NHL vs. KHL showdown looming over 2016 World Cup of Hockey

NHL vs. KHL showdown looming over 2016 World Cup of Hockey

The World Cup of Hockey is likely returning in September 2016. NHLPA chief Don Fehr was quoted as saying as such to the IIHF’s world hockey congress, and the NHL has indicated that it’s on track for that date, assuming all the details can be finalized.

Among those details: The participation of other leagues. Like, for example, the Russian Kontinental Hockey League.

That’s the biggie. There’s no sense in trying to hold a World Cup without a Russian big bad in the tournament, even if the Russians can’t really shine the skates of the Americans and Canadians as a national team in 2014. (Or the Swedes, for that matter.)

While a vast majority of Russia's best players are in the NHL, there are enough in the KHL where it'll feel incomplete without their participation -- let alone without the KHL's promotion and endorsement of the event. 

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There’s the issue of scheduling: The World Cup would take place in the NHL’s preseason but at the start of the KHL’s regular season, which began on Sept. 3 this year. Would the KHL just play on in the shadow of this massive tournament, while players like Ilya Kovalchuk are on loan to the World Cup team?

Furthermore, in 2016-17, there are Olympic qualifying games that need to be played ahead of the South Korea Games. Since the KHL draws heavily from Latvia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Slovakia, that cuts into it the season as well.

But more to the point for the KHL and its backers: It’s going to contribute some players an event that essentially promotes the NHL and in which the NHL and the NHLPA are going to keep all the profits.

From a Sov Sport editorial published Thursday titled “World Cup: A diabolical trap for KHL”:

And that the CHL for providing their players for, in fact, the promotion of a competitor will get in return? Money? No. All proceeds will take the NHL and its players' union. Advertising? Too - no. All the matches of the tournament will be held overseas, there will do anything to league rival any PR has not received.

The KHL is going to try and appear strong here. League President Alexander Medvedev said on Thursday that he plans to meet with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly about the World Cup; and that the KHL supports the even, but that “the World Cup will be held not in line with ‘their’ rules, but according to hockey rules.”

That means playing by IIHF standards, which brings us to the most interesting dynamic in the NHL/KHL relationship for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey:

The 2016 IIHF world championships will be held in Russia.

Imagine if the NHL chose to play hardball with participation for that tournament …