One of the biggest pieces of news from NHL Premiere Weekend is that there are discussions about the possibility of bringing back the World Cup of Hockey.
"I don't want to have a World Cup press conference today, but we are in discussions about picking a year, starting it and going on a regular cycle so we can have World Cups every four years," Gary Bettman said. "We think that works very well for us because it's out of the season and we can control what goes on around us."
The NHLPA's Paul Kelly confirms these talks.
"We are in those kinds of discussions and we think we can actually grow the format a bit beyond where it's been in the past," Kelly said.
This comes as no surprise to me. The general feeling is that the NHL wants out of the Olympics. Bettman's comments continue to sound cautious
"The owners understand, as do I and Paul, that we have the most international North American sport. Our players grow up in this game competing internationally. They love the international competition,” Bettman said. “We're going to have to make a decision as to whether or not the Olympics is something that gives us benefits that at least equals if not exceeds the detriments disrupting the season has."
I don't think the NHL has ever gotten enough credit for embracing the international game as it has. They've always done more than any of the other big league sports in North America.
As for Olympics vs World Cup, I've always have had a special interest in the World Cup, more specifically the original format the Canada Cup. There's definitely some trade-offs either way. The World Cup can never be an equal stage of the Olympics. The NHL, like it or not, is a business, and disrupting its schedule for no direct benefit should be understandably a concern.
The World Cup is a win-win for the league, and the players. I think it is a win for the fans, too. The on-ice product could be better, because the players are generally healthier and more rested. Plus the teams have more opportunity practice together. In the Olympics, the national teams fly in from all over the place and begin playing 24-48 hours later.
The return of the World Cup is likely, as is, unfortunately, the demise of NHL participation at the Olympics.
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