The NHL and NHL Players’ Association have abandoned plans to hold a World Cup of Hockey in 2024.
They made the announcement in a joint statement Friday, saying it was not feasible to hold the tournament in February as they had hoped. The league and union said they hope to stage it in February 2025 and will continue to plan for that.
There has not been a World Cup for the sport since 2016 for various reasons. This time, the war in Ukraine was the reason because some countries did not want Russians to participate and players want the best in the world to take part.
Pushing plans to 2025 buys the league and players another year to figure out what to do with the Russia issue. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said some countries refused to play if Russians were allowed to participate, even if not in national team uniforms.
That would have meant the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Nikita Kucherov being left out, which would have taken a huge chunk of talent out of the tournament. Unlike soccer, which banned Russia from its World Cup because of the country’s invasion of Ukraine, many of hockey’s best players are from there and the impact would be much greater.
Commissioner Gary Bettman foreshadowed the decision last month, saying the deadline was approaching to nail down plans. There were other hurdles, such as cooperation with the International Ice Hockey Federation and national federations over hosting games in Europe, but the league and players were confident they could do the tournament themselves, if needed.
Two months ago, when it looked likely the World Cup would indeed happen, U.S. star Jack Eichel said, ”Don’t hold your breath” in a skeptical tone that turned out to be warranted.
”We’re trying to grow hockey globally,” Eichel said. ”Whether it’s representing your country or having the opportunity to play against the world’s best, everyone wants to do it. I think it’s something that fans want to see. I think it’s great for our game.”
There is optimism about 2025 and extra time could allow for a qualifying tournament to decide who joins the obvious teams: the U.S., Canada, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic – and perhaps Russia, depending on the global climate.
The 2016 World Cup closely followed the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. The NHL chose to skip the 2018 Olympics and planned to participate in 2022 in China before the pandemic caused enough schedule disruption to derail those hopes.
The NHL has committed to sending players to the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina.
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