TORONTO, ON -- The NHL and National Hockey League Players' Association jointly announced plans and released information for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, including the groups, key dates and schedule, rules and regulations, and management teams for Team North America and Team Europe, during a press conference Wednesday here at Air Canada Centre.
This will be the first World Cup of Hockey since 2004, when Canada won gold. The excitement for the return of the World Cup after a 12-year hiatus was palpable among the players in Toronto for the press conference and the League's annual Player Media Tour this week.
"This could be a great experience," said Canadian center Steven Stamkos, the captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who was injured and unable to play in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but likely will be among the top candidates for Team Canada at the World Cup. "You're always excited about representing your country at elite levels like that and playing with some guys that I've been looking forward to playing with. Having not gone to Sochi, this is really the only opportunity to do that. I'm definitely excited and hopeful I can be on the team."
The World Cup of Hockey will run Sept. 17 through Oct. 1, 2016, and all games will be played at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. The games will be televised on ESPN in the United States, and Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada.
"You can't have it on a bigger stage than being in Toronto," said American defenceman Ryan McDonagh, the captain for the New York Rangers.
The format will feature eight teams separated into two groups for a preliminary round that will run from Sept. 17-22, 2016.
The top two finishers in each group will advance to the semifinals, which will be played Sept. 24-25.
The semifinals winners will meet in a best-of-three final, with games played Sept. 27, Sept. 29 and, if necessary, Oct 1.
Group A will consist of Team Canada, Team Czech Republic, Team USA and Team Europe, which will be comprised of the top players from countries outside the four European countries already competing in the tournament (Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden and Russia).
German Ice Hockey Federation president Franz Reindl was named president/team leader for Team Europe. Former NHL player and Slovakia national team captain Miroslav Satan was named the general manager for Team Europe.
Players who are candidates to be on Team Europe are intrigued about the selection process and its possibilities largely because a team like this never has been created before to compete in a major international tournament.
"I think it will be up to the team managers to be picking the right players for the right tournament," said Slovakian defenceman Zdeno Chara, the captain of the Boston Bruins. "We're going to be playing in North America, on a North American ice surface. Not that the European players are not capable of playing here, but I think it's just another adjustment to the ice and the system. It probably makes more sense to keep players from the NHL. So I think that's probably what we'll see. But who knows? We could see the team filled with players from Europe as well. But the system here and the system there is totally different."
Group B features Team Russia, Team Finland, Team Sweden and Team North America, which will be comprised of the top North American players who will be 23 years old or younger as of Oct. 1, 2016.
Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli and Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman were named co-managers of Team North America.
"It'll be a little different," said Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who is 22 years old. "Obviously every other international tournament that [Canadian] guys have played you don't play with Americans and you don't grow up playing against Team Canada. But [Team North America] should be a competitive team. There will be guys who are 22 or 23 years old that have experience in the League, so it won't just be all super young guys; it will be competitive players in the League."
The rosters will consist of 23 players featuring 20 skaters and three goalies. The first 16 players, including two goalies, must be named no later than March 1, 2016. The balance of the rosters must be announced no later than June 1, 2016.
All games will be played on NHL-sized rinks using NHL rules and officiated by NHL officials. Other competition features, including the anti-doping policy, supplementary discipline and medical protocols, will be coordinated jointly by the NHL and NHLPA in consultation with outside parties, such as the International Ice Hockey Federation, when necessary.
Tickets are scheduled to go on sale Oct. 14 at Ticketmaster.com.
"It'll be such a fun tournament too, kind of like the Olympics with all the best players, all the best teams there," said Swedish center Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals. "I think it's good that they put it here in Toronto too. The buzz will be crazy. It's going to be awesome."
Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Senior Writer