The NHL isn’t saying if it’ll commit to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, but it sure sounds like the league is making alternate arrangements for an international hockey tournament.
From Wednesday’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review interview with commissioner Gary Bettman:
Trib: Do you still have plans for a World Cup of hockey?
Bettman: It’s something we’ve repeatedly said we’re interested in. We’ve been in discussion with the Players Association, which obviously is our partner in this. We have a pretty good idea of what we want to do. We’re waiting for the PA to sign off.
The World Cup of Hockey was inaugurated in 1996, the successor to the Canada Cup (which went from 1976-91). The key thing to note about the World Cup was that it was sanctioned and organized by the NHL — as opposed to the World Hockey Championships and Olympic tournaments, both of which are run by the IIHF.
The U.S. won the inaugural ’96 World Cup, defeating Canada in the final, before Canada returned to the gold medal game in 2004 and won, beating Finland 3-2.
The tournament hasn’t been played since but, in February, Bettman suggested that resurrecting the World Cup was in the cards.
“The fact of the matter is, whatever we decide to do I believe in the not-too-distant future the NHL and NHLPA will be in a position to talk about other international initiatives that we’re discussing, including bringing back the World Cup,” Bettman said, per NHL.com. “We see international competition on the horizon; it’s really just a question of what the format will be.”
Last May, Russian Hockey Federation president Vladislav Tretiak said the World Cup of Hockey would indeed be coming back, believed to be returning in the summer of 2016.
Recently, Bettman has been very calculated regarding his comments about future Olympic participation. While he hasn’t ruled out going to PyeongChang, he has brought up the fact many NHL clubs complained of player fatigue following the Sochi Games, and that going to the next Olympics isn’t even on the league’s radar at the moment.
“What’s interesting is Chicago, who had 10 Olympians, post-Olympics went through a…losing streak, couple of injuries to key players,” Bettman told SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio. “The coach of St. Louis, Ken Hitchcock was just quoted as saying that he thought his team had run out of gas at the end of the regular season. He had nine players at the Olympics.
“The only thing I can tell you is from the moment the games were over in Sochi, we haven’t given the Olympics a moment’s thought. All we were focused on was the end of our regular season and the playoffs and at some other time we’re going to worry about it. It’s nothing we’re thinking about now.”