The World Cup of Hockey is an international ice hockey tournament. Inaugurated in 1996, it was the successor to the previous Canada Cup, which ran from 1976 to 1991. The tournament occurred twice on an irregular basis, with the United States winning in 1996 and Canada winning in 2004. A third edition is scheduled for 2016, after which the tournament will, for the first time ever, be held on a regular basis every four years, alternating biannually with a planned all-star series between North America and Europe.
The tournaments, held every three to five years, took place in North American venues prior to the start of the National Hockey League (NHL) regular season. Of the five Canada Cup tournaments, four were won by Canada, while the Soviet Union won one in 1981.
Eight years later, the second installment of the World Cup of Hockey took place in 2004, just prior to the 2004–05 NHL lockout. Canada won its first tournament championship, defeating the Czech Republic in the semifinals and Finland in the final match.
On January 24, 2015, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which will be held in September 2016 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. The 2016 edition will feature a slightly modified format: alongside the national teams of Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden, and the United States, popularly dubbed as the Big Six, there will be two all-star teams, consisting of Europeans, and North American under-23 players. The all-star teams will be replaced by qualifying tournaments to expand the field for the 2020 edition. There are also plans for a spin-off event beginning in 2018, which would pit a European all-star team against a North American all-star team in a five or seven-game series. This event will also occur every four years, alternating biannually with the World Cup of Hockey. These moves are intended, primarily, to help expand the international prominence of the NHL.
In 2004, award-winning Canadian architect Frank Gehry designed a new trophy for the tournament. It is made from a composite alloy of copper and nickel as well as solid cast urethane plastic. The trophy was criticized by the sports community, noting the Toronto Sun's headline "What is that?"