Looking back, and forward to Christmas

Ahead of the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championships medal games in Edmonton, IIHF President Luc Tardif and IIHF Regional Vice-President and Chairman of the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championships Directorate Henrik Bach Nielsen met with the accredited media to recap the tournament outlook give to the new season.

“The last time we had a press conference, we had to share the difficult decision to cancel the World Juniors because we had too many COVID cases. But we said at the time that the children and the organizing committee deserved to be able to play it at a later date. It’s a busy hockey calendar and we have found that August is the only time to play it and the most important thing is to have this tournament organized and finished. We promised and we kept it,” Luc Tardif opened the press conference.

“We will have had 28 games in an arena here. It worked very well, there were no major problems. The demand to organize it at this level is high and they did a damn good job,” said Henrik Bach Nielsen. “Injuries have never been as low as this year. We had no Covid cases. In our eyes we think Covid is over, but it still happens in many sporting events, like last month’s Tour de France. We followed protocol and had zero cases.”

Having the World Juniors postponed in August was a different experience, but also one the IIHF does not wish to repeat.

“We are satisfied with the quality and commitment of the teams, who found it difficult to come here. We knew August is not the best time. We didn’t expect the rush of visitors that we usually have. It was an experience and we won’t do it again unless we have to for some reason,” said Luc Tardif. “I prefer to look forward rather than backward. The important thing is that ticket sales for Halifax and Moncton are going well.”

Nearly 50,000 fans attended the priority draw for the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championships in Halifax and Moncton, with public ticket sales to the public scheduled to begin in September, subject to availability.

“August is not ice hockey month, but it was the only possible date,” repeated Henrik Bach Nielsen, who, as president of the Danish Ice Hockey Federation, will soon have a similar experience when he hosts the IIHF Women’s World Championships in Herning and Frederikshavn from next week.

“For Canadians in particular, World Juniors is a Christmas thing and I’m excited to return to the normal schedule in Halifax and Moncton during the winter. The World Juniors is a very good brand. It has been a hit over the Christmas holidays for many years. This is a unique experience that we had to have in August.”

In addition to the World Juniors, several other tournaments in the men’s U20 and women’s U18 categories originally scheduled for the winter have had to be postponed, including many in the lower leagues. A tournament in Mexico ended just ten days before the start in Edmonton, and after the Women’s World Cup in Denmark, the last two tournaments of the old season are due in Austria and Serbia.

The largest canceled event besides the World Juniors was the IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship 2022, which was moved from winter to summer and from Sweden to the USA. The tournament ended successfully in June when Canada won gold in Madison.

“By September all the tournaments will have been played, although some countries that didn’t manage to take part missed three years. But we played all the tournaments. It wasn’t always easy. With the IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship we found a new host in Madison and we found new dates because everyone really wanted to play,” said Luc Tardif.

One question from the media was whether the financial burden of COVID-19 will have consequences for the IIHF.

“We are in good financial shape. We lost some income, but we also spent less money. But more importantly, we’ve lost some development in ice hockey because of the pandemic,” said Henrik Bach Nielsen.

“We went through it and sometimes it’s good to have good insurance. We are still alive financially and what is important is to keep our activities alive. We’ve played in a bubble at times because of Covid, we have to play without Russia because of the war and there’s nothing we can do about it. When there’s a pandemic and a war, a lot of things change, teams can’t travel that easily,” said Luc Tardif.

Another question from members of the media concerned the IIHF’s position and possible action on the allegations against Hockey Canada. At this time, the IIHF has not opened its own investigation into the allegations, but has instead made a request to Hockey Canada for information on the cases. Domestic investigations are currently underway in Canada by police and government agencies.

“We followed what was happening. It’s a national issue and it’s not good for hockey. I’m glad the investigation is reopening. When we know the facts and those involved, we will take our responsibility, but only after the official investigation,” said Luc Tardif.

“The most important thing is the investigation by the police and the judiciary. Hockey Canada must provide us with the same information as the Hearings Committee. We met with the CEO and had good discussions about the process. We will then approach the IIHF Ethics Committee to analyze how Hockey Canada handled this case, whether it was in accordance with our bylaws and bylaws.”

In recent years, the IIHF has also held integrity sessions at the IIHF World Junior Championship and other junior tournaments with issues such as abuse, harassment, anti-doping, and match-fixing. These were attended by all players from all teams and also accompanied by employees in Edmonton (see story).

“Our goal is not only to educate high-level hockey players, but also to educate high-level citizens,” said Luc Tardif.

“We had a workshop with each team and the leaders and they were very positive about the timing too. We’ve been doing this since 2019,” said Henrik Bach Nielsen.

The war in Ukraine was another topic and the President answered questions about what was being done to help Ukraine keep hockey alive.

“When the war started, the solidarity of the IIHF family was fantastic. Hundreds of players had the opportunity to go and play in other countries in Europe with the support of many national hockey federations. The NHL and NHLPA also participated with equipment support that helped the IOC. We have helped the men’s senior and U18 national teams to train abroad and be able to participate in our tournaments. We had to organize buses from the border, find places to play, find accommodation for the players and their families. Most of them are still abroad and we don’t know when they will be able to return. When I look at everything that has been done, I am proud to be IIHF President,” said Luc Tardif.

Luc Tardif also confirmed that Russia and Belarus remain banned from participating in IIHF events for the 2022/2023 season, as decided by the 2022 IIHF Annual Congress in May. “We do it year after year. They will not play for the 2022/2023 season.”

At the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship, Latvia surprised at the bottom by beating the Czech Republic, reaching the quarterfinals and finishing better than ever in seventh place. This also raised the question of whether 10 teams is the right number for the tournament.

“Our goal is to develop the teams, but we don’t want to do it too early,” Luc Tardif answered the question. “The World Juniors have been one of our best products in the last 10, 15 years and one reason may be that we only have ten teams,” said Henrik Bach Nielsen.

However, Luc Tardif confirmed intentions of one day having another raise for the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, which had grown from eight to ten teams in 2019, and for the recent Olympics.

“We’ve gone from eight teams to ten and now the sub-division teams are also developing, have more staff to develop the players so maybe eventually we’ll be ready to have 12 teams. It is our job to bring hockey to the whole world and we will invest heavily in hockey development over the next few years,” concluded the IIHF President.

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