2024 World Cup of Hockey Explained: Why Does the Tournament Matter?

After featuring for Team North America in 2016, Connor McDavid could captain Team Canada at the 2024 World Cup of Hockey (Image: Brian Murphy, All-Pro Reels)
After featuring for Team North America in 2016, Connor McDavid could captain Team Canada at the 2024 World Cup of Hockey (Image: Brian Murphy, All-Pro Reels)

It’s official: the World Cup of Hockey will return in 2024 without two of the quirks that made it so memorable in 2016.

Earlier this week, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daily confirmed the World Cup will return to the ice featuring a traditional field made up of individual countries. Unlike at the previous tournament, there will be no space for Team North America – filled with the best U23s from the U.S. and Canada – or Team Europe in 2024.

Speaking at a meeting of NHL GMs in Florida on Tuesday, Daly said: “Very preliminary plans at this point, we got to step it up because we’re a little bit behind already.”

TSN’s Darren Dreger reported last week that a qualifying event could be held next year to determine the bracket for the next World Cup.

“A play-in event is exactly what’s being discussed by the NHL, the NHLPA, the IIHF, and the various Federations,” Dreger said on Insider Trading. “They’re meeting this week in Paris and they’re trying to hammer out some of the details.

“You could see a play-in event for some of the European teams in August 2023. We’ve talked a lot about what the World Cup will look like in 2024 and again in 2028, it will most likely be eight teams including Canada, the USA, and the six European Federations.”

Excluding Team Europe, which included players from Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland last time out, means there will be no repeat of the final from 2016 – when Team Canada saw off the Europeans in a best-of-three finale.

Why is the 2024 World Cup of Hockey Important?

The last time we saw best-on-best international play was at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, with the NHL sitting out the last two Winter Olympics due to financial disagreements and COVID-19.

Although the IIHF hosts an annual World Championship, the competition rarely features the NHL’s top players as they clash with the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After the league withdrew from the Beijing Olympics, arranging a World Cup of Hockey in 2024 became a priority for the NHLPA.

Many high-profile players, including Boston Bruins star Brad Marchand, spoke out against the NHL after it reneged on its CBA-negotiated agreement to allow players to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics.

“The NHL and NHLPA can change the rules of the CBA to add a taxi squad so that they don’t miss any games and don’t lose any money — which has already been agreed upon that the players will pay back in escrow until the owners are made whole from what they have lost during this pandemic, regardless of how many games are missed,” Marchand wrote on Twitter in December.

“Yet they can’t do a taxi squad during the Olympics so they can honour the agreement they made so the NHL players can go [to Beijing],” wrote Marchand. “Please tell me that’s not bulls—.”

In light of player pressure, the NHL started working on a best-on-best tournament of its own.

How will the 2024 World Cup of Hockey Look?

We still don’t know – the tournament is still TBA.

However, the NHL is unlikely to stray too far from the format of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey – which featured eight teams, two groups, and a best-of-three final.

Last time out, the IIHF and NHL selected the field – with Canada, Czechia, Finland, Russia, Sweden, United States, Team Europe, and Team North America making the cut.

While the NHL has already determined the fate of Teams North America and Europe, Russia’s participation remains an open question.

Following the invasion of Ukraine, the IIHF banned Russia and Belarus from participating in its competitions last month.

The NHL hasn’t confirmed whether it will invite a Russian team to participate in the 2024 World Cup.

As noted, the tournament’s organisers are considering holding a play-in tournament next year – likely to include many of the nations that made up Team Europe in 2016.

Why Aren’t Team Europe and Team North America Returning?

Ultimately, the novelty of transnational teams participating in a World Cup has worn off for the NHL and IIHF.

Team North America’s demise isn’t a shock. The NHL only dreamed up a young gun roster to shoehorn the likes of Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid into the 2016 World Cup.

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Team Europe’s axing is more surprising, especially as they went all the way to the final last time out.

However, dropping the pancontinental squad will prove popular with players. Opening the door for Leon Draisaitl and Roman Josi as it to represent Germany and Switzerland, respectively.

Who will Host the 2024 World Cup of Hockey?

There have been three previous World Cups of Hockey, with Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena providing the backdrop in 2016 and 2014. In 1996, Philadelphia and Montreal split hosting duties.

Canada has won each of the last two events, with Team USA claiming the inaugural title.

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