The NHL and its players union are in talks on the possible renewal of an ice hockey World Cup, league commissioner Gary Bettman said.
But even as the league explores the possibility of an expanded international calendar, talks on continuing the participation of NHL players in the Winter Olympics have dwindled, Bettman said.
Speaking before game one of the Stanley Cup finals, Bettman said plans for a World Cup were not something thatâ€™s “fully baked.”
But he said talks had been “very substantive” and that if they do come to fruition a World Cup could be part of an expanded international ice hockey calendar.
“We donâ€™t necessarily view the World Cup as a one-off, which is why the discussions are as elaborate as they are,” he said.
A World Cup of Hockey was held in seven cities in North America and Europe in 2004, and Bettman said he thought reviving it would be a “great opportunity for the game.”
But although Bettman said the league was conscious of the need to facilitate platforms for international competition, he said it remained to be seen if NHL players would continue to be part of the Winter Olympics.
“And that is something that ultimately we are going to have to resolve,” he said. “I’m not sure that we necessarily have to resolve it if and when we make a World Cup announcement.”
In 1995, an agreement with the International Olympic Committee, International Ice Hockey Federation, the NHL and the NHL Players Association, was reached that allowed NHL players to compete for their countries beginning at the 1998 Nagano Games.
But continued NHL participation is in doubt, with Bettman saying prior to the Sochi Olympics in February that the league has concerns over the system.
NHL owners find it difficult to stop for more than two weeks in the middle of the season and are also worried about injuries like the one suffered in Sochi by Canada’s John Tavares.
An off-season World Cup wouldn’t require the league to shut down, but would give players a chance to represent their countries. It could also be a money-spinner for the NHL.
“It’s something that we know is very important for our players to be able to represent their countries,” Bettman said,
“We understand that and we appreciate it. So yes, it’s a great business opportunity, but it’s also an opportunity to expand our fan base, to continue the growth and development of the game, and encourage young people to play the game, and ultimately develop at a caliber where the best players in the world will come to play in the NHL.”