Tuesday September 23rd, 2014

The long-rumored return of the World Cup of Hockey is one step closer to reality.

According to a report Tuesday on a Czech web site, hockey's next best-on-best event will take place ahead of the 2016-17 season.

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The event, last contested in 2004, reportedly was confirmed at the recent IIHF congress in Tenerife, Spain, for Sept. 15 through Oct. 1, 2016.

According to the piece, NHLPA boss Donald Fehr announced that the tournament would feature teams from eight top hockey nations. Six—Canada, the United States, Russia, Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic—are already set to participate. The other two spots will be awarded closer to the tournament, likely through a playdown just ahead of the main series.

IIHF president Rene Fasel will fly to Toronto in October to hammer out the details with the NHL and the NHLPA.

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Speaking at the Stanley Cup Final in June, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman alluded to the likelihood that the event would return to the international schedule in the near future.

"[The World Cup is] not something that's fully baked. As you know, World Cups and international competitions are something we do jointly with the Players' Association. While we're having very substantive discussions about what the possibilities are, what the World Cup might look like, how it should be done, whether we're looking at a series of World Cups, is something that we're not yet in a position where we're comfortable making any announcements. Even if we announced that we were doing a World Cup, for example, in '16, the fact of the matter is you then have 20 follow-up questions about how it would work, what the different issues were, how they'd be addressed.

"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 those issues. That's something that we have been working on and we will continue to work on."

With the appetite for international hockey growing in North America, adding a marquee event in the off-season makes good sense from a marketing perspective. More to the point, a World Cup has everyone seeing dollar signs. And unlike the Olympics, the league and the players will be in total control of every aspect of the event, including a haul from ticket sales, broadcasting rights and marketing partnerships that could approach $100 million.

 

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