HomeNewsEventsIce HockeyNorth America

NHL targets World Cup of Hockey as centrepiece of international expansion effort

Organisers of the World Cup of Hockey have stated that they are seeking to utilise the resurrected national team tournament as the anchor point for an expanded effort by the National Hockey League (NHL) to tap into the global ice hockey market.

The World Cup and its predecessor, the Canada Cup, were previously held seven times from 1976 through to 2004. The last edition of the World Cup was staged in seven cities in North America and Europe, with the final in Toronto, Canada. However, this year all tournament games will be played at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto from September 17 to October 1.

The competition is being organised by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA).  NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (pictured) and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr have stated the goal is to build off the eight-team tournament with future events that could feature NHL games overseas, exhibition games between NHL teams and those from European leagues, and a Ryder Cup-style North America versus Europe tournament.

“We would like to do the World Cup on a regular basis, perhaps in locations throughout the world,” Bettman said, according to NHL.com. “We're looking at other competitions that we can do internationally on a regular basis. With (the World Cup) as the foundation, you're going to see an increased international presence on a regular basis, whether it's exhibition games with NHL teams against each other, against local teams, regular-season games, clinics.

“We're on television and other media in over 140 countries. We've had to do a variety of things to make sure North America was strong and healthy. And now with this as the foundation we have an opportunity to do further exploration for a sport that has the most diverse player group of any of the North American sports.”

Bettman outlined that a potential international calendar could feature the World Cup being played every four years, with another international event, potentially a Ryder Cup-style tournament, taking place in the intervening two years. Trans-Atlantic regular-season games and exhibition games could then be held in the odd years. “That seems to be something that makes sense, but we haven't dug deep on it yet and so nothing has been laid out or cast in stone formally,” Bettman added.

The subject of NHL participation at the 2018 winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang has been a long-running talking point. In May, Bettman said that the league remained open to allowing its players to travel to the Olympics, but warned that suggestions that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will not cover costs will not prove popular. In his annual state of the union address at the Stanley Cup final, Bettman suggested that the league and NHLPA would reconsider their stance if the IOC does not agree to pay “special subsidies".

NHL players have been allowed to compete at the Games since the 1998 edition, but squabbles over covering costs have been common in the build-up to the Olympics since then. Updating the situation, Bettman said the NHL has yet to have substantive talks with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) or the IOC.

“The Players' Association and I know there are issues we have to address, but we have time to do that,” he said. “We probably don't have to focus on that for at least another six months.”

Fehr stressed that the revival of the World Cup will not be a threat to Olympic participation. He added: “The Olympics are a unique event. It's a multi-sport event. It has a particular history, a particular way of choosing the participants and all the rest of it. As everybody knows, the players really value their Olympic participation.

“(The World Cup) is something different. It's a hockey-only event, which by design is going to give us the best quality player-for-player and man-for-man that any tournament of this kind has ever had. We think it's a complete standalone. I don't think it interferes necessarily or in any other way with the Olympics.”