The World Cup of Hockey won't happen in 2020 and that's a shame. There were plenty of skeptics 2 1/2 years ago who said it was simply a cash grab, and the merchandise and marketing end of things was admittedly a huge part of the 2016 tournament in Toronto. But more important was that it gave us great, memorable hockey in September, and that's rare.
The '16 World Cup provided the for-the-history-books runs of Team North America and the graybeards of Team Europe, as well as the utter failure of John Tortorella and Team USA. The North America-Sweden quarterfinal, won in an eye-popping overtime on Nathan MacKinnon's goal, probably rates as the best exhibition of 3-on-3 hockey in history.
It gave us more Sidney Crosby brilliance and even provided the odd clash of a dramatic tournament-winning goal by Brad Marchand for Team Canada in a city — and, for that matter, an entire country — where he spends most of his nights as a chief villain.
It was great hockey and great theater. We have to get it again and it seems like we will someday. Just not as soon as we hoped.
Both the NHL and the NHL Players Association issued statements that logistics just don't make it feasible to have a tournament 20 months from now, but that they're working toward a framework for future international play.
There's an easy translation to all of this: It's all going to be tied to a new collective bargaining agreement. And on that front, things are surprisingly upbeat.
NHLPA statement regarding World Cup of Hockey and ongoing discussions with NHL. pic.twitter.com/ytx9F4ZumV
— NHLPA (@NHLPA) January 16, 2019
NHL statement regarding today’s meeting with the NHLPA: pic.twitter.com/ciNYW7knDj
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 16, 2019
Both sides referenced continuing dialogue. And while several players the last few years have signed contracts that were front-loaded or heavily laden with signing bonuses as a form of lockout protection, we're not remotely close to the automatic assumption there's going to be a lockout like we were in 2004 or 2013.
"We'll see what happens, but I'm not looking for a fight," Commissioner Gary Bettman said last week in Las Vegas after the sides revealed the World Cup decision.
The current CBA is in place until 2022 but both sides have reopeners to terminate it this September. If either side does that and negotiations subsequently fail, we could be looking at a lockout in the fall of 2020.
The players want some relief from escrow payments they make on their salaries and want to keep generating new ways to grow hockey-related revenue. And there's no question they want a regular international calendar established that includes their participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The owners undoubtedly would like to push contract limits down from their current seven years for free agents and eight years for current players. Good luck to them on that front.
Still, as Bettman says, there's no contentious tone being set here. With the money being brought in by Vegas and another $650 million entering the coffers from Seattle, the industry has never had more money flowing. The salary cap is likely going to be pushing $90 million per team in the next few years, making plenty of money available to players as well.
The message here is simple: Figure it out. The CBA. The World Cup. The Olympics. All of it. The early words are encouraging and that's something unusual for the NHL given its history of negotiation with Bettman in charge the last 25 years.
Another pick for Sabres
The Sabres earned another draft pick Thursday when defenseman Taylor Fedun played his 25th game for the Dallas Stars. Playing 25 games was the condition of the Nov. 10 trade, and Buffalo will now get the Stars' seventh-round pick in 2020 in exchange. Fedun had been in Rochester this year and had only played 46 NHL games for four teams until the trade, including 34 for Buffalo the last two seasons.
In 2020, the Sabres have picks in Rounds 1, 2, 4, 5 and 7, with two coming in the last round. The third- and sixth-rounders were sent to Carolina as part of the Jeff Skinner trade. It's possible Buffalo could have two first-round picks if St. Louis defers to 2020 the choice it's sending Buffalo in the Ryan O'Reilly trade. The Blues likely would do that if they miss the playoffs and end up with a top-10 choice this year.
CBC did a story last week about the Golden Knights revoking the season tickets of a family in Calgary because most of the tickets were resold on the secondary market. Cheryl Sullivan told the network her family went to four games over the Christmas holiday in Vegas and own property in the city, but were shocked to learn their tickets were being revoked. Sullivan claims other fans near her from Ontario, Utah and Florida also had seats revoked.
The team responded to CBC by saying it "does not condone members who purchase a membership with the intent of profiting off their purchase."
Good for them. More teams should do this. This leads to local fans being shut out and to the epidemic of visiting fans in your arena. The Sabres should be moving on this area far more than they do.
There are plenty of rumors around about brokers and simply fan speculators from out of town owning blocks of tickets in KeyBank Center. And that is the likely explanation why the number of opposing team jerseys on the 100 level during games — not just against Toronto — is clearly out of hand.
Scoring keeps going wild
Colorado's Mikko Rantanen, Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau and Edmonton's Connor McDavid cracked the 70-point mark for the season on Wednesday, joining NHL scoring leader Nikita Kucherov of Tampa Bay on that list.
This marks the ninth season in NHL history to feature four or more players with at least 70 points through games of Jan. 16 — but the first since the offensively historic 1992-93 seasons. On that date, Mario Lemieux, Sabres captain Pat LaFontaine, Adam Oates and Mark Recchi were all at 70-plus points.
In addition, a hat trick by Philadelphia's Sean Couturier the same night gave the NHL at least one hat trick for six straight days, a feat that had not happened since March 3-8, 1999. The run ended on Thursday. Still, through Thursday, there have been 55 hat tricks this season, the most at that point in the season since there were 65 in '92-93.
On Seattle's name
We're probably going to learn the name of the new Seattle franchise later this year and there's a movement to revive the name of the Metropolitans, who won the Stanley Cup in 1917 before the birth of the NHL. Of course, a big problem is the fact one of the league's divisions is now called the Metropolitan. When Bettman visited Seattle earlier this month, he said "never say never" on the name even though he admitted the conflict would be troublesome.
The thought here is let Seattle do it if it wants the name and change the name of the division. It's a stupid name anyway. What is "Metropolitan" about Carolina, Columbus or Pittsburgh? I get what the league was going for with the New York City-area teams in the division as well as Washington and Philadelphia but the name has never worked. Atlantic, Central and Pacific seem fine. Come up with something different.