NHL and NHLPA agree: There won’t be a World Cup of Hockey in 2020

Canada's Sidney Crosby, right, chases Europe's Frans Nielsen during the third period of Game 1 of the World Cup of Hockey final in 2016.
(Nathan Denette / Associated Press)

A revival next year of the World Cup of Hockey, a tournament last held in 2016, has fallen victim to the uncertain state of labor relations between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Assn.

The league and the union issued separate statements on Wednesday saying it would not be possible to stage the tournament in September 2020, the date that had been speculated for the tournament’s return. Both said they plan to continue discussions about a World Cup as part of their talks about a new collective bargaining agreement. Either side can opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement later this year and end the labor deal on Sept. 15, 2020.

“The NHL and the NHPA had another constructive meeting today in Toronto,” the league said in its news release. “While the parties have now jointly concluded that it is no longer realistic to try to schedule a World Cup of Hockey for the fall of 2020, they plan to continue their dialog with a hope of being able to schedule their next World Cup event as part of a broader agreement, which would include a long-term international event calendar.”


The NHLPA statement was similar. “The players are focused on finding the proper time to schedule the World Cup of Hockey within the context of an overall international hockey calendar,” it said. “While we and the league have discussed the possibility of holding the next World Cup in September 2020, we jointly concluded that it is unrealistic to expect that preparations for the event would be completed in time. We look forward to continuing our discussions with the league.”

Expanding the game and its revenues outside North America has been a focus for the NHL and for the union, but they’ve clashed over how to go about it. Players wanted to represent their homelands in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics — NHL players had participated in the previous five Olympic hockey tournaments — but Commissioner Gary Bettman wouldn’t halt the season to allow players to compete in the Games.

The NHL does not get any financial gain from the Olympics but it shares World Cup revenues with the NHLPA. However, those revenues fell well short of expectations in 2016. The Hockey News reported revenues were about $40 million, less than half of the projected total. In addition, the contrived format was disliked by some players. Unlike the Olympics, in which national teams are entered, the World Cup lumped together players from several counties on Team Europe and also created Team North America, for Americans and Canadians who were 23 and under. That undermined the patriotic feeling that drives players to participate in the Olympics.

The NHL has imposed three lockouts during Bettman’s term as commissioner. The first, in the 1994-95 season, cut the season to 48 games. The second wiped out the 2004-05 season, and the third, in 2012-13, again led to each team playing a 48-game schedule.

Wednesday’s announcement followed meetings last week between the league and the union in Las Vegas. There was no announcement made about the scheduling of additional talks.

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