The World Cup of Hockey was organized by the National Hockey League (NHL), unlike the annual World Ice Hockey Championships and quadrennial Olympic tournament, both sanctioned by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). World Cup games were played under NHL rules and not those of the IIHF, and the tournament occurred outside of the NHL season, allowing for all of the best players in the world to be available, unlike the World Championships, which overlaps with the NHL's Stanley Cup playoffs. In September 2016 the World Cup of Hockey will be back. Toronto will be the host city for the World Cup of Hockey 2016, with 8 teams.
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, with six national teams popularly dubbed as the Big Six, along with a pan-European all-star team, and a North American under-23 all-star team. 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.
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?"