IIHF president Rene Fasel called out the NHL just days before a scheduled meeting on its participation in the 2014 Olympics. (Koji Sasahara/AP)
By Allan Muir
It hasn’t been a banner weekend for those hoping the NHL and its players will take part in the 2014 Olympic hockey tournament in Sochi.
First, there was IIHF president Rene Fasel on Hockey Night In Canada suggesting that “ego from some people in North America” was the main barrier standing in the way of NHL participation, adding, somewhat smugly, “I think Gary [Bettman] has no choice but to come to Sochi.”
It’s not like Fasel was ambushed by the question from CBC’s Scott Russell. He had to know it was coming. And this wasn’t just an inelegantly worded response from an English-as-a-second-language bureaucrat. Fasel recognizes that the players want to go to Sochi and that more than a few are planning to head over next February with or without the league’s permission. Like George Costanza, he feels like he has hand in this relationship.
But for this thing to truly happen, Fasel needs the full cooperation of Bettman and the NHL’s Board of Governors. And that’s something no one should ever take for granted.
Fasel is no political novice. This is a guy who has been the head of the IIHF for 18 years, nearly as long as Bettman’s been running the show in New York. So why is he acting like one just days before the IIHF and the NHL are scheduled to meet in an effort to come to an agreement on Sochi?
It was a stunningly clumsy decision by a man who should understand that at his own peril he makes Bettman look like a powerless fool.