Commissioner Gary Bettman said the National Hockey League will hold its 2024 draft at the Sphere in Las Vegas and could organize a four-nation, in-season tournament in 2025.
Bettman revealed details of his future plans Tuesday during Day 2 of the NHL Board of Governors meeting in Seattle. The draft would be held in late June 2024 at Sphere, an 18,600-seat globe-like arena that has become renowned for its immersive video and audio technology, including a 16k resolution wraparound interior LED screen and outdoor LED displays. The NHL will be the first sports entity to hold an event at the venue.
“It will be the first sporting event in the Sphere and I think it’ll be a pretty-well viewed event both in terms of the draft itself and the viral use of the Sphere inside and outside using the globe,” Bettman said. “We think it’ll be fun. We think it’ll be dramatic and compelling.”
The event will likely be the last NHL draft to feature representatives from all 32 teams on the draft floor. Starting in 2025, the draft will be decentralized, with most team brass staying in home markets.
“Anyone you talk to says it is just out of this world,” said Vegas Golden Knights President of Hockey Operations George McPhee. “It’s just a fascinating and incredible opportunity. Holy cow, what a monumental moment in sports.”
Bettman also said the league is making plans to hold a four-team, in-season international tournament in 2025 that it hopes will be the start of rotating best-on-best international schedule including participation in the Olympic Winter Games and a World Cup of Hockey. Bettman said the 2025 tournament would be for NHL players only and could take place in multiple locations, but that is not confirmed.
The United States, Canada, Sweden and Finland would be the four participating countries. The NHL hasn’t held or participated in an international tournament since the World Cup of Hockey 2016. The last time there was an in-season break for a tournament was the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
“It gives us a nice intro to best-on-best international and I hope at the same time we’re in a position to announce that we’ll have firm plans to tell you about what the World Cup will be because the ultimate goal is to have Olympics, two years later World Cup, two years later Olympics, two years later World Cup,” Bettman said. “That’s the cycle we’re trying to get on, but we figured we’d try a little bit of an appetizer between now and then.”
Bettman also said the NHL continues to work with the International Olympic Committee and the International Ice Hockey Federation on terms for participation in the 2026 Milan Olympics. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league has a meeting with the IOC next week. Issues that remain with the NHL and IIHF include insuring players’ NHL contracts in case of injury while at the Games. Bettman also raised concerns with Arena Santa Giulia in Milan, which is due to be the main host venue for ice hockey; the venue is currently under construction.
“Normally when you build a building for the Olympics for the hockey tournament it’s done a year in advance and you have time to have events and test it and build the ice and do all of that,” Bettman said. “They’re projecting that it won’t be done until the fourth quarter of ’25, which is like six or eight weeks before the Olympics if they’re on time … but that’s nothing we can control. It’s an IOC and a Milano-Cortina organizing committee issue.”