Dramatic changes coming to World Cup of Hockey

Canada forward Sidney Crosby. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

TORONTO — The parties discussing the revamped World Cup of Hockey are prepared to make some dramatic changes to the tournament format, Sportsnet has learned.

The eight-team event is now expected to include two all-star entries along with the top six hockey nations — Canada, U.S., Sweden, Finland, Russia and Czech Republic — when it returns in September 2016, according to multiple sources.

The first all-star team is expected to feature the best players from the remaining European countries: Slovakia, Switzerland, Latvia, Germany and Slovenia, among them.

The makeup of the other mixed squad is still to be determined, although one idea being considered is bringing together all of the top young stars in the sport.

Organizers looked at staging a pre-tournament qualifier to determine the final two spots, but don't believe there is time to pull everything together. They also like the idea of doing something different than the World Cups and Canada Cups of the past and think that adding all-star teams will make for a more competitive event.

When the World Cup was last held in 2004, eight nations contested the tournament -- Slovakia and Germany joined the top six -- with games played in seven cities spread across two continents.

As previously reported by Sportsnet, the 2016 World Cup of Hockey will be staged in Toronto. There had been some discussion about playing a handful of games in Montreal as well, but two sources indicated that the idea has since been abandoned.

Officials from the NHL, NHLPA and International Ice Hockey Federation met in Toronto before Monday's Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony to discuss the tournament. A formal announcement is believed to be getting closer.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said earlier in the day that a return to the 2018 Olympics isn't yet on the table because the World Cup has "been getting all of our attention."

The revenue from the event -- which could be as much as $100 million, according to a source -- would be split evenly between players and owners.

There are other logistical advantages that they don't enjoy at the Olympics as well.

"We control the time of the games and it's in North America for prime-time viewing and all of those things," said Mathieu Schneider, the NHLPA's special assistant to Don Fehr. "We can accommodate the guys much better than travelling around the world in the middle of the season."

The playing format for the 2016 World Cup will include a round robin, playoffs and a best-of-three final.