While it isn’t spine-shattering news like the NHL rejecting Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract, it does seem like the World Hockey Summit had its first bit of pizazz-infused banter today. International Ice Hockey Federation chief Rene Fasel made no mistake that an often-rumored but seemingly impractical European NHL expansion would be met with serious opposition.
“I will fight like hell and not allow anybody to come from abroad,” said Fasel Tuesday, when asked about the much-rumoured, but never actually articulated idea that European expansion is the NHL’s next frontier.
“I don’t think an NHL division in Europe would fly,” said Fasel. “If they have a lot of money to invest, they could try, but as long as I’m sitting in my chair, I would never allow it to happen.”
Instead, Fasel imagines in the future, “a European league, where we have five, six teams from Sweden and the KHL together with the Finns, the Germans, the Swiss and then try to have a European champion and having this European champion play the Stanley Cup winner. That would be, for the hockey fans, music.”
Whether Fasel is breaking character or not, I think he makes a valid point. Even if European leagues wouldn’t resent the NHL encroaching on their territories, the concept of a European division seems impractical once you consider how costly travel is for hockey teams in North America alone. After all, you’re not going to want to totally isolate those European teams, are you?
(Of course, the NHL might decide to expand in the year 2700, a time when we clearly will already know how to teleport and drive hover cars. Or the human race will be extinct. It’s one or the other; I’m unwilling to conceive of any other possibility.)
Anyway, Fasel also discussed the fact that the NHL would have a larger presence if the league continued to be involved in Olympic hockey. He stated that the $3-$4 million the IIHF might be able to raise to encourage NHL to participate would be “pocket money,” which I think is another good point. (Read the article for more details.)
Again, we’ll keep you informed during those maybe-rare times when something interesting will pop up from the World Hockey Summit.