NHL

Exploring how the NHL can add in-season tournaments like the NBA, starting with the Canada Cup

The NBA announced this week that they would be launching an in-season tournament for the first time during the 2023–24 season. This is a groundbreaking announcement for professional sports in North America, as this model is completely new to the big-four sports leagues west of the Atlantic. In-season tournaments and cups are a mainstay on the other side of the ocean, in soccer and other sports, and has been instrumental in maintaining engagement and drawing interest to the sport. Any soccer fan knows about the Champions League, which is just one of many in-season tournaments that are held in that sport. It looks like North America is following suit, which is a fascinating development. The NHL is the smallest of the big-four leagues and is losing market share. Adding in-season tournaments could be a great way to reverse this trend.

In-season Canada Cup

Back in February, I suggested the idea of the NHL incorporating an in-season Canada Cup to their schedule. The idea is to add zero additional games to the NHL schedule, but use all games between Canadian teams as games that count towards the Canada Cup. The Canada Cup would be awarded to the Canadian team with the best record against all the other Canadian teams. Because there would be no additional games added to the schedule, there would not be any issues with some teams playing more games than others, and would immediately benefit all seven Canadian teams immensely.

Rivalries between Canadian teams would be instantly revived and recharged, and each game between two Canadian teams would have its stakes raised and intensity increased. All of a sudden, a Tuesday-night game in Kanata between the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Canadiens would mean something. The quality of hockey would increase, and the game would grow as a result. Canadian teams are some of the most profitable and popular in the league, and this would further capitalize on those massive hockey-obsessed markets, which can include betting on sites such as VulkanBet.

Who would have won in 2022–23?

The 2022–23 season was obviously not optimized to account for a Canada Cup, however each Canadian team played either 15 or 16 games against the other Canadian teams. The only game that would be needed to balance the schedule 100% would have been one additional game between the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers. For simplicity and because it’s close enough, we’ll just use this schedule for proof of concept. Looking back at last season, this is how the standings would have finished for the Canada Cup.

TeamPTSPTS%GPWLOGFGADIFF
TOR230.719161141574314
WPG180.6001596050437
EDM180.6001596059536
CGY170.5311665543430
MTL160.500167724657-11
VAN150.469167815561-6
OTT130.406166914961-12

The Toronto Maple Leafs would have won the 2022–23 Canada Cup with 23 points and a .719 points percentage. The Jets would have finished second ahead of the Oilers due to a 2–1–0 record in head-to-head competition. 

How would the schedule look for 2023-24?

For the in-season Canada Cup in 2023–24, the schedule isn’t as uniform between teams, unfortunately. With interdivisional games not accounting for games played north or south of the border, balance between Canadian games is not strictly necessary and will not always occur.

TORMTLOTTWPGEDMCGYVANTotal
TOR34222215
MTL33222214
OTT43222215
WPG22233315
EDM22234417
CGY22234417
VAN22234417

 That said, the only major discrepancy is with the Canadiens, and the other teams are within two games of each other.

Paging Mr. Bettman

With the Canadiens, Senators, Jets, Flames, and Canucks not expected to make too much noise next season, having an in-season Canada Cup would be a great opportunity to keep engagement high in these extremely important hockey markets. The NHL won’t be the first league to the party, but they can be fast followers by implementing this Canada Cup model—or something similar—into their calendar. It doesn’t take any extra effort other than up-front schedule work which is already fairly close to perfect, and only offers benefits and growth opportunities, like ice hockey betting on Vulkan Bet.

The Canada Cup is just one form of an in-season tournament. There can be many more that involve American teams, such as an America Cup to parallel the Canada Cup, or any other combination of tournaments based on history, geography, etc. If the NHL is serious about growing the game, they’ll consider more ideas like this.

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