Working on the future
by Martin Merk|29 MAY 2022
The IIHF Council presented the strategic plan to its membership.
photo: Martin Merk
As a wrap up to the 2022 IIHF Annual Congress, the IIHF Council revealed the new 2022-2026 Strategic Plan to the membership, charting a new course for the IIHF for the next four years.
The 2022 IIHF Annual Congress assigned many tournaments for the upcoming seasons (see here) among other things such as reports from the past season and the budget.
On Saturday the IIHF Council and the delegates used the session to talk about a new approach and a new overall strategy for the federation. Developing a strategy was a key first objective for the new IIHF Council  after it was elected last autumn for a five-year term.

The presentation to the membership was a next step in the strategy development process after surveys had been conducted with different stakeholder groups including an online survey on with thousands of fans, member national associations, media, sponsors, and partners having the opportunity to express their opinions on the IIHF’s new direction. The Strategic Plan buildup was supplemented with in-depth interviews with IIHF Council members, key staff people, a selection of member national associations and other important stakeholders.
The framework of what will be a new Strategic Plan was presented to the IIHF membership under the brand “ICE26”. It will operate with three goals: Innovate, Collaborate, Expand.
The survey showed highly engaged stakeholders in ice hockey and a lot of ambition but also that the responsibilities of the IIHF are perceived differently. There’s a wish for more innovation in our sport and to source commercial opportunities in women’s hockey and grassroots development.
“Our mission remains unchanged being to promote ice hockey throughout the world and to lead the ice hockey movement as recognized by the IOC. But we will update our vision and our values,” said IIHF Regional Vice-President Henrik Bach Nielsen.
The IIHF should be the driving force behind the continued global growth of ice hockey at all levels, always challenge the status quo and work to find win-win solutions.
ICE26 focuses on the main goals to innovate, to collaborate and to expand with 12 key initiatives presented by the IIHF Council.
Representatives of the IIHF member national associations discuss with the IIHF Council in round-table meetings.
photo: Martin Merk
For the innovations part Raeto Raffainer talked about a comprehensive digital transformation program to best deliver results internally and with other stakeholders. The sports environmental footprint shall be reduced and initiatives to do so will be vital.

“The appeal of our top events should be maximized. We offer more than 40 tournaments a year, more than other team sports. We must explore ways to maximize our resources for the benefit of the sport. We have listened over the last few months and must continue to do so,” said Raffainer and mentioned that more regional presence rather than a fully centralized approach is needed.

In the collaboration segment Henrik Bach Nielsen announced the ambitions for an annual global hockey forum to be established to bring key stakeholders together for meaningful discussions. The exposure of ice hockey during the Olympic Winter Games and Winter Youth Olympic Games is planned to be brought forward for further discussion with the IOC. Additional discussions on the international calendar form another key initiative and the work relationship with commercial partners shall be strengthened to maximize exposure.

Expansion is another main goal. “We must grow the game but how do we do it? We need to reach more players and fans through stronger member national associations and more offerings by building a targeted development program for the member’s growth and success,” said Anders Larsson. “The path looks different for each of you.”

He mentions a member national association mentorship program and as of July a new Development Director will work at the IIHF Office, promotion campaigns shall be established and a new women’s hockey concept including new brand and competition structure be discussed to bring more opportunities to the women’s game. “Don’t do the same that was done in the men’s game but do It differently and maybe even better.”

3-on-3 ice hockey as played at the 2020 Youth Olympic Winter Games should be established as a new ice hockey discipline and brand. “With countries competing 3-on-3 at the international level and maybe even at the Olympics one day,” Larsson added.

The session was not just a presentation of the outcome of the survey and the plans. It was as much about interaction and to engage the membership before moving forward with an action plan. Most of the 82 member national associations were represented with delegates either on-site in Tampere or in some cases through video conferencing and had the chance to discuss about the findings and the strategy development in various round-table groups with the IIHF Council members.

“We could survive continuing as we did. But we will be a stronger sport and organization if we tackle these initiatives that are the right priorities right now,” Henrik Bach Nielsen said.

“This is just the beginning. There’s a lot of work to do, let’s hit the ice!”