The IIHF is hoping that the NHL sends its players to participate in the 2022 Olympics.
Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, is hoping that the NHL goes to the 2022 Olympics. However, he’s unwilling to wait as long as he did last time for a response from the organization.
In an interview after the news conference for the world junior hockey championship, Fasel said that he needs a green or red light from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman regarding the Beijing Games by the end of August.
From 1998 to 2014, the league sent its players to compete in every Olympics during that span. However, they declined to participate in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. They cited various reasons including travel, overall cost, and logistical concerns.
He said that he wants a final decision 17 months before the opening ceremony so that he can make appropriate and necessary plans. Back in 2018, they gave their final decision just 10 months before the Olympics.
‘We would like to have a decision as early as possible if they’re coming to Beijing – “Yes” or “No”’, said Fasel in an interview. ‘In Pyeongchang, there was a late “No”. Especially the North American teams, U.S. and Canada, had some problems to find the players and to build up a good team’.
‘If there is a “No” these teams should have time to prepare a competitive team to go to the Olympics in 2022. We want to have an early answer from NHLPA and NHL if they’re coming or not’.
The IIHF will hold its final qualifying tournament in late August and early September and wants responses before the countries hit the rink. ‘We are working on an early decision made by the NHL and NHLPA’, said Fasel. ‘We need to know before that’.
NHL players have made it clear that they want to make a return to the Olympics for a best-on-best event but the league, for the most part, has seemed to run out of ideas. Bettman said that during the board of governors meeting that he doesn’t want to put the league schedule on hold for two weeks since it is ‘disruptive’.
The league would rather hold its own tournament for a number of reasons (they last held a World Cup of Hockey in September 2016). Beijing could be and is the next possible opportunity for a best-on-best tournament after plans for a 2021 league-run event was recently scrapped due to time constraints.
Fasel said, ‘Olympic exposure in 2022 would grow the sport exponentially in China’s mostly-untapped market of more than 1.3 billion people… The first mission is to promote the game of ice hockey… The Olympic Games is the unique platform we can use, especially in Asia, with the best on best. Asia is two-thirds of the population in the world. I consider Gary a smart person’.
‘He’s smart. At the end and he will come … I hope’.
As for the 2020 world juniors, organizers of the event said that roughly 175,000 spectators will have gone ‘through the motions’ in Ostrava and Trinec. ‘The attendance record for a European-based tournament was just over 215,000 fans in 2016 in Finland, but the Czechs used smaller facilities that were filled to an average of around 81 percent capacity for the 31 games’.
Frank Gonzales, tournament chairman and Fasel’s right-hand man at the IIHF, praised Canada’s efforts in improving travelling support. ‘It’s amazing… They continue to follow their junior players wherever they are. It’s part of a tradition now at Christmas’.
Meanwhile, Fasel is still hoping that the NHL does make a return to the Olympics.
‘I’m always optimistic… If the NHL doesn’t go, we will do like we did in Pyeongchang. It’s not the same, I must agree, but we also had a good tournament in Pyeongchang with an interesting final with Russia and Germany… Especially for the hockey fans, and for our game, it would be so good to have the best on best’.