René Fasel, the president of the International Ice Hockey Federation since 1994, has announced he will not be seeking re-election for a fifth consecutive term as IIHF President, where a successor will be named in 2020.
Fasel, who served as head of Switzerland’s hockey governing body starting in 1985, joined the IIHF council in 1986, serving as head of referee and marketing committees. Fasel replaced longtime President Günther Sabetzki, who served for 20 years prior, becoming the thirteenth IIHF President, and third Swiss President, after Max Sillig and Fritz Kraatz. As President, Fasel worked to expand the game’s global reach in new, non-traditional hockey markets, and helped to rapidly expand both the women’s game and junior tournaments. However, his most memorable achievements will surely be bringing the NHL into the Olympics from 1998-2014, bringing international hockey to a new level of unprecedented success and popularity.
Fasel’s name has been more prevalent as of late due to the NHL backing out of Olympic participation for the 2018 Games, but there is hope that as one of Fasel’s last acts, he will ensure that the NHL return to the Beijing Games in 2022, leaving behind some assurances that the NHL will stay for good at the Olympics. But despite this, Fasel has overseen a rapidly changing game, becoming president when the fall of the Iron Curtain saw the game revolutionized forever, with talent coming from more wide-ranging countries than ever before. The game’s popularity has continued to grow around the world, and recent expansions of the World Women’s and Under-18 tournaments is a testament to the game’s growth beyond the senior men’s level.
Fasel’s replacement will be voted in at the IIHF General Congress during the 2020 World Championships, which will ironically be held in Fasel’s native Switzerland, with the new President looking to build upon Fasel’s work into the future.