John Furlong, the CEO of VANOC, was one of several speakers to discuss the effects of Vancouver 2010 on
hockey moving forward to kick off the third day of the Molson Canadian World Hockey Summit. His passionate
anecdotes got the morning session off on the right note, and although many fine men discussed the merits of
NHLers going to Sochi, it was Furlong later in the talk who summed things up perfectly.
Addressing the pros and cons of participation, he said: “If you don’t find a solution [to the problems],
the fans will never forgive you.”
Other people on the panel included IIHF president Rene Fasel, Ken Holland, GM of the Detroit Red Wings and
a member of Canada’s executive for Vancouver, two participants from 2010, Daniel Alfredsson and Jamie
Langenbrunner, Timo Lumme, IOC marketing, Brian Cooper, and Igor Kuperman.
Fasel, president of the IIHF and a member of the executive board of the IOC, introduced the morning
session with the simplest message: “Hockey cannot get a bigger and more important stage than the Olympic
Games. There is no question that Vancouver 2010 has left a permanent mark on the game, the fans, the players,
and the coaches.”
“I was impressed,” Fasel continued, “by what coach Ron Wilson said after the gold-medal game: “More than
anything, hockey in general was the winner.”"
Getting down to brass tacks, Fasel noted five key points that came out in Vancouver 2010 which will
continue to be the basis of conversation moving towards Sochi in 2014 and on. The first point was the
relationship between the IIHF and NHL. “The NHL would like to have more of a role, and this I believe is a
fair request,” Fasel noted.
Second, the effects of long-term contracts on the costs of player insurance became a major factor in
staging the games. The IIHF and member federations of participating nations had to pay upwards of $10 million
to insure players for Vancouver.
Of course, the quality of play demanded a consideration of the rules of Olympic play versus the rules of
the NHL. “Do we merge the rule book or leave the difference as is?” Fasel asked, and then answered: “Most
people I have talked to say let’s keep the differences.”
Behind the scenes was the issue of officiating. Not only were the games a blend of NHL and European
referees and linesmen, but the quality of officiating was virtually flawless. There can be no question that
referees from around the world, if they are the best, can and should work together.
Finally, the major question of rink size has moved to the forefront of future Olympics. Vancouver 2010 was
the first time the Olympics was played on the smaller, North American sheet of ice. But players, fans, and
media were unanimous in their praise of the speed and quality of play. So now, moving ahead, do we continue
to use the small ice or continue the European tradition of the larger ice? It’s a valid and important
Furlong noted the quality of play with the NHLers. “The fans saw the purest form of the sport. Hockey and
the Games were one.”
Holland discussed the two sides of the argument of participation, one which he deals with all the
“I have two perspectives,” he explained, “one as a fan of hockey and proud passionate Canadian involved in
Vancouver. The other perspective as manager of an NHL team. As a fan, I want to go back to the Olympics. The
Olympics definitely help to grow the game globally. But there are major difficulties. In 2002, Steve Yzerman
played on a bad knee and missed the rest of the season. This year, Tomas Holmstrom had the same trouble and
decided not to play. We were in ninth place fighting for a playoff spot, and he recovered over the
The players, of course, produced compelling testimonies, since they are the ones who can determine whether
to participate or not. Said Ottawa Senators captain and Tre Kronor veteran Daniel Alfredsson: ”It’s a
powerful experience. You come into the village, and you’re so excited. Every country has a section in the
village where all the athletes stay. The dining area is for everyone. I had breakfast one morning with
a member of the Jamaican bobsled team. It’s pretty neat.”
As for the actual playing of the hockey games, he was equally enthusiastic. “It’s unbelievable how much
emotion the Olympics creates. I would love for the NHL to continue, and the fans deserve to see it. The
Olympics are bigger than all the concerns.”
Jamie Langenbrunner, captain of the 2010 United States Olympic team and a member of the ’98 team as well,
agreed with Alfredsson. “It’s hard to explain, but the Olympics is just so much bigger than playing for a
club or a city. 2010 was a great thing to be a part of, and the reach of the gold-medal game is just so much
broader than any NHL game.
He finished in the same vein as Furlong: “The fans want to see best on best. It’s our obligation to do
something for them, for all they do for us.”
Kuperman refuted several of the well-worn arguments used to suggest going to the Olympics is not a good
thing. Player fatigue? “Jonathan Toews won Olympic gold, won the Stanley Cup, and was MVP of the playoffs.
Patrick Kane scored the Cup-winning goal and was one of the best players in the playoffs. Henrik Sedin won
the Hart Trophy.” Fatigue, Kuperman said, is not a factor.
Cooper re-stated the obvious and then sought out new territory. “Advertisers spend hundreds of millions of
dollars at the Olympics,” he began, “and I don’t think we can miss the opportunity to grow the game
exponentially. But I believe we should not be thinking about NHL players not participating. I think it should
be the opposite. I think we should be placing even greater emphasis on NHL players at the Olympics. We should
increase their profile. We should use the stars of the game to grow the sport.”
“The marketing value that the Olympics brings to the sport cannot be quantified,” he finished. “It’s