PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — The earliest we’ll get to see another best-on-best international hockey competition again is the 2022 Olympics.
And the NHL’s participation in Beijing is far from a sure thing.
The league had been hoping to stage a scaled-down World Cup in February 2021, but recently decided to abandon that plan, commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters at the conclusion of Tuesday’s Board of Governors meeting.
Time simply ran out on negotiations with the NHL Players’ Association.
“It’s too big of an event to do in that short of a time frame,” said Bettman.
The NHL and NHLPA are now focused on trying to organize a full-scale World Cup tournament that includes play-ins and a proper leadup in 2024 and 2028, according to sources.
Discussions also remain open on Olympic participation, although those hinge more on what the International Olympic Committee can bring to the table — such as mitigating travel and insurance costs, or loosening the rules on footage and marketing — than any differences between the league and players.
“I think we’re all in agreement that bringing back the World Cup would be a good thing and that’s something that we’re having serious discussions with the Players’ Association on,” said Bettman. “The Olympics is a different issue. The league’s view is that it’s disruptive to the season.
“I understand the importance to the players, but there’s a whole host of problems … it’s something that’s not on the same track as the World Cup.”
The league last staged a World Cup in September 2016 and originally tried to plan a follow-up for September 2020. After that fell through, it set its sights on February 2021.
“It would be kind of a mini tournament about a week in length. Tack on a couple days to the typical all-star break and fit in an international event,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Sportsnet in August.
Instead, the league will now hold an all-star game in that spot on the schedule during the 2020-21 season. There have been preliminary discussions about potentially making that event internationally themed — with as many as eight countries represented, according to sources.
But that wouldn’t even be a reasonable facsimile of a true best-on-best tournament.
As for when we might again see one of those, Bettman said: “As soon as possible.”