LOS ANGELES — The World Cup of Hockey is expected to be held in Toronto when it is reborn in September 2016, Sportsnet has learned.
The NHL and NHL Players’ Association are currently working on the final details of an agreement that will fill out the international calendar for the next several years and believe that the Air Canada Centre is the ideal location to relaunch the World Cup, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions.
Gary Bettman indicated that it would have been nice to unveil the details of the tournament during his annual state of the league address before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final on Wednesday. However, the sides aren’t quite there yet. They met on Tuesday and plan to continue discussions in the coming days.
“I think we want to get to a position where we and the players’ association are comfortable that we’re in agreement on all of the issues,” Bettman said at Staples Center. “That’s something that we have been working on and we will continue to work on.”
A number of different formats were considered for the relaunch of the World Cup, but Toronto emerged as the strongest candidate because of the anticipated impact it would have in the world’s largest hockey market. In future, it is believed that cities around the world might be involved a bidding process for the event, which one source indicated could generate as much as $100-million in revenue.
That money will be split evenly between the league and players and doesn’t fall under hockey-related revenue. As a result, it won’t have any impact on the salary cap.
When the World Cup was last held in 2004, it featured eight teams which played games in seven different venues in North America and Europe. The final was held in Toronto and won by Team Canada.
The NHL has made it a goal to expand its brand internationally in the coming years and devoted an entire section in the new collective bargaining agreement to that issue. Reviving the World Cup, which began as the Canada Cup in 1976, obviously aligns with that vision.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for the game,” said Bettman. “We start with the fact that of all of the North American sports, our players, our game has a history and tradition of international competition. It’s something that we know is very important for our players to be able to represent their countries.
“We understand that and we appreciate it.”
The World Cup discussions are being held outside of any talks on future Olympic participation. The NHL has sent its players to the last five Winter Olympics, but the Board of Governors has yet to have an in-depth discussion on whether that will continue in 2018.
“We haven’t really given it much thought,” said Bettman.
Among the other key issues the commissioner touched on Wednesday:
— The number of reported concussions was down by about 10 percent this season and the league privately fined teams that it felt hadn’t properly followed the concussion protocol. “Yes, there have been instances of us following up (with) discipline,” said Bettman.
— The NHL is not currently considering expansion despite the fact a new building is being built in Quebec City. “That would cause us to have yet another team in the East,” said Bettman. “I’m not even sure how we deal with it.”
— There are expected to be two or three outdoor games held in 2014-15, with warm weather markets now considered a more real possibility after the success of the game in Los Angeles. “We learned a lot — all good — from playing in Dodger Stadium,” said Bettman.
— The decision to reinstate a first-round pick to the New Jersey Devils, which had been taken away because of the illegal Ilya Kovalchuk contract, was made because the team is now under new ownership. Bettman believes that dropping the team to 30th from 10th still represents a “substantial penalty.”
— The value of franchises continues to increase, perhaps even more than expected in light of the recent sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion. “If the Clippers are worth $2 billion, we have plenty of franchises that are worth that, if not more,” said Bettman.
A World Cup in Toronto would bring another high-profile event to the city around the same time the Maple Leafs are celebrating their 100th anniversary. The organization has already been tabbed to host the 2017 Winter Classic and is hoping to bring the draft and all-star game back as well.
The expected revival of the tournament is another sign that the NHL has moved beyond the labour unrest that led to a fourth work stoppage in 20 years last season. In fact, these are heady times for a league that is now experiencing considerable growth.
“By almost any measure this may have been the most successful season, on and off the ice, in league history,” Bettman said before the puck was dropped on a Stanley Cup featuring the largest two markets in North America.