Published On: Tue, Nov 14th, 2017

Over the Boards: Fasel still frustrated with Bettman over Olympic no-show

Rene Fasel has the exasperated look of somebody who’s had enough when he’s asked what it would take to get the National Hockey League back into the Winter Olympics.

The president of the International Ice Hockey Federation has been battling NHL commissioner Gary Bettman over all sorts of issues for the past two decades, none more annoying than the withdrawal by the NHL from the 2018 Games in South Korea.

Bettman’s commitment to growing the NHL as a business hasn’t always been aligned with Fasel’s commitment to growing the game internationally. He was asked at the PrimeTime Sports Conference this week if he could envision a time when the NHL and IIHF could see eye to eye.

“I think I have to retire. Gary, too,” Fasel told an audience before following up in a one-on-one with the Star. “If we both retire, we get new people. New people bring in a new dynamic.”

Fasel sees 2020 as his potential retirement date, but Bettman seems a sure bet to carry on through at least one more round of collective bargaining negotiations (in either 2020, the earliest the CBA can be reopened, or 2022, when it ends.)

Article Continued Below

While Bettman seemed particularly nonplussed by the International Olympic Committee’s threats to keep the NHL out of the 2022 Beijing Games in retaliation for withdrawing from Pyeongchang, South Korea, it’s Fasel’s IIHF that’s caught in between. The IIHF ultimately makes the call on which athletes participate.

“Some people would love to say: ‘No, don’t let them in, just because they weren’t in Pyeongchang.’ But who would suffer? The players and fans. And those are who we have to respect the most,” Fasel told the Star. “How could we say no to players and no to fans when we want best-on-best in Olympics?

“We have to put the interests of fans and the game first. As long as I am IIHF president, I will never say no to the NHL.”

Fasel says he believes the NHL is making a big mistake in not going to the 2018 Games this winter. The NHL has a laundry list of complaints, some involving travel and insurance costs. The league is especially peeved about not being able to use highlights from the Olympics on and Bettman continually makes the point about not wanting to shut down the NHL for two weeks to accommodate the Games.

But the league will essentially go dark in the United States in February anyway. Neither NBC nor its cable alternative, NBCSN, will show any NHL games during the Olympics.

Meanwhile, the league is missing out on an opportunity to have NHL players delivered in prime time to an audience in the billions.

“If you want to brand and develop your sport, you want to be in prime time in Asia,” said Fasel. “Two thirds of the world is living in Asia, more or less. Having your brand in the Olympics in Pyeongchang in prime time has so much more value than a few NHL owners who want to have a few thousand spectators in their arena. This is a huge mistake.”

HABS VS LEAFS: Ex-Leaf Dave Andreychuk, inducted Monday into the Hockey Hall of Fame, said he was as upset about the events of 1993 as Leaf fans, specifically the fact referee Kerry Fraser failed to call Wayne Gretzky for high sticking Doug Gilmour in overtime in Game 6 of the Western Conference final. “Kerry Fraser has apologized a few times since then,” said Andreychuk. “You still dream about that Montreal-Toronto final. It would have been really awesome.”

YOUNG BLOOD: The Bruins wanted to inject youth into their lineup. Injuries along the way to veterans David Backes and David Krejci sped up the process for the likes of Jake DeBrusk and Charlie McAvoy to the point where Boston’s average age (27.5) is less than the league average (27.6) for the first time in years. “We’ve been trying to integrate young guys into the lineup from Day 1,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “That was something we addressed this summer. We didn’t think it would be this many guys, to be honest. They’ve done very well. We’re not asking them to lead our club. Just asking these young guys to do their job, and most nights, they’ve done that.”

MARLIES FOREVER: When he was in Toronto last week, Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau attended a reunion of Toronto Marlboros, a powerhouse junior team in the 1970s. “You don’t see guys for 40 years, but what championship teams do is create a bond that can never be broken,” said Boudreau. “You see guys and you pick up where you left off. Nothing seems to be different. Except the way we look.” With Boudreau, the Marlboros won the Memorial Cup twice (1973 and ’75). Boudreau had 68 goals and 165 points for the ’75 team.

DOORS LOCKED: Jason Zucker’s wife, Carly, had a message for him when he went on a tear on a recent Wild road trip, scoring six goals in three games: “NEVER COME HOME!,” she tweeted. “GET ALL THE SLEEP!” The Zuckers have a newborn, and little time for sleep at home. When he kept scoring, she kept tweeting the theme: “Looking for a host family” so he could sleep and finally: “The doors are locked” when the trip ended. “It honestly started as a joke,” she told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. “I have zero filter on Twitter. I’m not a person to take something too seriously and neither is Jason.”

CROSBY DROUGHT: Sidney Crosby has five goals, but has not scored in a game since Oct. 16. He does have a shootout goal in that time. “They haven’t been going in easy lately,” he said. “You just try to keep going. No matter who you’re going against, just try to keep doing the right things and trust they’ll go in.” The 11-game drought — going into Tuesday’s game in Buffalo — is the second longest of Crosby’s career.

NEWS AND NOTES: Islanders winger Nikolay Kulemin underwent shoulder surgery that will keep him out six months. The 31-year-old crashed awkwardly into the boards last week on a hit from Edmonton’s Eric Gryba . . . Dallas’ Alexander Radulov (five goals, six assists) and L.A.’s Anze Kopitar (two goals, 10 assists) each have eight-game scoring streaks, currently the longest in the NHL . . . Tampa’s Steven Stamkos (31 points) and Nikita Kucherov (30) are only the third set of teammates in the past 21 years to each record 30 or more points before their team’s 20th game of the season. In 2005-06, players from both the Senators (Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza) and Flyers (Peter Forsberg and Simon Gagne) combined for the feat.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)


Leave a comment

Over the Boards: Fasel still frustrated with Bettman over Olympic no-show