#5b. International

International play has produced some of hockey’s most indelible memories – Paul Henderson’s 1972 tally to seal the Summit Series, the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” upset in Lake Placid, “Gretzky to Lemieux” in the 1987 Canada Cup, Sidney Crosby’s “Golden Goal” at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. These events have occurred sporadically, largely outside of the NHL’s jurisdiction, and under unique rules and formats. Each event has been at the mercy of international relations, NHL/IIHF negotiations, or the appetite for tournament stakeholders to generate interest or profit. Yet, despite the murky and inconsistent paths that create international events, their impactful place in hockey is difficult to overlook.

The Vancouver Olympic stage created an unrivaled platform for hockey's greatest players in February 2010.
"Sea of Red" by s.yume is marked with CC BY 2.0.

How do we capture international play fairly in the scope of PPS?

As with the NHL playoffs, international hockey has a complex history. Having researched international events since their inception, several important takeaways will help shape the guidelines of our second bonus factor.

  1. Best-on-best formats are the only ones we will acknowledge. With all due respect to annual IIHF World Championships, junior-level international events, Olympics without NHL participation, exhibition series (such as the ’79 Challenge Cup, Rendez-vous ’87), or any historical amateur tournaments played internationally, these events will be outside the scope of the international bonus. If the world’s best players were not fully available to participate in a complete tournament format, no credit will be awarded for the results. We’ll define “best-on-best” as the 14 events highlighted below: the ’72 Summit Series (and not the ’74 WHA version), the eight World Cups (formerly Canada Cups), and the five Olympic Games featuring active NHL players (Nagano ’98, Salt Lake City ’02, Turin ’06, Vancouver ’10, and Sochi ’14). The reported 2024 World Cup would be the next potential event, given the NHL’s absence from the ’18 and ’22 Olympics.


Gold Medal
Silver Medal

Bronze Medal
1972Summit Series CanadaSoviet Union 
1976Canada Cup4CanadaCzechoslovakia 
1981Canada Cup5Soviet UnionCanada 
1984Canada Cup3CanadaSweden 
1987Canada Cup4CanadaSoviet Union 
1991Canada Cup4CanadaU.S.A. 
1996World Cup5U.S.A.Canada 
1998Olympics2Czech RepublicRussiaFinland
2004World Cup2CanadaFinland 
2006Olympics2SwedenFinlandCzech Republic
2016World Cup2CanadaTeam Europe 
2024World Cup8
Winner or Finalist = Summit Series, Canada Cup, or World Cup winner and runner-up; Gold, Silver or Bronze Medal = Olympic medalists

  1. Canada has controlled international play, winning 10 of the 14 qualifying events, and finishing as runner-up twice. Given the dominant performance of Team Canada’s entries over the 44-year window from 1972 to 2016, our system will need to separate Canadian players from all others in setting appropriate bonus values.
  2. The leader in games played at the qualifying events ranged between six and nine games played. While these best-on-best tournaments are prestigious and can be legacy-defining, it’s important not to overstate them in the scope of a player’s career. As a result, the maximum bonus a player can receive from international play is 10 points within PPS, without exception.
  3. Reaching an event’s final or winning a bronze medal will be rewarded. Winning an event outright is not the only measure of team international success. An Olympic medal or reaching the finals of a Canada or World Cup is a notable career accomplishment. As an Olympic field includes more teams and carries greater public weight than the six or eight-team Cup tournaments, winning bronze will count toward the bonus.
  4. There are no qualifying events preceding the 1972 Summit Series. As the Summit Series launched the concept of a best-on-best international hockey event, nearly every Era 1 or 2 player had no opportunity to earn international bonus points. These players are compensated by having access to 10 more playoff bonus points, as previously outlined; they are given an “X” in PPS for international bonus, signifying that their playoff max bonus is scored out of 40 (not 30). The Summit Series is included given its relative importance in the creation of international events and the unprecedented interest at the time. As 95% of the NHL’s population was Canadian in 1972, the roster was an appropriate representation of the world’s best players.
  5. Until the present day, there was never longer than a five-year gap in qualifying events. The alignment of qualifying events with a player’s prime clearly has an element of luck. While the frequency of best-on-best events has ebbed and flowed, every NHL player in the last five decades has had (or will have) a reasonable opportunity to participate. The current generation of stars like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have only experienced the 2016 World Cup on Team North America and Team Europe hybrid rosters, respectively. However, via the potential ’24 World Cup and ’26 Olympics, active and future players should be afforded further international opportunities.

Having established the eligible events and the bonus framework, let’s set the standard for how a player earns international points in PPS. We’ll start with players representing Team Canada, their country’s sterling best-on-best history requiring its own criteria. Since Canada has won 10 of 14 events (71%), the bar for Canadian players needs to be higher to earn your international chops. We don’t want to simply give out the maximum bonus for anyone who was a top-20 Canadian NHL player at some point since 1972. With the events being so short in length, it’s not plausible to split hairs in terms of assessing impact like we can for the playoffs, so being part of the roster drives the bonus.

Here are the results needed to reach five and 10 international bonus points for Canadians:


International ResultsPPS BonusExample
2+ Titles10Mark Messier
1 Title as key contributor, 2+ Events10Mike Bossy
1 Title5Paul Kariya
Title or Event = minimum 50% of team's Games Played


International ResultsPPS BonusExample
1+ Title as Starter10Martin Brodeur
1+ Title as Backup5Reggie Lemelin
1 Final or Medal as Starter5Curtis Joseph
Starter = most GP of the team's goaltenders; Backup = minimum 2 GP; GP = Games Played

To earn the full 10 points, a Canadian skater needs two international titles or to have been a key contributor in one title and a participant in a second. A key contributor would be a player leading their team in goals or points, or grabbing tournament hardware such an MVP, all-star team nod, or being named most outstanding at their position. Given how many Canadian skaters have at least five for PPS international value, if you don’t have at least one title across Canada’s 10 titles, you earn zero.

