August 24, 2010
TORONTO - Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation and a member of the International Olympic Committee board, has a great rap.
It's all about pleasing the fans and the honor of playing for one's nation, rather than the financial risks and realities for doing so. Here's a guy that has the gall to say "it's not about the money" when discussing the NHL's apprehension in continuing its Olympic participation.
Oh, but don't you dare mention the romantic fan fantasy of an international NHL, with club teams in Europe playing under the League's banner and battling against its storied franchises. Then Rene drops the sunshine for a line in the sand. When asked about the NHL in Europe in today's World Hockey Summit Q&A at Air Canada Centre, Fasel replied quite stoically:
"Try to come. Good luck. This is our territory and I will fight like hell and not allow anybody to come from abroad. I think in Europe weare strong enough to do something on our own, and then have the competition between Europe and North America. That makes the fan happy. That's really what we should do.
"Having the North American side and the European side ... this is the old story. The '72 series. For sure it was Canada and [the Soviet Union] at that time, but it was Europe against North America. That makes the fan happy.
"I don't think an NHL division in Europe would fly. If they have a lot of money to invest, they can try. But as long as I'm sitting in my chair I wouldn't allow it."
Tough talk from The Dentist. After hearing it, I couldn't get the vision of this Chico Resch doppelganger rolling up his shirtsleeves and slugging an NHL suit attempting to plant a flag somewhere near Helsinki.
I've long held the belief that the KHL will be the AFL to the NHL's NFL -- wow, that's a lot of letters -- and that way down the line the two leagues will merge, with the KHL becoming a de facto NHL Europe. It may be a pipe dream, but I wouldn't call it impossible.
And if this NHL European Super League ever did come to pass ... well, that certainly would lessen the need for an international governing body to manage transfer agreements and global exhibition tournaments, wouldn't it?
Still wonder why Fasel's so passionate about this fight?