDavid told reporters ahead of Edmonton’s Wednesday night tilt against the Arizona Coyotes.

The Oilers captain, already 26 and having donned the Red and White just twice as a nationally televised junior — and never at the pro ranks — was forthright and candid on his admiration for the moment in sporting history, and its relevance to his own game.

“I thought it was really cool, it’s been what we’ve been asking for in hockey for a long time,” he said. “It was best-on-best.”

Connor McDavid believes hockey desperately needs the return of best-on-best international play after the sports world was captivated by Wednesday's World Baseball Classic final. (Getty Images)
Connor McDavid believes hockey desperately needs the return of best-on-best international play after the sports world was captivated by Tuesday's World Baseball Classic final. (Getty Images)

Ohtani and Trout’s head-to-head, which concluded with Team Japan securing a record third World Baseball Classic title and first since 2009, has captured the imagination of nearly every sports fan. Major League Baseball’s upload of the at bat on YouTube, posted just before midnight Eastern Time, already boasts over 1.5 million views, and has been on the tip of every sports fan's tongue since.

That sentiment, McDavid says, is what players and fans alike throughout hockey are desperately craving.

“Did you see Ohtani vs. Trout?” the NHL’s leading point-getter said, doubtlessly mimicking the hundreds of similar conversations occurring coast to coast this morning.

“Everyone’s talking about baseball.”

The NHL, for its part, has made efforts to have players involved on a worldwide stage, but has struggled with various factors.

Since the league and players failed to come to an agreement over attending the 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea, a global pandemic and Russia's war of aggression in Ukraine have kiboshed attempts in 2022 and 2024 to gather the world’s best for a highly-anticipated tournament.

The NHL’s latest attempt at a best-on-best centres around a February 2025 event, though little detail has been made available on factors such as teams, feasibility, or any of the numerous other concerns surrounding the event.

Notably, the IIHF recently announced on Wednesday that they planned to once again exclude Russia and Belarus from their 2023-24 tournament schedule, a decision that NHL officials will likely find themselves having to make ahead of as a potential 2025 World Cup begins taking shape.