(Reuters) - The World Cup of Hockey will return, after a 12-year absence, in 2016 when eight teams will compete for the trophy in Toronto, the National Hockey League (NHL) announced on Saturday.
A joint effort of the NHL and the National Hockey League Players’ Association in collaboration with the International Ice Hockey Federation, the 2016 World Cup will feature for the first time two teams comprising multi-national players.
Team North American Youngstars will be made up of the best players under the age of 23 from Canada and the U.S. while Team Europe will comprise under-23 players from outside the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden.
The other six teams scheduled to compete from Sept. 17-Oct. 1, 2016 are Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden and the United States.
“The 2016 World Cup of Hockey will highlight not only our global reach, but also the skill and passion of the world’s best athletes,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
“We would like to thank our international partners -– the IIHF and their members -– for their cooperation in helping to make this event a reality.”
Bettman told reporters later on Saturday that the NHL would like to see the World Cup of Hockey staged every four years.
”We decided that bringing back the World Cup was vitally important,“ he said. ”We think the sports world was missing something really great by not having our players play this type of best-on-best competition.
“We’re going to let this evolve. We believe after giving the event such a good start that we’re going to build off of it.”
The World Cup of Hockey, which was last staged in 2004 just before the 2004–05 NHL lockout, is scheduled to be played on NHL-sized rinks using league rules and officiated by league officials.
It adds a new wrinkle with regard to the likely future participation of NHL players at the Winter Olympics.
The 2018 Winter Olympics will be held in South Korea and the NHL has not yet decided whether it will permit its players to compete at the Pyeongchang Games due to the lengthy break that would interrupt the league’s regular season.
“This (World Cup of Hockey) decision has no bearing on whether we will return to the next Olympics ... something we still have to discuss,” said Bettman.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry