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NHL announces return of World Cup of Hockey in 2016

DH Vancouver Staff Jan 24, 2015 2:42 pm

With a throng of media in Columbus this weekend for the NHL All-Star Weekend, commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the World Cup of Hockey will return in 2016.

News of the return of the World Cup of Hockey leaked back in September, but this was our first chance to get all of the details of the tournament.

The tournament, which will take place in Toronto beginning on September 17, 2016, will comprise eight teams: Canada, USA, Russia, Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland, “Team Europe” and “U-23 North American Youngstars”. Yes, Youngstars. Sorry Slovakia and Switzerland, you’re not invited.

The plan is for the World Cup of Hockey to be played once every four years, with Team Europe and the U-23 North American team being replaced by two qualifying teams from Europe beginning in 2020.

While having Team Europe and a U-23 North American team appears extremely gimmicky, I am intrigued by it. Team Europe will be able to field a team with the likes of Anze Kopitar, Zdeno Chara, Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik, Jaroslav Halak Mikhail Grabovski and Christian Ehrhoff.

Here is what Team Europe could look like:

Thomas Vanek Anze Kopitar Marian Hossa
Mats Zuccarello Mikhail Grabovski Marian Gaborik
Tomas Tatar Frans Nielsen Nino Niederreiter
Mikkel Boedker Zemgus Girgensons Jannik Hansen
Dennis Seidenberg Zdeno Chara
Roman Josi Mark Streit
Christian Ehrhoff Andrej Sekera
Jaroslav Halak
Jonas Hiller

The U-23 team will have the exclusive right to select players 23 and under from Canada and the USA. That means they’ll be able to field a team with the likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Alex Galchenyuk, Nathan MacKinnon, Seth Jones, Aaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid.

Here is what the U-23 North American team could look like:

Jonathan Drouin Nathan MacKinnon Alex Galchenyuk
Jonathan Huberdeau Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Sean Monahan
Mark Scheifele Connor McDavid Johnny Gaudreau
Ryan Strome Sean Couturier Boone Jenner
Seth Jones Dougie Hamilton
Aaron Ekblad Jacob Trouba
Morgan Rielly Ryan Murray
John Gibson
Malcolm Subban

Not bad.

While the World Cup of Hockey doesn’t have the prestige of the Olympics, it should be able to offer more top caliber games than the watered-down Olympic tournament provides. Canada played half of their six games in the last Olympics against minnows of the hockey world: Austria, Norway, Latvia.

For the World Cup, Canada could conceivably lose to anyone in their pool and could face a must-win game as early as the second game of the tournament.

The challenge for the World Cup will be to get full fan buy-in to a tournament that quite simply won’t have the same sizzle as the Olympics, particularly for fans in Europe. If they can do that, which will take time, this tournament has a a chance to be a great success. Having a centralized location should help, with hockey fans from other countries traveling to the tournament every four years.

Also revealed today was that the NHL is considering a Ryder Cup-type challenge, where Canada would play an international team in a best-of-five or best-of-seven series. The tournament would take place in Winter Olympic years, which I assume is the fall-back plan if the NHL decide not to return to the Olympics.

I think the Ryder Cup idea will be a tough sell and might end up looking like a glorified All-Star Game. A better idea? Have a Women’s World Cup of Hockey, invite two teams (Canada and the USA) and have a best-of-seven series. I would watch that.

NHL Olympic participation going forward is still very much up in the air, with the NHL wanting more money and influence over the tournament. It is no secret that the NHL has communicated precisely this to the IOC and if they don’t get more, they won’t return. Today’s announcement should show the IOC that NHL isn’t bluffing.

Reuters/Mike Blake

DH Vancouver Staff
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