By Barry Janoff
January 26, 2015: Even as the league passes the halfway point of its 2014-15 season, with the playoffs and Stanley Cup finals still months away, the NHL has unveiled plans for the 2015-16 season, specifically with an eye toward outdoor games and the rebooted World Cup of Hockey.
After playing a record six outdoor games in 2013-14, the NHL went down to three outdoor games this season but will stage three next season: the Bridgestone Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2016 in Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.; and two games under the Coors Light Stadium Series banner: Feb. 21 in TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis and Feb. 27 in Coors Field, Denver.
The 2015-16 season will also see the return of the international World Cup of Hockey event, scheduled for September 2016 in Toronto. It will feature national teams from six countries: the U.S., Canada, Czech Republic, Russia, Sweden and Finland; as well as two teams that will feature a compilation of top players from their respective region: Team Europe and Team North American Youngstars.
The last World Cup of Hockey was played in 2004.
The Winter Classic has been played annually since 2008, with Bridgestone taking over title sponsorship from Pepsi's Amp Energy Drink in 2009. The Coors Light Stadium Series began in 2014.
In addition to Bridgestone, marketing partners for the 2015 game included Coors Light, Discover, Gatorade, Honda, Geico, McDonald's, Kraft, Pepsi and Reebok.
Media marketing this season has been two reality-type behind-the-scenes series from Epix: Road to the Bridgestone Winter Classic and Road to the Coors Light Stadium Series.
Bridgestone will also play a significant role in the 2016 All-Star Game and related events, which will take place in Nashville and be played in the Bridgestone Arena, home of the Predators, Jan. 30-31.
The two-week World Cup of Hockey tournament is a joint effort of the National Hockey League Players' Association and the NHL, in cooperation with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).
"We are thrilled to partner with the NHLPA in planning and producing what we expect will be the world's best international hockey tournament."
Marketing partners have not yet been unveiled, but are expected to be anchored by companies on the NHL marketing roster and brands aligned with the respective national teams.
"We are thrilled to partner with the NHLPA in planning and producing what we expect will be the world's best international hockey tournament," Gary Bettman, commissioner for the NHL, said in unveiling the tournament during a media conference at the league's All-Star Game events this past weekend. "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."
It is anticipated that the initial portion of training camp for each team participating in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey will begin Sept. 4, 2015. It has not yet been determined if the NHL and NHLPA would allow its players to also continue to participate in the Winter Olympics, with the next Games scheduled for 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.
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