NHL Notebook: Majority of general managers in favour of best-on-best international hockey tournament

Cam Lewis
11 months ago
The Major League Baseball season doesn’t start for another week and we might’ve already witnessed the most exciting moment that the sport will have to offer this year.
The World Baseball Classic concluded on Tuesday with Japan defeating the United States by a score of 3-2. The finale couldn’t have been scripted better, as reigning American League Most Valuable Player Shohei Ohtani struck out Los Angeles Angels teammate and three-time MVP Mike Trout to record the final out in the ninth inning.
For a sport that’s been spending a lot of energy trying to combat a decline in interest, the 2023 World Baseball Classic was a breath of fresh air. It was the fifth in the tournament’s history, the first since 2017, and it was far and away the most successful.
According to Forbes, attendance for the tournament totalled 1,306,414 spectators, which was a 20 percent increase on the previous-high mark set during the 2017 tournament. In terms of television and streaming, viewership for the final game peaked in the United States at 5.2 million viewers, up a whopping 69 percent over the previous high, while 42.4% of Japanese households tuned in despite the game taking place at 8:00 AM local time in Japan.
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid watched the finale between Japan and the United States and talked about how it was something that hockey has been missing for quite some time…
“It’s what we’ve been asking for in hockey for a long time,” McDavid said. “Best on best. Look, everyone’s been talking about baseball and ‘did you see Ohtani vs. Trout?’ That’s what hockey’s been missing for about a decade now.”
The last time there was a true best-on-best international hockey tournament was at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. The World Cup of Hockey a couple of years later in 2016 featured a best-on-best in terms of talent, but it wasn’t an authentic international tournament because two of the teams weren’t even countries.
Rather than young stars like McDavid and Auston Matthews suiting up for Canada and the United States, they played for Team North America, an amalgamation of Canadian and American players who were under the age of 24 at the time. It was a fun team, there’s no doubt about that, but it made the tournament feel like a series of exhibition games.
When will we see hockey have its next best-on-best international tournament? Will there be another World Cup of Hockey? Will we have to wait until the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina?
Darren Dreger said on TSN’s Insider Trading that the majority of NHL general managers are in favour of players participating in such a tournament but that they want it to happen in September as opposed to February because of concerns over injuries…
Dreger: Let’s call it an unofficial flash poll because only 26 of the 32 cared to participate. But 23 of them said that they spport the World Cup of Hockey or the Olympics, if you want to go down that path. The three that said they aren’t interested said so because of fear of injuries. They don’t want play outside of the NHL because they believe that the players have enough going on.
Lou Lamorellio of the New York Islanders said that he favours the World Cup of Hockey but wants it during the off-season, so there can be a training camp which might curb injuries. The majority of the general managers who favour the return of the World Cup also want it in September rather than February because of the trade deadline and the looming playoffs.
Meanwhile, Pierre LeBrun noted that the reason the NHL opted not to plan a World Cup of Hockey for 2024 is still an active concern today…
LeBrun: They do want to have a World Cup of Hockey but the circumstances that existed when they postponed the 2024 World Cup still exist now, the war in Ukraine with Russia. If the players want to push ahead for a World Cup of Hockey, they’re going to have to do so without Russia, because the European hockey federations aren’t going to want to take part in a tournament with Russia.

Quick notes…

  • Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Logan Thompson returned from a six-week injury absence to the team’s net when they played the Calgary Flames on Thursday night. Thompson stopped 37 of Calgary’s 39 shots in what wound up being a 3-2 win for Vegas but the rookie goaltender left the game with a few minutes left in the third period and was replaced by Jonathan Quick. Head coach Bruce Cassidy announced on Friday that Thompson has returned to Vegas and won’t be with the team as they play the Oilers in Edmonton on Saturday.
  • ESPN Films announced that production has been completed on “I’m Just Here for the Riot,” a 30 for 30 documentary about the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup riot. The documentary will take a look at the riot that broke out in Vancouver following the Canucks’ loss in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final to the Boston Bruins and the aftermath for some of those who were involved. 

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