World hockey boss warns NHL to stay out of Europe

By Steve Keating

Speaking to a gathering of some of ice hockey's top brass, IIHF president Rene Fasel blasted the idea of the NHL setting up operations in Europe and told the league to stay away and that he would never allow it to happen.

The NHL has long flirted with the idea of one day adding a European division to the league, with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly calling it a dream that could become reality within the next 10 years.

But while the NHL has repeatedly stated the stability of its 30 teams is its main priority, the league has been working hard at growing its European presence.

This year a record six NHL teams will open the season with a pair of games each in Europe, bringing games to Helsinki, Finland, Stockholm, Sweden and Prague, Czech Republic.

Fasel said culture differences between North America and Europe were a big reason why the National Football League's European League is now defunct.

He also said if the National Basketball Association thought expanding into Europe would be successful then the league would have tried it by now.

"There are 500 million people in the European community, different languages, different cultures, different view of sport. It's different," said Fasel. "Let us do the job in Europe and in the end let us come together. Keep our identity in Europe, you keep your identity here."

Europe is becoming the new battleground for ice hockey with the IIHF eager to create a Champions League style competition that soccer has developed with massive success.

Russia's Kontinental Hockey League and the NHL are also looking for a piece of the European pie, including players and fans.

Fasel, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee executive board, said his dream is for 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 then having the European champion play the Stanley Cup winner.

"That would be music for the hockey fans."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)