René Fasel to join IIHF Hall of Fame
by Andrew Podnieks|21 SEP 2021
In recognition of over 30 years of service to the IIHF and to ice hockey, President René Fasel will be inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in the Builder category, during a special ceremony on 24 September.

The induction ceremony will take place in St. Petersburg near the end of the IIHF Congress, one day prior to Fasel relinquishing his duties as IIHF President. IIHF Hall of Famer Igor Larionov will act as his inductor during the ceremony.

Fasel will be inducted into the Hall of Fame as the sole member of the 2021 Induction Class.

27 years at the helm of international ice hockey

Fasel was born on 6 February 1950 in Fribourg, Switzerland. A dentist by trade, he played for HC Fribourg-Gottéron in the amateur division before moving into international refereeing. As a referee, he officiated in 37 international games. In 1985, Fasel became president of the Swiss Ice Hockey Association, and in 1986 was elected as IIHF Council member.

It wasn’t until he became a closer part of the IIHF that his international hockey career took off. And it did so by good fortune rather than plan.
“I made a motion at Congress in Moscow in 1986 regarding financing because it wasn’t clear,” he explained. “There was a mistake in the financial statements and the balance sheet. I made a motion to form a working group to look into it. There was 100,000 CHF missing that we were owed from the previous World Championship in Switzerland. A couple of months later, at the semi-annual Congress in Colorado, it seemed like everyone was running for Council except me.”
“(Former IIHF Council member and USA Hockey President) Walter Bush, said, ‘You should run for Council.’ And I laughed and said the only vote I will get is my own! He told me it was a good question I had asked about the finances, and he said I had nothing to lose. So I ran, and I made it. You see, you never know.”
Fasel joined the IIHF Council in 1986 and was elected President in 1994. 
photo: IIHF Archive
A few years later Fasel was elected IIHF President in June 1994 at the Congress in Venice (he would go on to be re-elected in 1998, 2003, 2008, 2012, and 2016).
When René Fasel became IIHF President, the world federation steeped in tradition entered a new era. The new President established a closer contact with the professional organizations in North America and consolidated the relations between IIHF and NHL. It is thanks in no small part to Fasel's efforts that in 1998, at the Winter Olympics in Nagano, the NHL’s top professional players competed for the first time at an Olympic Games.
At the same time, Fasel was working equally hard on the women’s program, which became an Olympics medal sport for the first time in Nagano. Starting in 1997 the IIHF made the Women’s Worlds an annual event in non-Olympic years, and, of course, the women joined the NHLers in Nagano and produced some spectacular hockey at their first and in subsequent Olympics.
In 1997, Fasel and the IIHF also created its own Hall of Fame separate from the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Eligibility focused on international greatness and contributions to the game on the international stage. In the last quarter century, the IIHF has inducted some 230 Players, Builders, and Officials—men and, importantly, women—giving the players of the past a home forever in the minds and hearts of hockey fans of today and yesterday, and motivating players of tomorrow to achieve similar greatness.
Fasel was instrumental in the growth of international women's hockey and its adoption as an Olympic sport. 
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Another dramatic change under Fasel’s leadership was the expansion of the World Championship, the IIHF’s flagship event. In 1998, the tournament expanded from 12 teams to 16, from 52 games to 56 and later 64 games.

In June 1995, René Fasel was appointed, as the very first ice hockey representative in history, to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Fasel also served as the President of the Association of the International Olympic Winter Sports Federations (AIOWF) between 2002 and 2014, and was named the chairman of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics Co-ordination Committee.
Fasel served for two four-year terms (2008-2016) as winter sports representative on the IOC Executive Board, the highest body within the IOC which assumes the ultimate responsibility for the administration of the IOC. His work within the Olympic Movement culminated in in the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang, where he together with the Korea and DPR Korea member national associations engineered the creation of the Unified Korea women’s ice hockey team, which earned the IIHF the Peace and Sport Award that same year.
“René’s achievements go well beyond his many contributions at the elite level of our game. Whether it has been his focus on player safety, growing the women’s game, or working with the various hockey federations to grow the game in less traditional hockey countries, Rene’s efforts have been tireless.”
Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner
Fasel meeting with members of the Unified Korea team during the Olympics in PyeongChang.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
In 2004, Fasel was given the prestigious Legion of Honour Award which is the highest award given by the French Republic for outstanding service to France. Also in 2004, Fasel was awarded the Ukrainian VIZHIBU prize for significant contribution to the development and popularisation of ice hockey. In 2008, Fasel received the Special Award of the Swiss Association, which honours personalities for extraordinary contributions to Swiss ice hockey. In 2011, Russia awarded him the Order of Friendship of Peoples by Russia, the highest Russian award that can be presented to a foreigner.

He will be the eighth Hall of Fame inductee from Switzerland. The IIHF Hall of Fame Class of 2020, which was initially scheduled to be inducted at the cancelled 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Zurich and Lausanne and which includes fellow Swiss Mark Streit and Mathias Seger, will be inducted in their own ceremony at the 2022 World Championship in Tampere, Finland.
For years Fasel oversaw the induction of ice hockey legends into the IIHF Hall of Fame (pictured, Paul Henderson and Vladislav Tretiak) and will now join their ranks. 
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images