OTTAWA — International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel believes there is no chance that female hockey will be booted out of the Winter Olympic Games.
"I cannot imagine that the IOC president would kick women's hockey out of the program. I cannot believe it,'' Fasel, who sits on the International Olympic Committee's powerful executive committee, said Monday at a news conference during the 2013 women's world championship.
"But you never know. They kicked wrestling out. But I don't see a problem."
IOC President Jacques Rogge put women’s hockey on notice after the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, saying the gap had to close if women’s hockey is to remain in the Olympic program.
"There is a discrepancy there. Everyone agrees with that," Rogge said at the time.
Fasel didn’t seem to mind the criticism.
"It was a little shot from Jacques but I am happy because it gave us the chance to spend an extra [$2,175 million] for women's programs and it was good. Sincerely I don't think it [kicking the women out] will happen."
Efforts pay off
The IIHF's development efforts have paid dividends.
While Canada and the U.S., remain the top two teams in the world, other countries have made dramatic improvements.
Fasel made his comments before Russia played Canada in the semifinals Monday night. After losing all five games at the 2012 championships, the Russians took a four-game winning streak into the match against the defending world champions.
Earlier, Germany beat Switzerland, the bronze medalist last year, 5-3 in a game that decided fifth and sixth place.
"We are getting better and nearer to the two top teams. It is looking good. But our goal is to be more competitive [at the 2018 Winter Games] in Korea,'' said Fasel.
The other factor is gender equality, and if the IOC kicked women's hockey out of the Winter Games, it would be a loss of 180 or more athletes.
"That's why there is no danger,'' said the IOC member.
Answer on NHL players in Sochi expected by worlds
Fasel was also asked about the state of negotiations with the NHL over participation in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and he deferred to Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson to provide the update.
"We expect to have an answer before the men's world championship [in Stockholm in May],'' said Nicholson. "But there is still a lot of work to be done."
"I think the key is it's not a deadline but it would help us. If there is no answer we have to wait but from Hockey Canada's perspective we would like to have that."
Nicholson also touched on the future of the Canadian Women's Hockey League, saying the national governing body would like to see more NHL teams invest in it.
"We have had a lot of discussions with the National Hockey League,'' said Nicholson. "And now we will try to go back to them with the league to really try to build a partnership.
"If we can build a partnership with a number of Canadian NHL teams and a few in the U.S., I think that is the best way to do it. You are not going to fill buildings watching those leagues, but of the NHL team can build that into a business model, it will help."
Fasel also noted that developing hockey in Asia is a priority for the IIHF, especially with the 2018 Games in Korea, and how China is expected to bid for the 2026 or 2030 Winter Olympic Games.
"Asia for me is very important. There is a lot of work to do. China has a lot of work to do and we have only 60 [female] players in China. Asia for me is one of the big challenges.''