The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are 481 days away and the NHL and its players are still undecided about whether or not the league will participate for a fifth straight time.
There are good reasons why Commissioner Gary Bettman is hesitant to tell the the NHLPA, IOC and IIHF head Rene Fasel "yes". Between shutting down the regular season for three weeks to not being able to broadcast highlights thanks to the IOC's strict licensing rules to praying no one gets injured, there's a lot to be concerned with from the league's side. Oh, not making any money off things is a sticking point as well.
Factor in unattractive time zones for Sochi and Pyeongchang, South Korea, the host in 2018, for television and enter the World Cup of Hockey.
The tournament hasn't been played since the summer of 2004, but every time the idea of its revival is brought up it's welcomed with opened arms because it's something that the NHL and the NHLPA can control and most importantly, generate revenue with. While in every discussion since 2004 -- our final glimpse of hockey before the last lockout began -- has slotted in a World Cup in its typical late-August/early-September slot on the calendar, there's a chance that it could be moved to fill in dates in future Februarys in non-Olympic years.
A reborn World Cup, however, would be profoundly different, with the tournament played at prime time for television as well as prime time for hockey — February of every fourth year, alternating with the Olympic Winter Games so hockey fans would have a major international tournament every second year.
"We've had those discussions informally," confirmed Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson, who personally supports the initiative. "It's all about growing all facets of the game."
The IIHF is reviewing its championship structure and working on a 10-to-12-year plan that is roughly modelled on FIFA (soccer's world governing body) and aimed at increasing international interest in hockey.
There's been a lot of support for a return of a hockey World Cup. The tournament was rumored to made a comeback in 2011, but never materialized. In 2010, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke penned an editorial saying it's a no-brainer' for everyone involved. Even as late as this past June Bettman expressed interest. NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr has brought it up in the past.
Right now it's not a question about whether or not a World Cup of Hockey will return, it's when.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy