National Hockey League (NHL) commissioner Gary Bettman has said the league and its Players’ Association (NHLPA) are closing in on a deal to resurrect the World Cup of Hockey competition, with Toronto reportedly set to stage its return in 2016.
The two parties are currently working on the details of an agreement to return the national team competition, with Canadian broadcaster Sportsnet stating Toronto is expected to be the host due to the impact the World Cup would have in ice hockey’s biggest market.
The last edition of the World Cup of Hockey was held in 2004 and staged in seven cities in North America and Europe, with the final in Toronto. Sportsnet added that future editions post-2016 would be opened up to cities across the world in a bidding process. Speaking ahead of the Stanley Cup Final series between the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers, Bettman said: “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 the issues. That’s something that we have been working on and we will continue to work on.”
A World Cup would prove lucrative for the NHL and the players’ union, and crucially wouldn't require a three-week league shutdown in the middle of a season, as the Olympic Games do. Bettman said “very substantive discussions” have been held recently on the competition’s return, adding that the NHL realises the value players place on national team events.
“It's something that we know is very important for our players to be able to represent their countries,” Bettman said. “We understand that and we appreciate it. So yes, it's a great business opportunity, but it's also an opportunity to expand our fan base, to continue the growth and development of the game, and encourage young people to play the game, and ultimately develop at a calibre where the best players in the world will come to play in the NHL.”
The NHL is currently experiencing major growth and following on from the labour troubles that led to a fourth work stoppage in 20 years last season it is able to reflect on a campaign capped by a Stanley Cup series featuring North America’s two biggest markets. “By almost any measure this may have been the most successful season, on and off the ice, in league history,” Bettman added.