Pipe dreams on ice

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

INNSBRUCK, Austria -- It was low on hard news but high on entertainment.

Rene Fasel, perhaps lonely down in Vienna while most of the world's major media hockey countries are here, made a visit prior to last night's Sweden-Finland game to answer questions.

Still no deadline from the IIHF to the NHL on players eligible for the Olympics and he's still saying Quebec City, not Halifax, will be the main host city for the 2008 world championships in Canada.

Fasel also made an emotional plea on behalf of the fans, scoffed at bigger nets, encouraged smaller goalies and said the idea of an NHL division in Europe is a pipe dream.

The IIHF president said he hasn't changed his idea that there might not be a deadline for whether NHL players become part of next winter's Torino Winter Olympics.

NO DEADLINE

"I don't think we'll give them a deadline. It's still not possible to give them a deadline. Our rules are two hours before the first game. We will not put a deadline there."

But Fasel says he believes they owe it to hockey, not having had this NHL season, to have the best players at the Olympics.

"Not just that. We are a big family. This is a great opportunity for the sport, a good thing to do to show the best of the best. I feel sad. Sad for the whole game, sad for the people who are losing their jobs, sad for the hot dog sellers ... I feel really sad. I think they should now do everything they can do to get back to work. Really sad."

While Hockey Canada's Bob Nicholson insists the Quebec-Halifax issue has by no means been settled in terms of where the medal round will be played in 2008, Fasel says he's sorry but it was decided when they made the bid last year in Prague.

"It was quite clear that Quebec was celebrating 400 years as a city and the IIHF is celebrating 100 years as a federation May 15, 2008. Quebec is a wonderful place to play. Nothing against Halifax."

Fasel said the IIHF will attempt to get very creative to try to have as many fans as possible get to Canada in 2008 so the flavour of the world championships here the last few years could be experienced by Canadians.

Many, such as the thousands of Latvians here, save for an entire year to go to the world championships and can't easily afford a trip overseas.

"I think that Latvians would even swim to come over," he said.

"They are amazing fans. It would be interesting for Canadians to see all these fans who come from all these countries every year to the world championships. We will try. We will help them."

Asked by a European reporter if the IIHF was looking into making the nets bigger as briefly was the case with the NHL, Fasel laughed.

"We have 63 federations. Can you imagine changing all the nets in 63 federations?"

GOALIE EQUIPMENT

The goalie equipment, he said, is another deal.

"Mr. Michelins," he called the goalies.

"Reducing the size of the goalie equipment, that would be good. The goalies are now double, maybe even triple of before. It's too big. They are not only big, they are good. It makes it even more difficult to score a goal. The next step should be the goalie equipment."

While Finland has proposed that the IIHF go back to the use of the red line, Fasel said he doesn't think it will happen and believes the majority of NHL players here would like to see the red line eliminated in the NHL.

"It's a better game than to play with a red line," he said.

Asked about suggestions that one day soon the NHL could expand to Europe, Fasel laughed yet again.

"If they want to lose money, just come. It will not happen."

He said fans love their national leagues in Europe and there are just not the arenas.

He has a more immediate problem. The ice is so bad in Vienna there was a rumour the medal round might be moved here. But Fasel says steps are being taken to improve the situation and the ice will be good by the time we get there next weekend.


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