QUEBEC CITY – The IIHF, Hockey Canada, and the Quebec City Host Committee for the 2008 IIHF World Championship co-hosted a press conference Friday afternoon at the Colisée Pepsi. Taking part were IIHF President René Fasel, Hockey Canada CEO Scott Smith, and the Quebec City co-presidents, Claude Rousseau and Jacques Tanguay.
The focus was on celebrating the 100th anniversary of the IIHF with the first-ever World Championship held in Canada. And everyone agreed the capital of Quebec was the right place to host the grand finale, with a glorious hockey history that’s featured everyone from Jean Beliveau with the Aces to Peter Stastny with the Nordiques.
“We’re in a hockey town,” said Fasel. “You can feel it, you can sense it. It’s the right place to celebrate our 100th anniversary.”
It’s the first and only time the Worlds have come to North America since 1962 in Colorado Springs.
“It’s more than a hockey tournament,” said Rousseau. “It’s also a very important postcard for Quebec City.”
“This was a long time coming,” Smith added. Canada was originally supposed to host the IIHF World Championship for the first time in 1970 in Winnipeg and Montreal, but those plans fell through due to disputes regarding the use of professional players.
Times have certainly changed, as the IIHF, the NHL, and other North American hockey organizations now enjoy their best working relations ever.
How about the future? The possibility of bringing future Worlds to North America hasn’t been excluded. “We’ll evaluate this experience, and have the IIHF evaluate us,” Smith said. Currently, though, as Fasel added, the next World Championship up for grabs is 2014. It will be allocated in the spring of 2009, and Hungary, the Czech Republic, Belarus and Latvia are bidding--Canada isn’t on the list.
One journalist wanted to know if using the smaller North American ice surface in Quebec City and Halifax (60 metres by 26 metres, or 200 feet by 85 feet) was a prelude to switching over to those dimensions on a full-time basis.
“Maybe in between is a good size,” Fasel noted. But even though the 2010 Vancouver Olympics will also be played on NHL-sized ice at GM Place, Fasel emphasized there are no imminent plans to convert European rinks to North American dimensions.
Discussions continue among the federations about the potential risks and rewards of reducing the World Championship from 16 teams to 14, Fasel said.
The IIHF President would like to see NHL Olympic participation continue beyond 2010. “It’ll depend on the players, the owners, and the NHL,” he said. “The Olympics are a unique opportunity as a platform to promote our sport. Vancouver will be the top of the top.”
There was other news from around the tournament.
About 8,000 tickets per game had been sold for the 12 Preliminary Round games in Quebec City, with that figure rising to 10,000-10,500 for the Qualifying Round, Rousseau said. The Russia-Czech Republic matchup on May 4 is already sold out, as is the gold medal game on May 18, and other Playoff Round games are at about 11,000 apiece.
Smith said approximately 179,000 tickets in total had been sold for the Halifax games, not including the last 24 hours.
After some teams, including Canada and Russia, expressed concerns about the quality of the ice at the Colisée before the tournament started, organizers took steps to remedy it, Rousseau said. Adjustments were made to the building’s temperature, and the thickness of the ice was reduced from 1.5 inches to one inch.