Columnist image
Rick Westhead

TSN Senior Correspondent

|Archive

NHL and NHLPA executives are expected to announce on Friday the details of the rekindled World Cup of Hockey, a tournament that will feature eight teams, including two unconventional ones.

Besides Canada, the U.S., Russia, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Finland, the league and union will announce a European All-Star team will participate. That team will be stocked with players who come from countries other than those participating as nations.

Also, the tournament will feature a team with North American players under the age of 23.

An executive with an NHL sponsor confirmed the details to TSN.

The tournament will also feature a best-of-three final, which will help to drive up the broadcast and sponsor rights for the tournament both in North America and Europe.

The National Hockey League and its players association have told team executives they hope to generate between $75 million and $100 million from the rekindled World Cup of Hockey.

A person familiar with the matter told TSN that the tournament, which is scheduled to be held in September 2016, will raise about half its revenue from the sale of broadcast and internet streaming rights. The NHL and NHLPA have predicted those rights may garner close to $50 million.

It's a gamble to spend so much on a tournament like the World Cup when there's no guarantee Team Canada will advance beyond the round robin portion. But if it does, there could be a big payoff in TV ratings. The final of the World Cup will be a best-of-three format, TSN has learned.

Besides TV rights, the NHL and NHLPA will also sell sponsorship rights to the World Cup. They anticipate selling to eight premier corporate sponsors and negotiating deals of at least $1.5 million in each category, a source told TSN.

The NHL and NHLPA will also garner revenue from ticket and merchandise sales. However, it's expected that the NHL and the Players' Association will have to pay Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment at least $5 million for hosting the three-week tournament.

While executives with the Montreal Canadiens wanted to host some of the World Cup games at the Bell Centre, the NHL and its players union decided to host all of the games in Toronto. That way, if the tournament is a success, they could auction off the rights to host the games in 2019, perhaps, to the city that offers the best revenue guarantee - be it Montreal, New York, Stockholm, Moscow, or another city.

To be sure, there are still many unanswered questions about how much profit the NHL and players union will generate from the World Cup.

They need to pay for insurance for all of the players.

Typically, the NHL and the Players' Association buy premiums that offer better coverage than simply career-ending policies. Payouts are rare, but they do happen. The Islanders' John Tavares, for instance, was covered by an insurance policy when he was injured during the Winter Olympics earlier this year in Sochi, Russia. The Islanders were compensated by an insurance company for the time he missed.

It's unclear how much insurance will cost the NHL and NHLPA.

Then Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson said last August that it would cost at least $1 million simply to pay for insurance for the 47 Canadian players invited to Team Canada workouts in advance of the Winter Olympics.

NHL player agent Allan Walsh said some NHL players have been skeptical over whether it's a good idea to steer away from the "national team" concept.

"Some players believe this should be limited to players playing for their country," Walsh told TSN. "What are you playing for if it's "Team Young Guns" or European All Stars? What are you playing for? That's a problem. It's an issue."

Walsh said featuring a young guns team particularly could lead to lopsided scores.

"The downside is that team gets pounded," Walsh said. "I don't think it would have an impact on the player's psychology or career - just an impact on the legitimacy of the team in the tournament, when people sit back and say whether this kind of team was a good or bad idea."

Still, Walsh and other agents said there could be a great payoff for the league from marketing a team built around young stars like Nathan McKinnon, Connor McDavid and Jonathan Drouin.

Walsh said that while some fans have called for the NHL and NHLPA to include teams from Slovakia or Slovenia, that might not be practical, since the tournament is run by the league and its players association - both of which want to use the event to build the profile of their own players, not those playing in leagues overseas.