Gary Bettman Against Sending Players to More Olympics, Favors World Cup of Hockey Instead

Gary BettmanAlways the crowd-pleaser, Gary.

One of the under-reported issues of the lockout that shortened the 2013 NHL season was the dispute over player participation in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Alex Ovechkin led a contingent of outspoken Russian players in lobbying for the chance to play in front of their native fans, and while the players may have won the battle for the 2014 Games, they might not be so lucky in 2018.

Instead of sending his entire league of money-making superstars abroad for two weeks in the middle of the season, Gary Bettman would rather bring back the World Cup of Hockey, an international tournament similar to that of soccer fame. The World Cup of Hockey has only been held twice before — once in 1996 and again in 2004, and never to great success.

“I’m very much a believer in the World Cup,” Bettman told TSN’s Gord Miller, “I think they’re great.”

Very sensitive to the strains that Olympic hockey places on an 82-game NHL schedule, Bettman argued that “[holding the World Cup] at a time of year in places that we can control makes a whole lot more sense for us in terms of what we try to accomplish as the NHL. And we think it’s good for international hockey as well.”

The two prior World Cups were held over August and September, before the NHL season started — or would have started if the 2004 season wasn’t canceled two days later. There is the chance that Bettman’s plan could serve as a more exciting training camp, but given the similarities between this and the World Baseball Classic, it’s likely the World Cup of Hockey struggles to put people in seats in its initial years.

If things go right, though, we could have some Mighty Ducks D2 action on our hands. Bettman can even coach Team Iceland.