COLUMBUS, Ohio — The NHL is dreaming big and taking its game global.
The ambitious plans go well beyond the revamped World Cup, which we first reported in November, with the league also looking at creating a Ryder Cup-style event that begins in September 2018.
Here’s how that would work: 25 of the top North Americans and Europeans going head-to-head in a five- or seven-game series. Consider The 02 Arena in London, England as the early front-runner to host that event, although nothing has been finalized.
More pressing is a World Cup at Air Canada Centre in Toronto that has been tentatively scheduled for Sept. 17-Oct. 1, 2016.
That event will feature eight teams: The six strongest hockey powers (Canada, U.S., Sweden, Russia, Finland, Czech Republic) plus a 23-and-under North American squad and a European all-star team.
It’s expected to be a one-time format — with a return to national teams exclusively for the 2020 World Cup. That would include a European qualifying tournament held in 2019 to determine which of the secondary countries participate.
A clear priority for the league is expanding its international footprint.
There are plans to return regular-season games to Europe — in November, rather than the beginning of the year as in the past — and teams will be permitted to conduct training camps and play exhibition games on that continent as well.
The World Cup and Ryder Cup will each be held every four years, giving the league a big international event every second year.
What remains to be seen is whether NHL players return for a sixth Olympic Games in Pyeonchang, South Korea in 2018. Discussions with the International Olympic Committee have yet to commence, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.