ESPN and ESPN2 will present exclusive national coverage of the World Cup of Hockey 2004 the National Hockey League (NHL) announced today. The networks will combine to telecast 16 games of the international event that features 13 days of competition between eight of the top hockey nations in the world. The event will be played in seven venues across six different countries on two continents from Aug. 30 to Sept.14, 2004.
"A tournament that features the world's best hockey players representing their country takes a sporting event to a higher level," said Mark Quenzel, senior vice president, programming and production, ESPN. "National pride is at stake and this appeals to casual and avid fans, as proven by the 2002 Winter Olympics. ESPN's multi-media coverage provides an already popular event with a wider platform for exposure."
"The inaugural World Cup of Hockey event in 1996 was an amazing tournament, but due to limited television coverage at the time many sports fan in the U.S. missed out on all the tremendous action," said Bill Daly, NHL Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer. "Now-with ESPN as a partner-virtually every sports fans will have a chance to see the intensity, drama and excitement that surround the battle for international hockey supremacy."
"We are excited to have ESPN as a broadcaster for the World Cup of Hockey 2004," said Ted Saskin, NHLPA Senior Director. "ESPN has once again shown their commitment to the great game of hockey and fans across the U.S. will be treated to an incredible best-on-best tournament."
Hockey Federations from the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden and Germany will make up the European Pool, while Russia and Slovakia will join defending 1996 World Cup of Hockey Champion United States and 2002 Olympic Champion Canada in the North American Pool. The battle between the U.S. and Canada will be at center-stage early in the tournament when the rivals meet Aug. 31 (ESPN2) in Montreal. The countries have exchanged significant victories in recent memory with the U.S. beating Canada, 5-2, to win the World Cup of Hockey 1996 and Canada snatching gold from the U.S. in 2002 at the Winter Olympics also with a 5-2 victory.
The World Cup of Hockey 2004 will open with round-robin play from Aug. 30 to Sept. 5 when competition within the European and North American groups begins. All eight teams qualify for the single-elimination quarterfinal playoffs, which begin Sept. 6. The two quarterfinal winners from the European Pool will travel to North America to compete against the two North American qualifiers. The semifinal rounds (ESPN2) will take place in St. Paul Sept. 10 and in Toronto Sept. 11. The championship game (ESPN) will be played Sept. 14 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Three North American and four European venues will host games: Air Canada Centre in Toronto (Sept. 4, 5, 8, 11 & 14); Bell Centre in Montreal (Aug. 31 & Sept. 1); and Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. (Sept. 2, 3, 7 &10); Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland (Aug. 30 & Sept. 4); Globe Arena in Stockholm (Aug. 31 & Sept. 1); Cologne Arena in Cologne, Germany (Sept. 2) and Sazka Arena in Prague, Czech Republic (Sept. 3).
The World Cup of Hockey 2004 is a joint effort of the National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA), and the National Hockey League (NHL) in cooperation with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). The World Cup of Hockey 2004 will be played on NHL-sized ice surfaces under NHL rules. The inaugural World Cup of Hockey was played in 1996. Other similar international hockey competitions involving NHL players have included the 1972 Summit Series, the Challenge Cup in 1979, Rendezvous 1987, and a series of Canada Cup Tournaments, last played in 1991. The NHL also has participated in the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics.