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Future of international hockey a point of discussion at world championship

BERN, Switzerland - The executive director of the NHL Players' Association would like to see the IIHF World Hockey Championship held every two years instead of annually.

Paul Kelly is concerned at the amount of international hockey - especially in 2010 when the world championship will be held in Germany less than three months after the end of the Vancouver Olympics.

Kelly would instead like to see the world championship take a break during years when an Olympics or World Cup is held. He believes it would be better for fans if there is only one major tournament held each calendar year.

"I think that is part of the over-saturation, people will get confused," Kelly said Friday. "What are you holding and why are you holding it now?

"And I understand the world championships are significant in Europe but I think the Olympic are more significant and I think the World Cup of Hockey is also a significant event. I just do not want to see them watered down if they are held too frequently."

The union boss hopes to start planning another World Cup with the NHL soon. The tournament was last held in 2004 and will likely be played again in September 2011.

Kelly's preference would actually be for the NHL to shut down midway through the season so the World Cup could be played in February 2012 instead. However, that idea doesn't seem to have much support from the league.

His plan to hold the world championship every other year has found some backers here.

Swedish ice hockey federation president Christer Englund would even like to see it taken to another level.

"They should close all the leagues in February and in that case we would have the best players every year," said Englund. "This is about making the value of the product better. I hope we see the possibilities of this suggestion and not the problems."

But the IIHF is reluctant to make any major changes to the world championship.

President Rene Fasel refers to the tournament as his organization's "flagship event" and notes that it currently has television contracts through 2017. The IIHF also has committments to the next five host countries after awarding the 2014 tournament to Belarus on Friday.

Besides, Fasel thinks there are bigger problems to solve before deciding on a new calendar of international events.

"At the moment in discussions with the NHL, we have these challenges about transfer agreement, Olympic Games (in) Sochi (site of the 2014 Winter Games), World Cup, insurance for players at the world championship," said Fasel. "We have challenges there and we have to discuss and maybe solve these problems before we go and change the model.

"It would be really rather difficult to change at the moment."

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