With discussions on a return of the almost forgotten World Cup of Hockey taking longer than anticipated, the next World Cup tournament might take place in the fall of 2016 and could be held in Toronto instead of multiple locations, including European cities. And that's a good thing.
For a long time, it was believed the NHL was hoping to resurrect the tournament -- held just twice, in 1996 and 2004 -- for the fall of 2015 in the hopes of avoiding having to go up against the 2016 Summer Olympics, during which broadcast revenues, advertising dollars and general interest might be more difficult to come by.
But that’s not likely to happen, sources told ESPN.com, and the fall of 2016 is now the prime target, assuming details between the league and the NHL Players' Association can be ironed out. Commissioner Gary Bettman admitted while talking to the media Wednesday in Los Angeles it would have been nice to announce a firm date for the World Cup, but that didn’t happen.
"We're not ready," Bettman said. "It's not something that's fully baked." Still, if the NHL is going to finally get behind the tournament and schedule it on an ongoing basis -- and that is the plan, to grow it into the world's best hockey tournament -- it needs to be in a pattern that makes sense, and that means a logical pattern, starting in 2016.
By having the tournament in 2015, the league would have pretty much cut itself off from future Olympic competition with the next Winter Olympics set for South Korea in 2018. How would the World Cup fit in with that rotation if the NHL had a tournament in 2015? The short answer is, it wouldn't.
At some point, the NHL will decide whether it will continue to take part in the Olympics, although Bettman said Wednesday the league has not given it much, if any, consideration, even though the Sochi Games in Russia in February were considered, on most levels, a terrific success.
The two events are not related in that the World Cup is intended to happen, regardless of whether the NHL continues to take part in the Winter Olympics, but they are related in that they both fall under the long-term planning being undertaken by the league and the players’ association toward building a comprehensive international calendar.
"The commissioner also said the NHL isn't planning imminent expansion, but is willing to listen to proposals. Seattle and Quebec City have been mentioned frequently as expansion targets, but both have significant problems as NHL homes.
Microsoft billionaire Steve Ballmer, who partnered with lead investor Chris Hansen last year in an attempt to move the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, is finalizing a deal to buy the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion. Hansen still hopes to build a large arena in Seattle to house teams from the NBA and the NHL, but has said he isn't interested in being a majority owner of an NHL team.
Bettman flew to Seattle during the playoffs to meet with city officials. "Seattle seems to have the most number of people interested," Bettman said. "The fact is there's no building that's on the horizon. The person who controls the rights to build a building in Seattle is intent upon having an NBA team before he builds a building. Based on what's happened to date, and the fact that his partner has now bought a different franchise, I don't know that there's any prospect of a building in Seattle.
"It's nice that there's interest, but there's really not a whole lot for us to do with it." Small-market Quebec City is building the $400 million, 18,000-seat Quebecor Arena to be ready in September 2015. But the NHL's potential return to the former home of the Nordiques could further unbalance the league's makeup -- particularly without an expansion to Seattle. The Eastern Conference has 16 teams, and the West has 14 after last summer's realignment.
"If we get to a point where there's enough interest in enough places that it warrants consideration, then the Board of Governors may well invoke a formal expansion process and we'll look at everything," Bettman said. "I don't think this is something you do on a piecemeal basis."
Playoffs: Reilly Smith > Tyler Seguin