Fasel & Co. meets the press
by Andrew Podnieks|05 JAN 2021
IIHF President René Fasel and Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney at a press conference in 2019.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
IIHF President Rene Fasel met with press from around the world virtually this afternoon from Zurich, Switzerland, to discuss the success of the World Junior Championship as well as a host of other important hockey topics. He was joined on the zoom call by tournament chairmen Luc Tardif and Frank Gonzalez as well as Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney and president Scott Smith.

“I would like to thank all of the participating teams and players and delegations,” Fasel said during his introductory remarks. “As you know, we started December 6 by going into quarantine, going through the exercise in Edmonton before starting the championship on December 25. We’re here in Zurich, very impressed by how smoothly it has gone. It was a challenge in the beginning, but here we are playing for the gold medal today.”

Frank Gonzalez noted that, “Safety for all participants has been our main goal the whole way through.”

The only downside to this year’s event was the number of positive cases experienced by the German delegation upon arriving to Edmonton, but Fasel didn’t think that outweighed the many positives of seeing the event through.

“We saw the real German team against the Russians," he said of the team's tough but impressive 2-1 loss in the quarter-finals. "It’s unfortunate what happened, and even now we don’t know how it happened. They travelled with the Swiss team and the IIHF delegation, and for only them to have ten positive tests is a mystery. But in the end, they beat the Swiss and went to the quarter-finals for the first time and played a very good game against Russia.”

With the cancellation of the Women’s U18 World Championship, the IIHF now has some time before its next top level events. As it stands, the Women’s Worlds are scheduled for 7-17 April in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia, while overlapping will be the men’s U18, in Plymouth, Michigan, 15-25 April. 

Fasel is cautiously optimistic on both counts.

“We will de-brief after this under-20 here in Edmonton and then discuss with USA Hockey if we can have the men’s under-18,” he began. “Our goal is we would like to have the U18 tournament. We have to figure out how to run it safely. We will have a Council meeting with the participating teams to see if it’s possible. We can say the same about the Women’s World Championship. We will have a discussion with Hockey Canada and the participating teams and try everything possible to have the tournament in Halifax in April.”

Coming back to the medal day at the U20, Renney couldn’t be happier with how things have gone and where the IIHF and Hockey Canada are now.

“This is a rivalry like no other,” he said of the Canada-United States showdown set for tonight. “There are others we enjoy, but this is special. You have two great hockey countries that do everything they possibly can to get boys and girls into the game. It’s the apex of this age group, and at the end of the day it should inspire our two countries to forge ahead with this great sport. There are two approaches that are unique to each other, and rightfully so. They need to be, because of our infrastructures, so there are bragging rights here. But at the end of the day the winner is the fan, the citizenship in the United States and Canada and around the world. Could there ever be a better time than right now to inject some inspiration into what we’re living on a daily basis?”

On the matter of the World Championship, scheduled for Riga, Latvia, and, more contentiously, Minsk, Belarus, Fasel noted that the IIHF is doing its due diligence and working hard to explore how the tournament will be conducted—and where.

“The IIHF is using every resource to get a clear idea of what is happening in Belarus,” he explained. “We reviewed some independent reports already and need to travel to Belarus to discuss the situation about Covid, politics, and social concerns, and to understand what measures they will be taking. We have a bit of time. At the end of January we will have a Council meeting and decide what to do then.”