The much-anticipated World Cup of Hockey is now coming into focus.
The tournament, a joint effort staged by the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association, in cooperation with the International Ice Hockey Federation, will feature the national teams from the top eight hockey-playing nations in the world.
Tournament organizers discussed many of the preliminary details of the tournament during Wednesday afternoon's press conference at the Air Canada Centre, which will host the final game Sept. 14, 2004.
"It's a real honor for us to be the host of the championship game for the World Cup of 2004," Ken Dryden, Toronto Maple Leafs President, said. "We are very pleased to have preliminary round games here, a quarterfinal game, a semifinal game and the final game of the 2004 World Cup."
"The World Cup of Hockey 2004 will provide the international hockey community with a rare best-on-best tournament format featuring the world's foremost hockey stars from the NHL," said Bill Daly, NHL Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer. "For more than 30 years the NHL has participated in international hockey competition and the World Cup of Hockey 2004 provides a unique opportunity to showcase the game on two continents and adds to the list of historic international tournaments."
"Our long standing tradition in international hockey has seen some of the game's most memorable moments, highlighted by the greatest players in the game," said Ted Saskin, NHLPA Senior Director. "The World Cup of Hockey 2004 promises to continue this tradition, with hockey's latest generation of elite stars showcasing their talents on a global stage. Our members look forward to the opportunity of playing for their country in this best-on-best tournament."
According to organizers, the tournament's final will be a one-game affair, as opposed to the best-of-three format that was used in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, and also in several Canada Cups.
Canada, the United States, Russia, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Finland, Slovakia and Germany are scheduled to take part in the tournament. Those are the same eight countries that took part in the inaugural 1996 World Cup, which was won by the United States in a three-game series against Canada.
Round-robin games will be held in both North America and on the European continent.
The European group, which begins play on Aug. 30, features the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany and Sweden. The North American group, which begins play Aug. 31 with a matchup between Canada and the United States, also features Russia and Slovakia.
World Cup of Hockey games will be played at four European and three North American venues. Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland will host games Aug. 30 and Sept. 4. Games will be played at Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden Aug. 31 and Sept. 1; Cologne Arena in Cologne, Germany on Sept. 2; and Sazka Arena in Prague, Czech Republic on Sept. 3. European quarterfinal games will be played at the home venue of the top two European finishers in round-robin play.
Bell Centre in Montreal will play host to games Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. Games will be played at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., Sept. 2, 3, 7 and 10. Air Canada Centre in Toronto will host games Sept. 4, 5, 8 and 11, as well as the championship game on Sept. 14.
Ticket sales information will be announced at a later date.
2004 WORLD CUP OF HOCKEY SCHEDULE: European Pool (E): Czech Republic (CZE), Finland (FIN), Germany (GER), Sweden (SWE)
North American Pool (NA): Canada (CAN), Russia (RUS), Slovakia (SVK), United States (USA)
Mon., Aug. 30 - Hartwall Arena, Helsinki - CZE vs. FIN Tues., Aug. 31 - Globe Arena, Stockholm - GER vs. SWE Tues., Aug. 31 - Bell Centre, Montreal - CAN vs. USA Wed., Sept. 1 - Globe Arena, Stockholm - CZE vs. SWE Wed., Sept. 1 - Bell Centre, Montreal - CAN vs. SVK Thurs., Sept. 2 - Cologne Arena, Cologne - FIN vs. GER Thurs., Sept. 2 - Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul - USA vs. RUS Fri., Sept. 3 - Sazka Arena, Prague - GER vs. CZE Fri., Sept. 3 - Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul - USA vs SVK Sat., Sept. 4 - Hartwall Arena, Helsinki - SWE vs FIN Sat., Sept. 4 - Air Canada Centre, Toronto - CAN vs. RUS Sun., Sept. 5 - Air Canada Centre, Toronto - RUS vs SVK
Mon., Sept. 6 - QUARTERFINAL - Home Arena of E1 E1 vs. E4 Tues., Sept. 7 - QUARTERFINAL - Home Arena of E2 E2 vs. E3 Tues., Sept. 7 - QUARTERFINAL - Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul NA1 vs. NA4 or NA2 vs. NA3 Wed., Sept. 8 - QUARTERFINAL - Air Canada Centre, Toronto NA1 vs. NA4 or NA2 vs. NA3
Fri., Sept. 10 - SEMIFINAL - Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul Sat., Sept. 11 - SEMIFINAL - Air Canada Centre, Toronto
Tues., Sept. 14 - CHAMPIONSHIP - Air Canada Centre, Toronto