NHL plans Super Bowl-type events for 2016 World Cup
Canada's Ryan Smyth (left) celebrates with teammates Vincent Lecavalier (middle) and Dany Heatley during the World Cup of Hockey quarterfinal in Toronto September 8, 2004. (REUTERS/Shaun Best)
A possible Olympic-village type setting for teams and fans alike, representing all the countries involved.
A splashy opening ceremony befitting what the NHL considers to be a major international event.
A series of concerts sprinkled throughout the two-week event that will augment the product on the ice.
Events held in conjunction with the Toronto International Film Festival, which will be going on at the same time.
Taking a page from the the annual “A Taste of Danforth” Food Festival, how about a Taste of The World Cup event, one in which fans can have the opportunity to graze on some of the dishes native to the countries taking part in the tournament?
In the minds of the NHL and NHLPA kingpins who are setting up the World Cup of Hockey, these are some of the ideas they would like to see come to fruition as part of the tournament, which will run Sept. 17–Oct. 1, 2016 at the Air Canada Centre.
Those putting the event together are hoping the two-week World Cup will be much bigger in scope than just the on-ice product. They are seeking to make the project an international celebration of the sport.
Asked Wednesday if he envisions the endeavour will be a “big event” as a destination like the Super Bowk, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman replied: “Yes, although we’ll have more games.”
In the process, there are plans to reach out to the film festival, just one of a number of events that will be held in conjunction with the tourney.
“We’re going to be working on all of that,” Bettman told QMI Agency Wednesday night in Toronto.
According to NHL CEO John Collins, holding all these proposed activities around the tournament played a role in opting to hold the 2016 World Cup in a single city. In past World/Canada Cups, the event was held in numerous locations.
“This is the first stage in our global plans and we want to build on it,” Collins said. “What better way to kick off an event we hope becomes a regular thing?.”
Given all the activities that will be surrounding the event, including TIFF, it will be a very busy time on the streets of Hogtown.
And a very lucrative one, especially if the league’s estimate of US $120 million in revenues from the tournament is met.
NO BITTERNESS AMONG BROADCASTERS: BETTMAN
In one of the worst kept secrets in the hockey world, Bettman and Collins were in Toronto to officially announce that Sportsnet, TVA and ESPN have been granted the exclusive broadcast rights for the 2016 World Cup, something that had been predicted to happen for weeks now..
The awarding of the U.S. rights to ESPN caused some to question if the league’s relationship with NBC, the U.S. national rights holder for NHL games, might be deteriorating.
Bettman was quick to squelch that speculation, claiming there was no such “friction.”
“We have a terrific relationship with NBC Sports,” Bettman said.
Bettman said there were “scheduling issues” with NBC, which makes sense. NBC, after all, will be covering golf’s Ryder Cup, which will be held Sept. 27-Oct 2 at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota.
Obviously their Cups runneth over.
During the all-star game in Columbus in January, Collins revealed the idea of a Ryder Cup of Hockey format potentially slated for 2018 involving a two-team showdown between Team North America and Team Rest of the World.
On Wednesday, Collins said England’s O2 Arena, located in southeast London, might be a desireable location for the event.
“It’s a market that definitely we’d like to have a footprint in as part of our vision to broaden our global reach,” Collins said.
Holding a World Cup of Hockey event in London might be a stretch at this point, since the locals would have no rooting interest on the surface for any of the eight teams. But a Ryder Cup setup certainly would be a much simpler “Us Vs. Them” sell in that market, one the league certainly has in its sights in terms of growing the game internationally.
With both Bettman and union head Donald Fehr hoping events like the World Cup and Ryder Cup of Hockey allows the sport to expand throughout the world, here is a tentative schedule they have pencilled out:
1. 2016, World Cup of Hockey, Toronto
2. 2018, Ryder Cup of Hockey (Possibly London, Eng.)
3. 2019, European qualifier tournament for final two spots of 2020 World Cup
4. 2020, World Cup of Hockey, location TBA.
Note the potential 2019 qualifier format. That would allow a pair of countries to participate the following year as opposed to the under-23 and Rest-of-Europe teams that are slated to be the seventh and eighth teams in the 2016 event along with Canada, the U.S., Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic and Russia.
Bettman does not consider the Young Guns and Rest of Europe teams to be a gimmick, as some have suggested.
“This is a way in which we can have the best 150 players in the world all competing at once,” he said.
Bettman says the World Cup of Hockey has been set up to ensure “all games will be sold out. Ticket prices will reflect that.” We’ll see ... Bettman on Vegas: “If we do this, I suspect it would be an expansion team.” He added that the process is nowhere near that point and that there are no plans for relocation of existing teams right now ... Bettman on the potential wagering-on-hockey issue: “I don’t think our sport is as conducive to betting as basketball and football are.”