At NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s press conference before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, one topic that came up was the possibility of bringing back the World Cup of Hockey.
Bettman wouldn’t go as far as to announce that the tournament would definitely be back in 2016, but he didn’t say it wouldn’t be either.
“We’re not ready; it’s not something that’s fully baked,’’ Bettman said. “As you know, World Cups and international competitions are something we do jointly with the Players’ Association. While we’re having very substantive discussions about what the possibilities are, what the World Cup might look like, how it should be done, whether we’re looking at a series of World Cups, is something that we’re not yet in a position where we’re comfortable making any announcements.
“I think we want to get to a position where we and the Players’ Association are comfortable that we’re in agreement on all of those issues. That’s something that we have been working on and we will continue to work on.’’
The first World Cup of Hockey was held in 1996, with the U.S. defeating Canada in the championship. The second edition got underway in 2004, won by Canada over Finland. The tournament has not been contested since.
The World Cup and its predecessor, the Canada Cup, were unique in that they were the first international tournaments to see all the top professionals play, as at the time Olympic teams could only be comprised of amateurs and the World Championships were always scheduled during the NHL Playoffs, in which most of the world’s top players were a part of. NHL players first took to the Olympic ice at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano.
Although no officially announcement was made, Bettman did offhandedly say that if the World Cup was reinstituted, is may happen as soon as 2016.
“Even if we announced that we were doing a World Cup, for example, in ‘16, the fact of the matter is you then have 20 follow-up questions about how it would work, what the different issues were, how they’d be addressed,’’ he said.
“The World Cup, hopefully when we get to it, will be part of an international calendar that will do lots of other things, whether its exhibition games, regular-season games, clinics or the like. We don’t necessarily view the World Cup as a one-off, which is why the discussions are as elaborate as they are.’’
Bettman also added that a decision on the NHL’s future Olympic participation was not tied to a World Cup announcement.
“We haven’t had any substantive discussions about future Olympic participation; that is something that ultimately we’re going to have to resolve’’ he said. “I’m not sure that we necessarily have to resolve it if and when we make a World Cup announcement. We’ll see where the discussions go and where we are. But it’s something that, again, we haven’t addressed.’’