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NHL, NHLPA want to expand international calendar

by Dan Rosen / Calgary Flames

TORONTO, ON -- The World Cup of Hockey 2016 is the start of what the NHL and NHL Players' Association hope becomes an expansive international schedule.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said Wednesday the goal is to build off the eight-team tournament, which will be played at Air Canada Centre in Toronto from Sept. 17-Oct. 1, with future events that could feature NHL games overseas, exhibition games between NHL teams and those from European leagues, a Ryder Cup-style North America vs. Europe tournament, and more.

"We would like to do the World Cup on a regular basis, perhaps in locations throughout the world," Commissioner Bettman said. "We're looking at other competitions that we can do internationally on a regular basis. With [the World Cup] as the foundation, you're going to see an increased international presence on a regular basis, whether it's exhibition games with NHL teams against each other, against local teams, regular-season games, clinics. We're on television and other media in over 140 countries. We've had to do a variety of things to make sure North America was strong and healthy. And now with this as the foundation we have an opportunity to do further exploration for a sport that has the most diverse player group of any of the North American sports."

It's still unknown if Olympic participation will be on the League's upcoming international calendar.

Commissioner Bettman said the NHL has not yet had substantive discussions with the International Ice Hockey Federation or the International Olympic Committee about NHL players participating in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.

"The Players' Association and I know there are issues we have to address, but we have time to do that," Commissioner Bettman said. "We probably don't have to focus on that for at least another six months."

The NHL and NHLPA view the Olympics and World Cup as different entities. They do not consider the revival of the World Cup, which will be played for the first time in 12 years, to be a precursor to denying player participation in future Olympics.

"I don't think one has much, if anything, to do with the other," Fehr said. "The Olympics are a unique event. It's a multisport event. It has a particular history, a particular way of choosing the participants and all the rest of it. As everybody knows, the players really value their Olympic participation. [The World Cup] is something different. It's a hockey-only event, which by design is going to give us the best quality player-for-player and man-for-man that any tournament of this kind has ever had. We think it's a complete standalone. I don't think it interferes necessarily or in any other way with the Olympics."

Commissioner Bettman speculated that a potential international calendar could feature the World Cup being played every four years, with another international event, perhaps a Ryder Cup-style tournament, taking place in the intervening two years, and trans-Atlantic regular-season games and exhibition games in the odd years.

"That seems to be something that makes sense, but we haven't dug deep on it yet and so nothing has been laid out or cast in stone formally," Commissioner Bettman said.

Efforts to continue attempting to grow the game to China, which will host the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, also should be included in future international plans, Fehr said.

The Boston Bruins sent a contingent that included forwards David Pastrnak and Matt Beleskey to China to conduct hockey clinics in Beijing and Shanghai last month.

The Los Angeles Kings are hosting youth players from the Feiyang Hockey Program in Shanghai this week as part of Kings Camp California. The Kings sponsored a trip for local youth players to visit Shanghai for a similar hockey camp last month.

In addition, the New York Islanders have made continued efforts to foster relationships with the growing hockey community in China, and they selected Andong Song in the sixth round (No. 172) of the 2015 NHL Draft. Song was the first Chinese-born player selected in an NHL draft.

"We don't see any limits by design," Fehr said. "There are going to be practical limits, limits on speed plus the constraints of the schedule and so on. But I think there is a joint desire to make this as significant a player on the international scene as we can."

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