There is a movement afoot to have the World Junior Championship in Canada permanently and you might be surprised by who is in favor and who is against it happening.
On the side in favor is International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel, who reasons that Canadian crowds generate enormous revenues and make it a once-in-a-lifetime experience. On the other side is Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson, who is clearly wary of killing a golden goose by giving Canada too much of a good thing.
“I think there is a good chance (of moving the WJC to Canada permanently),” Fasel said. “Bob is not an easy guy to negotiate with, but if he wants to have the tournament here every year then we have to find a way to make it work for the other federations.”
There’s little doubt, however, that Canada will get more than its share of the tournament. With the 2010 tournament slated for Saskatchewan, the 2011 event in Buffalo and the 2012 tournament in Calgary and Edmonton, it will have been held either in Canada or an American border city in seven of 10 years.
“I have followed the junior tournament in Europe and when you have teams playing in front of 42 spectators, that’s 42 - four, two - it’s really very, very sad,” Fasel said. “Then it comes here and they’re playing in front of at least 9,000…for the boys coming from Kazakhstan, from Slovakia, for these young boys playing in front of such crowds is a lifetime experience.
“But we have to be careful if we’re going to come here every year. It is a very good, very special product and we’re going to have to be very careful how we use it.”
There is little doubt playing the tournament in North America provides a huge advantage for the Canadian team. And Hockey Canada makes millions of dollars every time it hosts the tournament and pours almost all of that money back into programs that will help Canada be even stronger in this event. So Fasel said it’s important that if Canada does become the permanent site the revenues are shared among all the participating teams.
“I think we have to take it back to Europe to try to grow it there,” Nicholson said. “But I certainly think that it should be here every second year, or if not, third. I say that not just for the Canadian players, but for the players from all the countries.”
The only problem is the tournament is usually a flop when it is held in Europe or American cities that aren’t easily accessible by Canadians. Evidence of that is the IIHF awarded the 2010 event to Canada – which awarded it to Regina and Saskatoon - only because no other country made a bid for the tournament.
Fasel also weighed in on a couple of other issues, saying he met Monday with both the NHL and NHL Players’ Association to work toward an elusive transfer agreement. All sides agree there is a need for one, but doing a deal that satisfies everyone has proved to be near impossible.
Fasel also talked about NHL participation in the Olympics beyond 2010, saying the IIHF wants NHLers to participate and he made that very clear to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. There is speculation the league is lukewarm at best to committing beyond Vancouver in 2010, but Fasel said he will pressure the league to keep coming to the Games. He also said the NHLPA wants to keep participating in the Olympics.
“I was quite clear (with Bettman) that there will be no World Cup if there are no (NHL players) in the Olympics,” Fasel said. “For me, that is quite clear. I will never accept to be in the World Cup without having the pros in the Olympics.”
As for the unending saga of Hockey Canada being able to use its logo during the Olympics, Fasel is a member of the International Olympic Committee and Nicholson made him aware Canada wants to wear its own logo, despite the fact the Canadian Olympic Association has refused to back Hockey Canada with the IOC.
Sources have maintained that not being able to use the logo on the sweaters would cost Hockey Canada between $10 million and $20 million because Hockey Canada receives all of the profits from sweaters that are sold. But there’s nothing to suggest people won’t buy sweaters just because the Hockey Canada logo isn’t on it.
Fasel essentially said Hockey Canada almost certainly won’t get its way and should move on. Nicholson suggested Hockey Canada might go ahead and wear its sweater anyway and take a $1 million fine. But Nicholson said he doesn’t know if the Canadians would be fined $1 million for each game it wears the sweater or a total of $1 million for wearing it during each game in the tournament.