VANCOUVER—International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel has his eyes on the NHL and he likes what he sees.
Fasel said the world governing body for hockey is considering moving all international competitions to smaller, NHL-sized ice surfaces. He believes the smaller ice can contribute to the fans’ excitement and emotions.
“More and more now when we are watching the games, especially the juniors here in Canada, maybe one of the reasons the tournament here is on a very high level, maybe, is the size of the small ice,” said Fasel on Saturday ahead of the medal games at the world junior championship in Vancouver.
The city is currently hosting the event at Rogers Arena, the home of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks.
Ice in a standard NHL arena is about 200 feet long and 85 feet wide while surfaces in many European rinks are about 15 feet wider. Switching to the smaller surface for international competitions wouldn’t be unprecedented.
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Hockey was played on an NHL-sized surface at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver because the cost for creating a larger surface was too high, Fasel said.
“So we decided to play on small ice in 2010 and that was an exceptional tournament,” said Fasel, who added that there is still some resistance to adopting the smaller surface worldwide. “When you speak with the older guys in Europe, they are maybe not so much in favour. But we maybe need that change.”
The organization is looking at using NHL-sized ice for the world championships in Finland and the Beijing Olympics, both in 2022.
“That should be our goal, that in the future we should have the same size that we have here in North America,” Fasel said.
But next year’s world junior tournament in the Czech Republic will still use the larger surface. Up in the stands, the crowds will likely be smaller than those seen in Vancouver and Victoria this year, Fasel said.
“We have another mentality in Europe,” he said. “Even in (soccer) the women’s game and junior games in Europe has a different value so the fans are not really interested in juniors and the women’s game.”
More than 300,000 fans have taken in games at this year’s tournament, said Hockey Canada president and COO Scott Smith.
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Despite Canada’s heart-breaking quarterfinal loss, Smith expected a full house for Saturday’s final between Finland and the U.S.
“We were essentially sold out before the first puck was dropped on Dec. 26,” he said.
RUSSIANS WIN BRONZE: Kirill Slepets scored a hat trick, his second goal coming on a breakaway in the third period, as Russia defeated Switzerland 5-2 to win the bronze medal at the world juniors on Saturday.
Slepets, who is eligible for this year’s NHL draft, used his speed to slice between two Swiss defencemen then scored on a backhand to give Russia a two-goal lead at 6:33 of the third. He later added an empty-net marker to give him five goals and seven points in seven games at the tournament.
Russian teams have won a total of 36 medals at the tournament (13 gold, 12 silver and 11 bronze).
COMTOIS PLAYED HURT: Maxime Comtois played for Canada with a separated shoulder at the world juniors, the Anaheim Ducks announced on Saturday.
The NHL club — which drafted Comtois in 2017 — delivered the news via Twitter on Saturday, saying he’ll be out of for “about two weeks.”
It’s unclear when Comtois was hurt, but he did receive treatment for an undisclosed injury after Canada’s 5-1 win over the Czech Republic on Dec. 29.