For Canadian goaltenders, starting on a single title-winning team gets you 10 points. There have been too few events to expect a goalie to start and win multiple titles, whereas a skater can slip in as a depth forward or defenceman. A starting goaltender is defined as the one playing in the most games among the team’s netminders. In Canada’s case, its 10-title winning starters are: Rogie Vachon (1976), Pete Peeters (1984), Grant Fuhr (1987), Bill Ranford (1991), Martin Brodeur (2002, 2004), Roberto Luongo (2010), and Carey Price (2014, 2016); Ken Dryden and Tony Esposito each split the Summit Series’ eight games (1972) evenly, and as such, earn five points. Canadian goalies reaching a final or medaling in a starting role also earn five (i.e., Mike Liut in 1981, Curtis Joseph in 1996).

Despite the high standard, over 60 Canadian players earn the maximum bonus (through 2020-21), a tribute to the country’s long and consistent run as a hockey power on the world stage. National expectations to win every event aside, their victories have been far from forgone conclusions, frequently filled with dramatic moments. The disappointing Nagano and Turin Olympic results serve as reminders of how small the margins are in a short tournament.

From the 1991 Canada Cup in his age-21 season through the 2014 Olympics in his age-43 season, Finland's Teemu Selanne played in eight best-on-best events, nabbing four Olympic medals (one silver, three bronze) and a runner-up World Cup finish in '04. "LKFTJ20140221132833ELBN" by maalivahti is marked with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Next, we’ll create the rubric for all other players when it comes to international competition. With the rest of the world owning just four of 14 best-on-best hockey titles spanning nearly 50 years, it would be misguided to hold their players to the same benchmark.

Summarized below is the guide to non-Canadian international bonus value:


International ResultsPPS BonusExample
1+ Title, 2+ Events10Nicklas Lidstrom
3+ Finals or Medals10Teemu Selanne
1 Final or Medal, 2+ Events5Pavel Bure
0 Finals or Medals, outstanding performance5Pavol Demitra


International ResultsPPS BonusExample
1+ Title as Starter10Dominik Hasek
1 Final or Medal as Starter5Ryan Miller

For non-Canadian countries, skaters need to win a single title to earn the maximum bonus. The only caveat is that the title-winning player participate in a second event, adding some depth to their international career. The four eligible events where Canada did not grab the trophy are the ’81 Canada Cup (Soviet Union), ’96 World Cup (United States), ’98 Olympics (Czech Republic), and ’06 Olympics (Sweden). Remarkably, no country has more than one best-on-best event win. As a result, these players achieved a rare feat, highly celebrated in their homelands, and worthy of the full 10 points.

The other way a player can slip into a full bonus without a title is through some combination of three finals or Olympic medals. This is primarily to reward Finnish (’06 Olympic silver, ’98, ’10 and ‘14 Olympic bronze, ’04 World Cup finalist) or American players (’02 and ’10 Olympic silver, ’91 Canada Cup finalist) that assembled a long and deep international career without winning an event.

For goaltenders, earning 10 points requires a starting gig on a title winner. Only Mike Richter (1996), Dominik Hasek (1998), and Henrik Lundqvist (2010) hit the mark, as Vladislav Tretiak (1981) never played in the NHL and is excluded from PPS. More than 50 non-Canadians manage to get their full PPS international bonus, headlined by Europeans Jaromir Jagr, Nicklas Lidstrom, Teemu Selanne, and Americans Chris Chelios and Brett Hull.

One-time finalists or medalists also have access to a five points in PPS. In rare circumstances, a player with an outstanding contribution to a non-medal, non-finalist team can also nab five points (e.g. the late Pavol Demitra leading the 2010 Olympics in scoring on a surprise fourth-place Slovakian team).

Lastly, the methodology has additional bonus criteria for non-Canadians yet to be relied on. Players from 1981 through 2016 had a fairly consistent offering of best-on-best events, most top players having little difficulty appearing in multiple tournaments. Given the current international event drought, these thresholds may one day matter.


International ResultsPPS BonusPosition
1 Title as key contributor10Skater
1 Final or Medal as key contributor5Skater
1 Final or Medal as Backup, 2+ Events5Goaltender
0 Finals or Medals, outstanding performance5Goaltender

With the future international landscape unknown, Canadians eventually may also need to be awarded bonuses more liberally. This, of course, is a topic for the future where international play can be viewed under a historical lens.

To close our second bonus, Team Canada fixture Jarome Iginla‘s will receive his international boost. Iginla’s excellent best-on-best international career comprises:

  • 2002 Olympics: gold medal;
  • 2004 World Cup: winner;
  • 2006 Olympics: outside the podium;
  • 2010 Olympics: gold medal.

With three titles, Iginla easily qualifies for the maximum international bonus of 10, which requires two championship wins for a Canadian player. “Iggy” famously had a direct hand in clinching his second and final Olympic gold. Slotting in his international bonus to the card below, Iginla’s total is up to 28.7, with only the award share bonus left to add. We’re finally nearing the PPS system’s conclusion, and soon able to attach a single figure to the career of every NHL player to lace them up.

Era Names, Era development concepts, Adjusted GP, Adjusted Yrs, Adjusted PS, Adjusted Pace data, SC+, PPS System and Player Card from Adjusted Hockey;
All other data from Hockey-Reference.com.