NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was at the Primetime Sports Management Conference on Monday and noted that the league’s participation at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang is still up in the air. What’s more, the league has been focusing on reviving the World Cup concept and putting it back in play.
Bettman said that the league is working on an agreement of sorts with the NHLPA that would see it return.
The World Cup was first played in 1996 as a successor to the Canada Cup. There was also a World Cup of Hockey in 2004.
The NHL is the organizer of the World Cup of Hockey, while the International Ice Hockey Federation has the reigns of any Olympic or World Ice Hockey Championships. The NHL and the NHLPA would seem to clearly favour a tournament of their own making for obvious reasons, given that they can make their own rules and run things without any overlap with the NHL season.
The Canada Cup was first introduced in 1976 as a joint venture between the NHLPA and Hockey Canada, which was at the time run by Doug Fisher. This was a sort of take on the FIFA World Cup and it was the first introduction of professional players to hockey on the world stage, as the Olympics had been an all-amateur competition at that point.
The NHL has been participating in the Olympics since Nagano in 1998 and they haven’t exactly been welcome participants from an organizational standpoint, especially since the league has often struggled to see exactly what they gain. In the case of Pyeongchang, there’s theoretically even less to gain for Bettman’s league.
The NHL believes that hockey is not likely to expand much into Asian markets at this point and has subsequently pulled a lot of its efforts from any Olympic discussion. There’s a lot of talk about not returning to the Olympics in Korea as a result of this and that would drive further exploration of the World Cup concept, which has been naturally popular in hockey circles.
About a year ago, word around the campfire was that the World Cup was returning in 2016. There’s no confirmation of such a thing beyond rumours, but Bettman’s raising of the subject may have some legs. If the NHL and the NHLPA are indeed hammering out some details, we could be seeing the return of the World Cup. Now if only something could be done about that trophy.