IIHF president Rene Fasel and CHA leader Bob Nicholson answered the media’s questions Saturday morning on matters relating to future international tournaments and IIHF-CHA relations. Fasel began the conference with a broad grin and a story about his arrival in Halifax the previous afternoon. “As soon as I stepped off the plane, I could feel the special spirit of the game. I could smell hockey and feel how important the game is to the people. The atmosphere during the Canada-USA game was very special. It gave me goosebumps.”
The cordial introduction was followed by questions concerning two principal topics: future World Junior tournaments in Canada and the proposal of holding the 2007 World Championships in Canada. On the former, both Fasel and Nicholson agreed the U20 must come to Canada on a regular basis, but not too often. “We want the tournament to remain special when it comes here,” Fasel said. “If we came every year, it would spoil that feeling eventually.”
Nicholson added that the tournament, if it is to flourish, must travel. “I think Canada is the country that grew the World Juniors to the level of prestige it enjoys, but if the championship is to be successful, it must grow in other countries, too.” Both men agreed that ideally the U20 should come to Canada every three or four years, in the same manner and tradition as the Olympics.
Hosting the World Championships is, for the moment, a moving target. Fasel indicated that if 2007 doesn’t work out for the CHA, 2008 might be an excellent year to bring the World Championship to Canada because, “that’s when the IIHF celebrates its 100th anniversary and what better place to have the championship than in the country where hockey was born.”
Fasel suggested that Nicholson would have to make the necessary arrangements with the NHL to bring the Worlds to Canada without upsetting the pro league, but Nicholson doesn’t see that as an obstacle. “I talked to Bill Daly in New York yesterday [Friday] and he told me to tell the media here today that the NHL would not block us from holding the World Championships in Canada.”
Would the tournament take place in an NHL city or not? “If it takes place in a city where there is an NHL team,” Fasel explained, “then the CHA would have to make arrangements with that team as far as schedules and dates are concerned.” From the IIHF’s point of view, though, bringing the Worlds to Canada is an obvious priority. “This is the hockey country,” Fasel said, “and it’s important for us to show the people of Canada that World Championship hockey is excellent.”
Nicholson agreed. “We want to bring the tournament here as part of our mandate to spread the international game. And, as we’ve seen from Halifax, Canadians are happy to see non-Canadian teams play, and they’ll see matinee games as well, which is important as far as marketing and television in Europe is concerned.”