On the Scene -- Russia Wins Ice Hockey Champs; Fasel Talks Sochi 2014
Russia went undefeated during the IIHF world champs. (ATR)
Russia Captures World Hockey Title in Helsinki
Led by NHL stars Yevgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, Russia defeated Slovakia 6-2 to win the 2012 IIHF World Championship on Sunday.
Semin scored two goals and an assist, while Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Perezhogin and Alexei Tereshenko also found the net for Team Russia.
It was Russia’s third world title in five years, but first since 2009.
Russia concluded the 17-day, 64-game tournament, which was co-hosted by Stockholm and Helsinki, with an unblemished 10-0 record. Eight of the team’s 25 members belong to NHL squads.
Slovak defenseman Zdeno Chara contributed two goals in the loss, a tournament that he and teammates dedicated to long-time national team captain Pavol Demitra, who was killed in the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl airplane crash in September.
In the bronze medal game played earlier Sunday, the Czech Republic defeated host Finland 3-2, for their third world championship medal in three years.
Hockey President on Sochi 2014, NHL Status
Rene Fasel. (ATR)
IIHF President René Fasel met with the media prior to Sunday’s medal contests and addressed various Olympic-related topics. He was asked about the current status of the IOC, IIHF and NHL coming to terms for NHL players to participate at the Sochi 2014 Games.
“The NHL and [National Hockey League Players Association] still have to solve their bargaining agreement so we will wait and once they make a decision, then we will sit down at the table to make important decisions and discuss what is possible,” said Fasel.
When queried whether he could envision an Olympic ice hockey tournament without NHL players, Fasel responded, “It’s in their hands, our door is wide open and it’s their decision whether they want to come or not.”
Following Russia’s gold medal victory, Around the Rings asked three-time Olympian Pavel Datsyuk, about the NHL potentially not allowing its players to compete in Sochi.
“That is two years from now, and I cannot say anything about something so far away as I don’t even know what will happen tomorrow,” said Datsyuk of the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings. “It is hard to say something about Sochi now.”
Games in Sochi will primarily be played at the Bolshoi Ice Dome, which has been designed to look like a drop of water. The 12,000-seat arena is scheduled for completion in September. In addition, the “Shayba” Arena or Maly Ice Palace, which is a moveable structure, will accommodate 7,000 spectators.
“The arena is smaller than we had in Vancouver, but its all-together walking distance from the Olympic village, so for the athletes it will be really convenient, they can walk or take a bike and the practice arena is right there also.” said Fasel.
Inaugural Olympic test events are scheduled for next winter in the Black Sea resort city. In December, Sochi will host the Eurohockey Tour and in April the IIHF Under-18 World Championship will be contested.
“I have no concerns – they will reach their deadlines,” said Fasel about the completion of the hockey venues by the Sochi 2014 organizers. “It is nicely done. You will see.”
Guaranteed Trip to Sochi
USA and Finland both booked berths in Sochi at the world championships. (ATR)
Nine countries have secured their berths in the Sochi 2014 Olympic ice hockey tournament: Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Norway, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.
The nine places were awarded following the 2012 World Championship, based upon current IIHF world rankings. Final seeding for the Olympic tournament has also been determined following play in Sweden and Finland, with Russia holding the number one ranking.
Three additional nations will have the opportunity to earn their way to Sochi during Final Olympic Qualifications, played among three groups of teams, February 7-10 in Germany, Denmark and Latvia, with the host countries being the frontrunners.
Fan Support and Attendance at the World Championship
Attendance was strongest whenever hosts Finland or Sweden played. (ATR)
Aside from games involving host nations Sweden and Finland, attendance was sparse at the nearly three-week showcase event, particularly at Stockholm’s Ericsson Globe Arena, which has a capacity of 13,850. Helsinki’s Hartwall Arena holds 13,350.
The Stockholm venue averaged just over 9,700 fans per game when Sweden played during the preliminary round, well below capacity, while average attendance in Helsinki was 12,700 per contest for games involving Finland.
“It was sad to see only 7,000 in the stands,” said Sweden’s Henrik Zetterberg, who also skates with the Detroit Red Wings, following the team’s opening victory over France, played on a Friday night.
“It’s much more fun to play for a sold-out arena. It is one of the reasons (players from the NHL), come home to play,” he said.
“You can’t blame the Swedish people. With today’s prices, it’s kind of hard for a family to see the games.”
In Stockholm, prices were reduced during the tournament and it was decided that free tickets would be given to junior teams and players.
Fasel, along with Organizing Committee Co-chairmen Kalervo Kummola (Finand) and Christer Englund (Sweden), addressed the challenges on Sunday.
“Due to the new format, we now play 64 games in 16-17 days, as opposed to 56,” said Fasel. “We have to play three games a day and if we play at 12:15 in the afternoon during the week, it’s not easy to fill the arenas.”
The 2013 World Championship will once again be co-hosted by the two Nordic countries, with medal games switching to Stockholm.
“We really hope that during the summer we can make some adjustments including different pricing policies,” said Fasel. “In general, we were very happy and pleased with great hockey games. We have unbelievable hockey fans and this arena has been great,” he said referring to Helsinki’s Hartwall Arena.
Jamaica Not Just For Bobsledders Anymore
Jamaica and Qatar have been accepted as the newest members of the IIHF, increasing the total number of member federations to 72. The announcement was made Friday at the Federation’s annual congress held in Helsinki.
Qatar joins as a full member, while Jamaica, which has just one rink and 20 current players in the country, has been accepted as an associate member.
“We welcome the new members to our family and look forward to seeing how they do,” said Fasel. “It’s very nice to see them as part of our global federation.”
However, when asked tongue and cheek by Around the Rings whether the world championship might be played in the Caribbean country over the next few years, Fasel responded with a chuckle: “Not anytime soon.”
Written and Reported by Brian Pinelli in Helsinki
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