COLORADO SPRINGS, USA – IIHF President René Fasel and IIHF General Secretary Horst Lichtner were impressed after visiting the USA Hockey national headquarters in Colorado Springs.
Colorado Springs is not only the place from where USA Hockey governs the sport in the United States. It is also an IIHF landmark. The first IIHF World Championship in North America was held in this city in 1962, at the Broadmoor World Arena.
Citing the generosity of the international hockey family, International Ice Hockey Federation President René Fasel complimented USA Hockey’s hospitality during his visit to the national headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado this week.
In addition to a full day of meetings with USA Hockey staff, Fasel and General Secretary Horst Lichtner sat down for an interview with USAHockey.com. Both men spoke candidly about USA Hockey, the future of women’s hockey, changes to the IIHF World Championship and more.
What is your overall impression of USA Hockey and its Colorado Springs headquarters?
Fasel: I love this place very much … I am very impressed and (there were) very good presentations. I’m very impressed and I’m very happy.
Lichtner: (USA Hockey Executive Director) Dave Ogrean had a good point that if we have all those trips to Vancouver we should stop once in Denver, Colorado.
To see a benchmark for organizing and promoting ice hockey in a country like USA, I think I will personally benefit a lot from what we did here … In my best dreams of the result of the first day here it could not be better.
What about USA Hockey impressed you most?
Fasel: We can see the results from USA Hockey over the last five or six years from the program they started in Ann Arbor (U.S. National Team Development Program). The results are here now.
It’s a result of a huge system in the back with the volunteers and coaches … This is the key how you become a successful federation.
You were both recently in New York to meet with the NHL, was there any progress in talks about NHL players appearing in the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games?
Fasel: Vancouver was the peak, a high level. Now we are working together to go to Sochi. We will find a solution, I’m sure we will.
The NHL decided to come to Turin in July (2005) and we had the tournament in February (2006) and from the logistical side with the rooms and everything it was very difficult. And the schedule was difficult, six games in eight days. That’s why we changed, together with the NHLPA and associations, the format for Vancouver.
Lichtner: It’s the right time. Talking to the NHL and with Gary Bettman and doing the steps at the right time and not when it’s two years before the (Olympics).
All things are on the table and we can tackle most of them.
Vancouver was the biggest global platform for hockey, there is no doubt. It has never been like this in 100 years. We would all be stupid if we gave it up.
The 2010 World Championship in Germany saw several teams post fantastic results including the hosts. What did that tournament mean to hockey in Germany with the home team taking fourth place?
Lichtner: It was actually really nice to see in Germany, as a German, this happening. I hope this momentum we created with this world championship will continue over the years to come.
The IIHF recently changed the format for its men’s world championship, changing the 16-team field into two groups. What were the contributing factors to those adjustments and what do you expect the impact to be?
Fasel: It gives so called smaller hockey countries the opportunity to play more games with the bigger countries. We changed the format so the smaller countries can play seven games at the higher level. We hope it will work because it’s better for the fans and the media. You can also organize your travel better for the tournament.
What changes are coming to help expand women’s hockey internationally as well as maintain its status as an Olympic event?
Fasel: We are actually putting a plan together with the first priority to reduce the gap between the top two teams, U.S. and Canada, and the rest of the world.
We need the help of Canada and the U.S. Together with Sweden and Finland we will put together a plan … There are ideas such as bringing players to North America or hosting a training camp in Europe with North American coaches.
Lichtner: We have all elements on the table. Now it’s the selection of picking the right elements.
We have the financial background and we need the right people too. At this moment right now, in the next days, we will be selecting these people. Once we have the projects, the means and the people we can start.
At the end of the day we have to have the motivation and commitment from our member organizations. Here it’s not a question, it’s lived day in and day out. In Canada it’s not a question … the questions are in the other countries. We need eight countries to compete in Sochi.