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NHL focused on World Cup return

North American ice hockey league the NHL, along with its players’ union the NHLPA, have said they are keen to revamp the World Cup of Hockey into an event that is held on a regular basis every four years.

Following its return to the sport’s calendar in 2016, plans for the next World Cup have since stalled with the League admitting in January that it would not be held as originally hoped in 2020. The resurrection of the World Cup needs to overcome multiple hurdles, chiefly the establishment of a formal international calendar for the sport, the signing of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for the NHL and the hot topic of the League’s position on the winter Olympic Games.

The NHL opted out of allowing its stars to compete in the 2018 Games in PyeongChang, a decision that angered a number of its leading international players. Negotiations on a new CBA are due to commence this summer, with the League having up to September 1, and the players up to September 15, to decide whether to opt out and terminate the current agreement by the autumn of 2020.

Labour talks have already commenced on an informal basis, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, along with NHLPA executive director Don Fehr, have expressed their hope that the negotiations can include an agreement on the World Cup.

“One of the things I hope we will have is an agreement to establish the long-term schedule for international events which would include World Cups of Hockey,” Fehr told the Associated Press news agency. “That’s a stand-alone event. It should not be seen as competing with or replacing the Olympics. It can be done.”

Bettman added: “We think that’s a great event and it’s something we’ve been trying to work out for more than two years. We’re all in favour of setting an international calendar, and it takes two to tango, so to speak.”

The World Cup and its predecessor, the Canada Cup, were held seven times from 1976 through to 2004 before being resurrected at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto from September 17 to October 1, 2016. At the time, the two parties said they were committed to multiple editions of the World Cup, which is jointly organised by the NHL and NHLPA.

Expressing his personal opinion, Fehr said he would prefer the NHL compete at the Olympics and have the World Cup operate in the middle of the Games’ four-year cycle. “If it was up to me, I’d do it all sooner rather than later, but we’ll see,” Fehr said. “The question is, can we get the agreement on all the intervening pieces.”

Fehr acknowledged that the crucial question of Olympic participation for the next edition of the Games, to be held in Beijing in 2022, requires resolving long-standing issues with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and International Olympic Committee (IOC).

However, Bettman expressed confidence that a deal on the World Cup can be reached. He added: “Yes, so it should get done. We’re going to ultimately come together and figure out something that everybody’s comfortable with.”