The World Cup of Hockey, an infrequent global showdown of elite ice hockey talent last staged in 2004, is set to return next year with eight teams competing over two weeks in Toronto.
The NHL announced on Saturday that Canada, Russia, the US, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic would be joined by Team Europe — an all-star collection from other European nations — and a 23-and-under team from the host region, dubbed the North American Youngstars.
“We are thrilled to partner with the [union] in planning and producing what we expect will be the world’s best international hockey tournament,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said.
The NHL and its players union announced the deal to revive the event, which was born in 1996 out of the former Canada Cup.
The US won the inaugural crown, while Canada won in 2004 ahead of an NHL shutdown over money issues between club owners and players.
The move comes as the NHL contemplates whether or not to shutdown at mid-season and have its players compete in the Winter Olympics as it has done every four years since 1998.
The next two Winter Olympics will be staged in Asia, with the 2018 Games in South Korea and the 2022 Games in Beijing or Almaty, Kazakhstan.
“We expect that this is the initial step in a series of events that will elevate our game over the next few years, including a World Cup in 2020,” NHL Players Association executive director Don Fehr said.
More than 150 NHL players are expected to take part, with the Europe all-stars to include talent from Slovakia, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France, Denmark, Norway, Latvia, Belarus, Estonia, Slovenia, Kazakhstan and Lithuania.
The 23-and-under team means such rising stars as Canadian junior Connor McDavid, a likely top pick in next year’s NHL draft, would not be eligible to play for his homeland — only the 23-and-under squad.
The NHL and players union are to jointly select the Europe and Young North American all-star squads while national federations will decide other lineups.
The NHL also announced outdoor game plans for next year, with the Boston Bruins, Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche set to host games.
Next year’s lineup begins on January 1 with the Montreal Canadiens facing Boston at the home stadium of the NFL’s New England Patriots.
Other outdoor games will see the Chicago Blackhawks visit Minnesota on Feb. 21 at the University of Minnesota’s American football stadium and Detroit visit Colorado on Feb. 27 at Denver’s home ballpark for baseball’s Colorado Avalanche.
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