NHL, union continue World Cup of Hockey talks

January, 13, 2009
If you're a fan of elite international competitions, you'll be happy to hear the NHL and the NHL Players' Association are working toward staging another World Cup of Hockey tournament in the not-too-distant future.

According to an informed source, the sides are looking at two dates, the most probable being late August or early September 2011. Another possibility is February 2012. That date, however, is less likely because the 2011-12 NHL regular season would have to be shut down to accommodate the tournament. The owners aren't thrilled with the idea of dimming the lights during the season for any reason. They do so grudgingly to allow the players to participate in the Olympics. In this case, I believe they'd be wise to at least consider it.

The parties would like to stage a World Cup every four years, making it a regular event on the long-term hockey calendar. The last World Cup was held in 2004 (just prior to the beginning of the lockout), with Canada defeating Finland in the championship game. The World Cup of Hockey, held twice previously under that title, is a direct descendant of the Canada Cup, which was staged five times between 1976 and 1991.

The World Cup talks are part of the ongoing discussion between the NHL and the NHLPA about the way in which money earned from joint ventures (international games/competitions) is distributed between the parties.

The two sides have been talking about the issue for nearly four months and have yet to come to an agreement. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly met Jan. 5 in Ottawa (prior to the World Junior Championship gold-medal game) in an effort to advance the dialogue. The sides will continue discussions later this week.

Per the collective-bargaining agreement, the two sides split the revenue gained in such events, and the CBA has a complicated formula only lawyers and aliens can decipher. In the aftermath of the league's season-opening games in Prague and Stockholm (as well as the preseason games in Europe/Scandinavia), the union initiated these talks in an effort to amend that formula. That would mean a change to the CBA, which could be accomplished through a signed agreement between the parties.

If the two sides can't come to an agreement soon, the NHL might have to scrap its plans to open the 2009-10 season with games in three European/Scandinavian sites. The league would like to send six teams across the Atlantic in a continuing effort in mine the overseas market.

If I were a betting man, I probably would be broke. But that won't stop me from betting that the two sides find common ground on this issue. After all, these ventures do benefit the league and the union.

A random thought …
As I watched Tampa's David Koci and Los Angeles' Raitis Ivanans slug it out during the first period of the Lightning-Kings tilt Monday night, I had a single thought: The world has changed. I had that thought because I'm sure neither Koci nor Ivanans ever dreamed, growing up as kids in Prague (Czech) and Riga (Latvia), respectively, that they'd someday find themselves fighting one another on an ice rink in Hollywood. See, kids, you just never know where your life will take you.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.




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