World Cup of Hockey to return in 2016

Columbus, OH ( - The NHL announced the return of the World Cup of Hockey after a 12-year absence.

The two-week tournament, a joint effort of the NHL, NHL Players Association and the International Ice Hockey Federation, features eight teams and will take place in September 2016 in Toronto.

"We are thrilled to partner with the NHLPA in planning and producing what we expect will be the world's best international hockey tournament," said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Saturday. "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. We would like to thank our international partners -- the IIHF and their members -- for their cooperation in helping to make this event a reality."

The last World Cup took place in 2004 when Canada beat Finland in the final for the championship. The first tournament was held in 1996. The United States won that event, beating Canada in a best-of-three final.

Six countries -- Canada, the United States, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic -- will take part in the 2016 edition. The other two teams will be called Team Europe and Team North American Youngstars.

The Team Europe squad will be made up of players from European nations other than Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic, allowing players from Slovakia, Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Slovenia to fill out the roster.

The North American Youngstars will be selected from a pool of the best young players aged 23 and under from Canada and the United States.

"We expect the 2016 World Cup of Hockey to be the most competitive tournament of its kind, with the world's top players and best athletes," said NHLPA executive director Don Fehr. "We look forward to working with the NHL, and the IIHF and its federations on this extraordinary event. We expect that this is the initial step in a series of events that will elevate our game over the next few years, including a World Cup in 2020."

Each of the eight teams will feature 23 players -- 20 skaters and three goalies. The teams will be split into two groups and play a round-robin competition before moving on to a one-game semifinal round. The final round will be a best-of-three format between the two semifinal winners.