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Publisher's Note: Pucks and Politics Revisited

Don't fool yourself - there are definite political motives in international hockey decisions.

In my previous Publisher’s Note, I asked the question: do questions of human-rights abuses in Belarus and in China cause Hockey Canada and the IIHF to play the puck or consider the politics of human rights?

I wanted to know what Tom Renney, CEO of Hockey Canada, and Bob Nicholson, chairman of the Edmonton Oilers and Canada’s only representative on the IIHF board, think. Neither of them responded to my open-ended questions. I guess they are both quite busy right now overseeing staff that is putting together this holiday season’s World Junior Championship in Edmonton, so it is understandable they don’t have the time to let Canadians know if they support the prime minister or government of Canada’s position in regards to the violence in the streets of Minsk, Belarus.

Plus, Renney and Nicholson are pure hockey guys and they are absolutely apolitical. Hockey Canada and the IIHF are apolitical organizations. Politics is of no interest to either of these men so having to respond to a political question if they support the prime minister of Canada or the government of Canada’s position on a country they intend to send Canadian athletes to is not on their radar.

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Hockey Canada is not a political organization at all. They just wear the maple leaf on their chests around the world to demonstrate that Canadians are great hockey players. There is no political message or statement being made around the world about Canada being a free country that is based upon the fundamental premise of supporting basic human rights like free speech and the right to gather peacefully and protest. These Canadian athletes are just out there to only show the world that Canadians are great hockey players and say sorry quite often.

Renney and Nicholson are two leaders of organizations that are apolitical, so they too can act apolitical and there is no need for them to lead on the subject of basic human rights around the world or have to comment if they support Canada in doing so. They haven’t said a word about supporting Canada’s position on Belarus or Canada’s participation in the IIHF World Championship, scheduled to be cohosted in Belarus in May 2021 because they don’t have to.

As for the IIHF, when they select a country to host a tournament, there is absolutely no politics at play, never, ever, never. When members are chosen to serve on the IIHF board, no consideration is ever given to the political background and makeup of the directors and politics never come into play on the selection of the head of the IIHF. Even a Hockey Canada or USA Hockey representative will become the president of the IIHF one day since there are no politics involved when selecting its boss.

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And there were no politics at play when Rene Fasel’s planned retirement in late 2020 was cancelled after the KHL announced its new president (commissioner in NHL lingo) in February 2020. And pay no attention to the talk that Fasel is angling to get a cushy hockey position in Russia when he does eventually leave his top perch at the IIHF. Taking such a position could be seen as a potential conflict of interest and would expose Fasel to questions of having played politics while he was the head of the IIHF. No way would that ever happen.

Even if the Belarus half of the tournament is moved due to the coronavirus or other reasons, it would be nice to know where Renney and Nicholson stand as Canadians and if Fasel is playing the puck or politics. While these three “leaders” may be apolitical, Google “Belarus” and see if you are apolitical or not after watching a video or two.

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