Sidney Crosby is not certain if NHL players will be able to compete in future Olympics, but the Pittsburgh Penguins star would surely like to.
The league has yet to decide if it will send players to the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, or to Beijing in 2022. Concerns include the vast distance players need to travel, disruptions to the NHL schedule in midseason, and questions over the benefits the NHL derives from participating.
"I have had great experiences on and off the ice, so I am probably more biased than other people," Crosby, who scored the gold-medal-winning goal for Canada in Vancouver in 2010 and won a second gold medal in Sochi in 2014, said Tuesday. "Playing for Team Canada doesn't ever get old. Everyone remembers the first time they wear the jersey, and what it means to you."
A news conference is scheduled in Toronto on Wednesday where details related to next year's World Cup of Hockey will be revealed. The eight-team tournament is planned for Sept. 17 to Oct. 1 at the Air Canada Centre. The first World Cup since 2004 will feature national teams from Canada, the United States, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic, along with a squad chosen from among the NHL's top North American players who are 23 and under. The final team will feature players from European countries that are unrepresented.
"The tournament will have a different kind of format than the Olympics, but I don't think it will be any less competitive," Crosby said.
Teams in the World Cup will be divided into two groups of four, with each playing three games within its group. The top two finishers in each group will then play in the semi-finals, with the winners advancing to a best-of-three championship round.
It has been reported that the NHL and NHLPA would split earnings of as much as $200-million (U.S.) from the sale of media rights, tickets and licensed merchandise, which makes them even more keen.
"There is no doubt it is going to be exciting hockey," said Jonathan Toews, a member of Team Canada's past two gold-medal Olympic teams.
The Blackhawks' captain looks forward to the World Cup, but would hate to see the opportunity to play in the Olympics taken away.
"It is an incredible thing to represent your country," he said. "There is a sense of pride you receive not only from being part of the hockey team, but from being part of the bigger group of athletes. I would be disappointed if we weren't able to perform on that international stage. More than just hockey fans are watching. It's huge."
Toews, Crosby and other prominent players are in Toronto conducting interviews for two days as part of an annual preseason NHL media tour. They were at the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence in Etobicoke on Tuesday, drawing stares and squeals of excitement from youths dragging hockey bags behind them as they arrived for practice.
Zdeno Chara, the 6-foot-9 defenceman from the Boston Bruins, playfully tapped a few youngsters with his hockey stick as he passed them on the way to shooting an on-ice video in one of the rinks.
"It is very exciting and such a proud moment for everybody to play in the Olympics," said Chara, who missed two games with the Bruins to travel to Sochi early so he could carry Slovakia's flag at the opening ceremony. "Going over there may cause a bit of a conflict in scheduling, but at the same time I think everything can be worked out.
"When you ask any athlete in the world, no matter where they are from or what the sport, they all want to be on the Olympic stage."
Chara played for Slovakia in the 2004 World Cup, which was held in Toronto and Montreal, and at venues in the United States and Europe.
"I would have to wait and see how things are going to play out," Chara said. If he plays in the 2016 World Cup, it would be for the hybrid Euro team.
"The season will be starting a month earlier, so it pushes everything up," he said. "If you were fortunate enough to be on a team in the Stanley Cup finals, you would be playing into June, and would then have to start skating again pretty shortly thereafter."
Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos would be delighted to play in the World Cup, but has his heart set on playing in the next Olympics. He missed the games in Sochi after suffering a broken leg.
"As a proud Canadian and a Toronto kid, I love to represent Canada's team at the highest level," Stamkos said. "But I am a little biased toward the Olympics. The guys say it is an amazing experience."