After months of speculation, the NHL today confirmed during the All-Star Weekend in Columbus, Ohio that the World Cup Of Hockey would officially return in 2016, being hosted solely in Toronto from 17 September – 01 October 2016. As expected, six national teams (Canada, United States, Russia, Czechia, Sweden and Finland) and two “all star” teams (a team of under-23 stars from Canada and the United States, and a team made up of European players without teams playing in the tournament, such as Slovakia, Norway and Switzerland) will make up the tournament.
Similar to the 2004 World Cup, the last edition of the tournament, the teams will be divided into two groups, and play in a three-game round robin. After the first round, however, the format reverts to something similar to the first World Cup in 1996, where a one-game semifinal is played, before leading into a best-of-three final, which can end as late as 01 October. All games will be played under NHL rules, with NHL referees on NHL-sized ice (versus the standard, larger international size). The NHL season would then begin no later than 12 October 2016. Initial rosters are to be named by March 2016, with final rosters revealed in June – training camps would begin on 04 September 2016. National federations are able to determine their own teams, while Hockey Canada and USA Hockey will jointly determine the North American Youngstars Team, and the NHL will select Team Europe.
Many fans, this writer included, have been critical of the new format, as this would be among the first tournaments hosted by the IIIHF that was not purely a “country-on-country” basis, but rather including a mish-mash of players bunched together under a neutral logo, not even a flag. However, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman did address this in the press conference, noting that future tournaments (the hope is to resuscitate the World Cup every four years) could feature a qualification tournament that would allow smaller federations like Slovakia or Switzerland the chance to qualify their teams.
This will be the eighth overall Canada / World Cup edition – Canada has won five of seven all time, including the first (1976) and latest (2004) versions, with the only two non-Canada wins being in 1981 (Soviet Union) and 1996 (United States). From an IHLC perspective, all winners but Canada’s first title in 1976 were unified with the IHLC, but the inclusion of these two all-star teams will certainly make for a unique IHLC scenario. If the title is in fact held by one of the six nations playing in the World Cup, the games against Team Europe or Team North American Youngstars would not count towards the IHLC, meaning there is the possibility that major games would not be captured as part of the IHLC’s history.
More info to come once schedules and rosters are announced next year.