It has been over three years since the last World Cup of Hockey, which concluded in 2016 with Canada’s victory over team Europe. Canadians won the championship in a best-of-three finale, earning the deciding win with just 44 seconds left in regulation.
When World Cup of Hockey 2016 concluded, the event was deemed a success by the NHL Board of Governors. In fact, the next meeting of the Board included a presentation showcasing how the tournament met all the expectations and explaining why it should become a fixture on the League's international calendar. The Board also praised the event’s timing, which does not coincide with the NHL regular season. Instead, the tournament takes place during preseason, making it much more convenient than the in-season Olympic tournament in February.
"The final take is I think everybody in the room believes, as do we, that we were able to re-establish this event in a very big major way," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said at that time. "It was very successful. There are a variety of things that we're focused on to do it even better the next time we do it, whenever that might be. I think people were pleased with it, understanding that it's a very small part of our business, but we think it's important when we can to focus on events like that."
However, the discussions about organizing another World Cup of Hockey have become less and less frequent as time went by. In 2017, the Board decided that another tournament will not take place in the foreseeable future. The decision might have been impacted by the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, which brought Vegas Golden Knights into the league, and the financial complications related to it.
This year, the tide turned once again. According to Commissioner Gary Bettman, holding another World Cup of Hockey is one of the more important issues on the Board’s agenda. While no official timeline can be given at present time, since the discussions with the NHL Players' Association are still ongoing, Bettman admitted that much time will be needed to plan the event and it will not take place before the end of the 2020-21 season.
"[The World Cup] is too big of an event to do in that short of a time frame," Bettman said.
The Commissioner acknowledged that the chances of bringing back World Cup of Hockey are still much higher than that of NHL athletes participating in any future Olympic events.
"As you know, the League's view is it's disruptive to a season," Commissioner Bettman said. "We understand the importance to the players, but there are a whole host of things that are unresolved, including who would pay for participation and what rights we get to promote ourselves. So that's something that isn't on the same track, in my view, as the World Cup."