World Cup of Hockey announcement expected this weekend

The World Cup of Hockey is coming, and it could be made official as soon as Saturday. The eight-team competition will feature six of the biggest hockey nations and two concept teams, one comprised of European all-stars and the other of North American players under the age of 23.

The long rumored World Cup of Hockey could be announced as soon as tomorrow, with the eight-team tournament potentially scheduled for a September 2016 start.

According to multiple reports, the tournament field will feature six traditional hockey nations – Canada, USA, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and the Czech Republic – as well as two concept teams.

Rick Westhead of TSN reported on Tuesday that the two concept teams will be a European All-Star squad, which comes as little surprise, and a team made up of players under the age of 23. The under-23 team will reportedly be comprised of the best and brightest fresh-faced youngsters from North America.

While groups for the round robin stage and the playoff format have yet to be decided, the World Cup will have a three-game series to determine a winner, instead of the one-game, winner-takes-all format that was used at the 2004 World Cup. The upcoming World Cup would be mark the third time the event has been held.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the game,” commissioner Gary Bettman said in June. “We start with the fact that of all of the North American sports, our players, our game has a history and tradition of international competition. It’s something that we know is very important for our players to be able to represent their countries.”

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The 1996 World Cup was played in nine host cities spread across six countries in North America and Europe, and the 2004 tournament took place in seven venues on either side of the Atlantic. However, 2016’s reported World Cup tournament will take place solely in Toronto. According to Westhead, holding the event in Toronto could generate somewhere in the neighborhood of $75 to $100 million in revenue for the league, and could lead to a bidding war for rights to the next World Cup.

The 2004 event was tremendously successful, especially as it came as the league approached a potential work stoppage, one that happened just two days after the tournament’s final game.

The September 2016 start could mean this is the latest the tournament runs in its history, unless schedule makers fit in each game in a two week span. The 1996 event began on Aug. 26 and ran until Sept. 14, with Team USA defeating the Canadians in a thrilling three-game series for the tournament championship. Canada won the 2004 event by defeating Finland 3-2 in a one-game affair. The 2004 tournament spanned 16 days from Aug. 30 to Sept. 14.