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What is the future of the World Cup of Hockey?

World Cup Of Hockey 2016 Final - Game Two - Canada v Europe

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 29: Sidney Crosby #87 of Team Canada carries the World Cup of Hockey Trophy after Canada defeated Europe 2-1 during Game Two of the World Cup of Hockey final series at the Air Canada Centre on September 29, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Do you remember the 2004 World Cup of Hockey Final, when Canada beat Finland? Do you remember the ominous specter that hung over the entire tournament?

Do you recall what happened two days after the Canadians lifted that weird trophy? The 2004-05 lockout began, which resulted in a lost season.

If the World Cup is going to be on a regular four-year schedule the next one would be set to take place during a time when there could be Collective Bargaining Agreement discussions, which would not be ideal. The current NHL CBA runs through the end of the 2021-22 NHL season, but both sides can announce in September 2019 that they are opting out in September 2020. That’s why there hasn’t been a definitive “yes” to a 2020 tournament.

You can see why there’s hesitation here to start re-stocking Team North America gear on store shelves.

“We told the Players’ Association, based on the experience we had in the World Cup of 2004, it doesn’t make sense to be doing a World Cup and planning a World Cup when you’re in collective bargaining,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday during the Board of Governors meeting. “We either should both talk to our constituents about waiving the re-opener and doing the World Cup in 2020 or picking a different time. I’m happy to pick a different time and plan it but the Players’ Association has yet to engage in a meaningful way in terms of that decision.”

The league and players have been talking for some time about creating an international schedule, one that would include the World Cup, more games overseas, exhibitions against European teams and a Ryder Cup-style North America vs. Europe event. (Olympic participation is an entirely different animal and attending the 2022 Games in Beijing will likely be something that comes up in the next round CBA talks.)

Until the league and players come to an agreement, it remains to be seen if the World Cup, which has been held in 1996, 2004 and 2016, will ever find a regular spot on the NHL calendar.


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.