TORONTO – The NHL and NHLPA aren’t ready to tell us how the 2020 World Cup of Hockey will be formatted, but the odds of seeing youthful Team North America and a veteran Team Europe again are pretty low.
The concept certainly worked, what with Team North America playing exciting hockey featuring a roster of top draft picks and Team Europe surprising everyone to reach the final against Canada. But you can just sense that with four years until the next one, the traditional country vs. country format will return.
“We haven’t made any of those decisions. What I think is clear to everybody is despite a lot of skepticism a year ago, the concept worked pretty well,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “And secondly, there’s no doubt that part of the competitiveness – maybe the most competitive international hockey tournament ever – was a function of the fact that Team Europe and Team North America were certainly more competitive than the seventh and eighth country teams would have been. Does that mean that’s the prototype for the future? Not necessarily. As I said, it’s not a decision that we’ve focused on yet. We haven’t begun the planning process going forward.”
A qualifying tournament, much like what the IIHF does for the Olympics, would allow the nations that currently make up Team Europe — Slovenia, Norway, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, France, Germany and Denmark — plus others including Latvia, to have a shot at earning one of those final two spots.
There has been plenty of support for the Team Europe concept from the Team Europe players themselves. Many of them have never tasted international success or, in some cases, never had an opportunity to play on such a high international level with their respective countries.
“Coming from Norway, we wouldn’t have a chance to be in this tournament without this [team],” said Mats Zuccarello.
As for where the next World Cup will be in 2020, it sounds like the league and PA will open up a bidding process for various cities to pitch why they would make the best host.
“I think our going-in intention was to put it up for bid on some basis. I don’t think there’s anything that has transpired during this tournament that would change that view,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. “But again, that’s something we have to sit down with the players’ association and talk about.”
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