Canada worthy of hosting every world juniors: Fasel

If it was up to IIHF president René Fasel, Canada would become the permanent host of the world junior hockey championship.

If it was up to René Fasel, Canada would become the permanent host of the world junior hockey championship.

But the way Hockey Canada sees it, every second year is fine.

The issue of packed stadiums in Canada versus empty arenas in Europe was addressed by Fasel, the president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, and Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson at a media conference Monday in Ottawa.

"When you have team play in front of 42 spectators, 35 fans, it is very sad and especially for the boys," Fasel said about attendance at junior tournaments in Europe.

"This [having it in Canada] is for the boys, for the boys from Kazakhstan and Slovakia. This is a lifetime experience."

"I know we have to be careful. This is a special product and we have to be careful how we use it.

"We have to find a way to help the other federations with some revenues. But for a young boy to come and play in front of 20,000 spectators, this is unique and we should not lose it."

For his part, Nicholson was more cautious.

"We have to be careful we don't host it too often," he said. "I don't think every year.

"We should take it back to Europe and try to grow it. But every second year [in Canada] would do."

Organizers announced Monday that a tournament record of 453,296 tickets were sold for the 31 games in the '09 championship, representing a 21 per cent increase over the previous record set in 2006 at Vancouver.

The 2010 tournament is in Regina and Saskatoon and in Buffalo in 2011, along with Edmonton and Calgary in 2012.

Fasel is a member of the International Olympic Committee and is the IOC's point man for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.

The NHL has not made a commitment to release players for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and Fasel raised the stakes by calling league commissioner Gary Bettman "anti-Russian."

Fasel was referring to how Russia is seen as the main obstacle in getting a transfer agreement between the NHL and European hockey federations.

The NHL has taken issue with how Russia's Kontinental Hockey League will not respect NHL contracts.

"For me it is quite clear. We can't miss having the NHL players coming to [Russia]," he said. "The PA [the NHL Players' Association] is quite clear they want to go and they have the power to decide and discuss this with the NHL.

"Russia may be a special place for Gary and maybe he is anti-Russian. But I was clear there will be no World Cup of Hockey if there are no pros in the [2014] Olympic Games."

Fasel also addressed the issue of whether Canada's national men's and women's and sledge hockey teams will be allowed to wear Hockey Canada's famous player-skating-out-of-the-maple-leaf emblem at the Vancouver Games.

This is due to a decision by the IOC to enforce a 13-year-old edict that prohibits sports federations from wearing their logos on team jerseys.

Hockey Canada has had an exemption in previous Winter Games, but this time the Canadian Olympic Committee supports the IOC's edict.

And Fasel said the debate is dead.

"I think and I told Bob we will have no chance to play with [the Canadian jersey] we have today."