ZURICH – Following last autumn’s election of the IIHF Council, the organization’s executive body, 16 committees have been formed and its members convened for a kick-off meeting in Zurich on Wednesday.
The committees for the new term include 146 experts from various fields who represent 41 different IIHF member countries.Click here for the list of committees and its members.
During their term until 2016, the main tasks of the committees will be to work on issues within their mandate and field of expertise and to make recommendations to the Council. In addition, the Disciplinary Committee’s mandate is to deal with supplementary disciplinary actions where necessary.
Most committees convened for the first time in their new composition at the kick-off meeting in Zurich.
During the welcome speeches of the IIHF President and the three Vice Presidents, several changes were brought to attention.
Vice President Kalervo Kummola praised the increasing female participation in the IIHF’s hockey bodies – a visible change since the Finn joined the Council in 1998.
An even bigger change compared to the last term is the representation of current and former hockey players as the result of the creation of two new committees, the Athletes Committee and the Player Safety Consulting Group.
In this keynote address, IIHF President René Fasel urged the committee members to make use of their expertise and the opportunities presented to make an impact in international ice hockey with ideas and proposals.
“One of our most important challenges is safety. Our game has changed dramatically in the last fifteen years,” Fasel said, suggesting to the newly formed committees how eliminating the red-line offside as well as strict rule interpretations have made the game much faster. “Everybody has to be looking for ways how we can better control the situation with escalating concussions.”
Fasel also reminded of negative headlines that have recently hit other sports and to be alert about things like match-fixing and performance-enhancing drugs.
“It’s something we mostly hear from other sports. But we have to stay vigilant and fight for the integrity of our sport,” said Fasel. “We have to fight doping and do everything to protect our youth.”
Other topics the President addressed were the competition format of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship and the need for co-operation between the IIHF, the national governing bodies, leagues and clubs.
One of the imminent challenges in this area is bringing NHL players to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games to Sochi. Fasel hopes that the biggest global showcase for hockey in the sporting world will again include a best-on-best Olympic ice hockey tournament – for the fifth consecutive time since Nagano 1998.
Kummola pointed out the work that needs to be done in Europe to bring stakeholders together with the aim of creating a new European club competition in view of the 2014/2015 season.
A first step was taken with the Barcelona Hockey Forum last June, that was followed by the creation of three working groups representing various stakeholders with the mandate to elevate European hockey, both on the club and national team level.
“It’s important to involve all stakeholders in the efforts to launch a new European club competition and to follow the good examples from other sports like football,” Kummola said and mentioned that there are different ideas what such a competition could look like.
Then the podium was given to the two new Vice Presidents, representing the Americas, and Asia and Oceania.
“It’s the first time for me as a Council member and I love the energy in the room,” Bob Nicholson said. “We have huge challenges ahead of us but it’s challenges that can make us better."
“There’s a reason why everybody is here today. We have to connect all the committees. We have to make sure everybody speaks in the next two days. Bring out your ideas and use the knowledge of the organizations behind you.”
The challenge the Canadian pointed out are, first and foremost, connected to the new committees.
“To develop our game, it must be safe,” Nicholson said. “We have to show parents we have the best game, the safest game and the most fun game. We must make sure we get more participants in the game all over the world.”
He also reminded the developing hockey nations about the audits and the minimum participation standards that will be enforced in view of next season’s World Championship program and that these buzzwords should be faced with openness rather than with fear.
“We have to be open to where every country is in hockey and have to get a snapshot on each federation in the game so we can improve every country,” Nicholson said. “Minimum standards should be a positive phrase. We want everybody to get to the minimum standards.”
Thomas Wu from Hong Kong, the new IIHF Vice President representing Asia and Oceania, presented the opportunities for Asia as a future market for ice hockey with its immense population.
The gap between the best hockey nations on the continent and younger IIHF members is currently still wide.
“Wealthier nations have most representation like we can see in Japan or Kazakhstan,” Wu noted. “But also other countries in the Far and Middle East are getting wealthier. There’s certainly a lot of potential.”
Wu mentioned the need of having more players, stronger programs, more lobbying to get ice rinks built and to make hockey better known in Asia. He also reminded that the IIHF cannot run national ice hockey programs, but it can assist in the developing process.
“We want to support the growth with the Asian Strategic Planning Group but we also want to see results,” Wu said and mentioned the positive impact of the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia tournaments and a new co-operation and programs with the Harbin Institute of Physical Education in China.
The Asian Strategic Planning Group didn’t meet in Zurich, but will combine their meeting with the upcoming 2013 IIHF Annual Congress. For most other committees the work officially started this week with the first meetings and many new ideas for the future of ice hockey.