International Ice Hockey Federation

"Real hockey cities"

"Real hockey cities"

Directorate Chairman high praise for organizers

Published 30.04.2018 02:59 GMT+5 | Author Slava Malamud
"Real hockey cities"
Frank Gonzalez, Directorate Chairman of the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship, speaks to the media before the gold medal game. (Photo by Steve Kingsman/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Frank Gonzalez, U18 World Championship chairman, in a press scrum before the gold medal game offered very high assessment of Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk.

Can you comment on the attendance at this tournament?

The enthusiasm of the fans was very high. We are very happy to have come here, to Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk. The attendance at the relegation rounds and the preliminary rounds, and of course the playoff rounds, was excellent. I think, we will set the record for the World U18 Championship, and we are very happy about that. Of course, we are happy that next year it will be as good as this or better, but I highly doubt it.

What other things, besides the attendance, would you highlight?

Russia is a big member of the IIHF, a big hockey country in everything they do, in how they organize and how they prepare the teams. The only thing is, the President of the IIHF Rene Fasel couldn’t be here due to personal agenda, but he really wanted to come to present the trophy himself. We are very happy with how the Russian Federation has organized everything in Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk, and we hope to be back. 

For the 2023 U20 World Championship, Novosibirsk is being considered. Can you confirm that this will be the site? 

Not yet, but it will be done at the IIHF Congress in Copenhagen. The participants will see how to organize their schedules, and I am sure it won’t be a problem.

How surprising are the results of the U18 World Championship?

I expected four of five teams to be competing for the gold. Of course, it’s always good for the organizing committee to have Russia in the final, but that’s not always the case. Finland and USA are back, and the USA is very strong at under-18 because of their program. Canada was good, but then they met Czech Republic, that was a big upset. The games have been very good, very dramatic, and the people here, you can tell they are hockey fans.

Can we expect any changes in the format of the World Championship, not only U18, but U20 as well?

Right now, we are studying different kinds of formats. For U18, we have a 10-team format right now, but we are looking at a 12-team one, but I think that 10 teams is a good standard right now because of the strength of the teams. There is always one or two teams who aren’t as strong as the others. But hopefully, soon, two more teams can come up, and we will have 12 in the future. We always want to bring more members, of course. Teams are getting better, players are getting bigger. We are happy we are moving in this direction. We are a big, strong hockey family. This is what we are, a family. Sometimes, of course, we carry our own flags, but most of the time we work together to make sure the game moves forward.

I would also like to add that the biggest change we have made to the format is that instead of going horizontal, we are going vertical. This makes the competition much stronger. You can look at the championships in the lower divisions, they are very competitive, most scores are within one, two, maybe three goals. This system, of going up and down on the vertical spectrum has helped ice hockey very much.

Speaking of that, can you comment on the crazy Division IA tournament that has just concluded in Budapest, with Great Britain and Italy moving on?

I will also claim a bit of credit, because Spain has also moved up, to Division IIA, but what is happening in IA and IB is amazing. I hope that it continues in the same direction and it makes the teams stronger that come up to the top division, more competitive. It’s better for the organizers, to go and sell more tickets.

What development potential do you see in the Asian region, with the Chinese team in the KHL?

It’s growing very fast. It’s a big continent, and we are investing a little bit of money. The Chinese team has a lot of work to do, but they are getting help from the KHL and some NHL people, so I think that together they will make it work out to get ready for the Olympics.

What is the secret of Great Britain’s success in returning to the top division of the IIHF World Championship?

They’ve had some up and down years and never really got it together. But last year they won Division IB, came up and won Division IA this year. They have naturalized some Canadian players, but they have always developed their own players at home. It’s a good thing for Europe, including other countries, especially for the sponsorship matters. The IIHF isn’t only the big countries. We are a global organization. We play hockey in places like Malasia, Thailand and New Zealand. This is what we have to look at. We have to grow the game.

 

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