As Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine rages on, the world continues to pile up sanctions against Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s regime.
That includes the hockey world; in the early days of the war, the NHL announced it was suspending business with the Russian-based Kontinental League and its business relationships with Russia. However, one area the NHL has not addressed in terms of Russian involvement is the return of the World Cup of Hockey.
As rumors swirl that the World Cup will be prominent on the agenda at the NHL’s General Managers’ meetings in Florida this week, the league and NHL Players’ Association may soon be set to reveal plans for a World Cup tournament in 2024, But neither the NHL or NHLPA is currently prepared to announce a Russian team would not be allowed to participate in a World Cup, although the presumption is that, if the war drags on, that would be the ultimate decision the league, NHLPA and the International Ice Hockey Federation come to.
“The League and the PA (along with the IIHF) are in the very early planning stages (of the World Cup),” NHL spokesman Gary Meagher told THN.com in a statement Sunday. “...(W)hich countries will be participating and the format will be addressed in due course by the PA and the League in conjunction with the IIHF.”
“The NHL and the NHLPA are in the preliminary stages of organizing the next World Cup of Hockey,” NHLPA spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon told THN.com Sunday night. “As preparations progress, the league and the NHLPA, along with the IIHF, will determine which nations will be participating.”
In the most recent, eight-team World Cup, which took place in Toronto in 2016, Russia was one of six countries that iced a team, as well as Canada, the United States, Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Republic. Two additional teams were a “Team Europe”, and a “Team North America” comprised of players 23 years old or younger.
This arrangement is highly likely to change in the 2024 tournament, with Team Europe and Team North America replaced by two countries decided by play-in games. But if Russia’s war continues, the NHL and NHLPA would face intense criticism if they permitted Russia to participate in any tournament.
Denying Russia a place in the next World Cup would mean the NHL needs three additional teams that weren’t around in 2016. The overall quality of the tournament would dip in such a scenario, but the alternative – looking past the Russian war in the name of profitability – should be a non-starter for all involved.