Riga, Latvia | The head of the International Ice Hockey Federation as well as a major player in the International Olympic Committee, Rene Fasel fears for ice hockey’s status in North America. Speaking to Reuters at the IIHF world championships, Fasel says hockey is under threat from soccer.
I don’t think the [National Football League] will lose people, [the National Basketball Association] will not lose fans, but the market will be even more difficult for hockey. Wake up North America, soccer is coming. I tell you, they sleep while it’s coming. … They should be very careful in North America about soccer.
Critical to ice hockey’s development, according to Fasel, is retaining the participation of National Hockey League players at the Winter Olympics as well as developing an international club competition.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have recognized soccer’s potential. The ownership group, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, will operate the newest franchise in Major League Soccer beginning in 2007 and construct a 20,000-seat stadium (see 5 Nov 05).