SBD/Issue 238/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Rene Fasel Warns NHL Over European Expansion At Hockey Summit

Fasel Holding His Ground In Effort
To Keep NHL From Expanding Into Europe

IIHF President Rene Fasel yesterday "used the stage on the on-going World Hockey Summit to take a few verbal jabs at anyone who believes Europe might be fertile ground for NHL expansion," according to Paul Hunter of the TORONTO STAR. Fasel: "This is our territory and I will fight like hell and not allow anybody to come from abroad. I think in Europe, we are strong enough to do something on our own and then have a competition between Europe and North America." There has "long been conjecture that the NHL might one day expand overseas," though such speculation "has existed so long, it now strains credulity." The league "seems quite content tapping in to revenue sources overseas with occasional team training camps, exhibition tilts and now some regular season games." But that "didn't stop" Fasel. He said, "I don't think an NHL division in Europe would fly. If they have a lot of money to invest, they could try but as long as I'm sitting on my chair, I would never allow that." Meanwhile, when asked about the NHL's participation in the '14 Sochi Olympics, Fasel "returned to the mediator role he plays best." He said that "whatever problems the NHL has with the Olympics and whatever role the league would like to play in staging the games, an attempt will be made to work things out to everyone's satisfaction" (TORONTO STAR, 8/25). The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek notes from Fasel's perspective, the "value of continued NHL Olympic participation would come mostly on a marketing level." Fasel: "It's not a money question. I would say as a non-profit federation, the maximum we could pay would be $3- or $4-million. It's not bad, but it's pocket money for the NHL. This is the best promotion for the league and also for the game and also for the players" (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/25).

OVER THE TOP? ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote while the World Hockey Summit is "supposed to be about global hockey issues, Fasel clearly relishes his role as defender of all things European." He "chided North Americans for thinking they are the only fans of the game," as he said that Europeans "have a tremendous passion for the game, too" (ESPN.com, 8/24). The GLOBE & MAIL's Duhatschek writes Fasel's "passionate response to even the hint of an NHL invasion of Europe was surprising." The NHL's "official position on expansion of any sort is that it is not on the horizon in the short term; and that stabilizing the 30 teams in their current markets is the priority for now" (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/25). YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika wrote the "more Fasel said 'it's not a money thing,' the more it seemed like a money thing." Cotsonika: "What is the NHL going to do, cede its spot as the world's top league? The Europeans, especially the Russians, want the NHL to help them develop so they can compete with the NHL" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/24).

PRESSING ISSUE: A TORONTO STAR editorial states the World Hockey Summit "has an ambitious agenda to map out the sport's future growth," but the "elephant in the room ... has been the NHL's traditionally head-in-the-sand approach to reducing brain injuries and concussions from illegal head hits." The editorial: "Now, a swelling tide of medical evidence should force the best minds in hockey to pay greater heed to the impact of head injuries" (TORONTO STAR, 8/25).

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