"With the season officially cancelled, the USHL recently awarded the Anderson Cup to the Chicago Steel. The Cup goes to the team with the most points and the Steel certainly earned it with a 41-7-1 record that included two 13-game win streaks and dominance over the scoring race: four of the top five producers came from the Steel, with only Dubuque’s Ty Jackson cracking the streak. At the time the season was called, the Steel were 15 points clear of Dubuque and Waterloo, who were tied for second. “We came into the year expecting to be one of the top teams in the league and obviously had a good year,” said defenseman and 2021 NHL prospect Owen Power. “The team was dominant.” So how did they do it? Talent, of course, but preparation helped as well. GM Ryan Hardy put together a rigorous program that called for a certain kind of dedicated player, then went out and got those kids. Whether it was through the draft (like Power and 2020 NHL draft prospect Sean Farrell) or trade (2020 draft prospect Brendan Brisson), Hardy gave coach Greg Moore the talent needed. When Moore was hired away by the AHL’s Toronto Marlies in December, Brock Sheahan stepped up behind the bench and continued the Steel’s successful run. “It’s just the mindset every day of getting better,” Brisson said. “All the resources coming together really makes it easier to succeed as a player and a team. We take it really seriously here.” Hardy’s stint with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program helped. The Chicago GM was the NTDP’s director of player personnel for three years, giving him a crash-course in running one of the top producers of NHL talent in the world. “It helped me in so many ways,” Hardy said. “I was able to look at the setup they had there and also analyze the players; why some were successful and some weren’t. A lot of our cultural pieces came from there – there are probably games where we’re not at peak rest, but we’re not going to sacrifice a (gym) lift that would help the players long-term – that’s something we took from them.” Surrounding his staff and players with experts also helps. “We contract with a company for mindset resilience development,” Hardy said. “And we have an agreement with Darryl Belfry and Adam Nicholas from an on-ice development standpoint, so from a recruiting perspective, it certainly helps.” Belfry is the skills guru whose clients have included Patrick Kane and John Tavares – he also works with the Maple Leafs during the season now. Nicholas is another top skating and skills coach renowned in the business. Looking at the 2020 NHL draft, the Steel will be well-represented. Brisson is a potential first-rounder, while Sam Colangelo and Sean Farrell are top-100 prospects in their own rights. Fellow forward Gunnarwolfe Fontaine, who was passed over last year, will likely be taken too. But the party isn’t going to stop next year, as the Steel tendered one of the most exciting young prospects in the world, 2023 NHL draft prospect Adam Fantilli. The Toronto-born center will play at least 55 percent of Chicago’s games next year in exchange for the Steel coughing up their first-rounder in the next USHL draft. With all the talent that has been coming through Chicago in the past couple years and all the preparation that went into making this year’s edition a force in the USHL, it’s no surprise top-end kids keep picking the Steel." "Graeme Roustan: Today we have Pat Kelleher, the executive director of USA Hockey on with us today for Sports Illustrated and The Hockey News. How are you doing today? Pat Kelleher: I’m doing all right, Graeme, thank you for having me. GR: How are your employees and your staff doing during these times? PK: I think the best part is we have a lot of people that work for USA Hockey that are truly deeply dedicated hockey professionals and passionate hockey people. So they are trying to grind their way through this. We have people in Michigan at our arena and the national team program. We have our national office in Colorado Springs. We have people that work remotely for us across the country regularly. So everyone is trying to stay engaged, connected and we’re trying to find ways to connect with one another and try and connect with our community. We’ve had our hockey department conduct Zoom meetings with coaches and hockey directors. We’re just trying to help people as best we can through this time by finding ways to talk about hockey, which is not easy right now. But our staff is committed, and we’re committed to our staff. We want to try and do a weekend to find our way through this challenging situation, or, as I’ve trademarked in our office this “fluid situation,” and make sure that when we do come back we can get back on the ice. GR: Some states obviously are more affected right now than others, like the state of New York. Do you find that your team in New York is in need of more attention right now than other states? PK: I don’t think we have one particular area where people are more in need. Where we are, we try and communicate with everybody and understand that everybody has different challenges. We have different volunteers throughout the U.S. that we do communicate with and some are in different situations for sure. We have coaches and people that participate in youth hockey out there that are frontline healthcare providers. We feel for those people and certainly appreciate all that they’re doing. We’re just trying to connect where we can with people in hockey and maybe give people a little break from some of the things they’re dealing with. Just to try and talk about hockey or engage in hockey in a different way. And I think that goes for kids that play, too. Kids are not in school, they’re not out with their friends. How can they be active at home and shooting pucks or stickhandling? I think that’s important, too. GR: Has USA Hockey, essentially shut down your programs? When do you think they’ll be up and running again? PK: Yeah, I wish I had the crystal ball to tell you when we’d be up and running again. That would be fantastic. I think it was back on March 11 when we made the really difficult decision at the time to cancel this year’s national championships. That was really the front end of when everything really picked up. And I remember speaking to Bill Daly from the NHL that day, and we both were like, “things seem to be going a lot faster right now.” And they did. Things happened really quickly. At the front end, it was really agonizing, because you didn’t know what we were going to be dealing with. Our national championships for youth hockey would have started on April 1, and it was March 11. When we made the decision, we had a long, long, difficult discussion and listened to every angle on what we should do and what we could do, but we went with what was the safest decision then, but not an easy decision, to cancel nationals at that time. Obviously, three weeks later, there would have been no chance to hold nationals. One of the tougher parts is we are a membership organization for youth hockey. And we have kids and families that engage all year long in hockey and love and have a great experience. A select few and their teams are fortunate to qualify to play for a national championship at whatever age level – boys, girls, sled hockey, and all those things run through USA Hockey. To have to cancel that and not finish the season is really difficult. And frankly, it’s difficult for our volunteers and for our staff. I mean, people work for two years at a time to prepare to host a national championship. So that’s just agonizing. For the kids and the families and the coaches and the volunteers who put so much time into trying to get to that end-of-season tournament or national championship, no one wants to have the season finished without the chance to play it out at the end."
"In the midst of the NHL’s suspended season and the global coronavirus pandemic, IIHF president Rene Fasel spoke with The Hockey News’ owner and publisher W. Graeme Roustan via email about how the IIHF is dealing with the short- and long-term plans of a global shutdown and addresses rumors that Fasel will become the KHL president in the future. Graeme Roustan: Many businesses around the world have shut down their office and have asked their employees to work from home. What is the status for employees at the IIHF? Rene Fasel: The IIHF has instructed all employees to work from home. In order to service our member nations and other stakeholders, all office staff remain reachable via email or telephone, and the organization is fully operational and approachable to all partners and clients. The IIHF office also holds weekly status meetings remotely to ensure that all service to member national associations remains uninterrupted and carefully coordinated between departments. GR: U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson just announced the possibility of a six-month lockdown. Is the IIHF and its member countries prepared for a six-month or more lockdown? RF: With the cancellation of the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, the 2020 international hockey season is closed. Most of the IIHF’s office work will revolve around preparing for next season. The IIHF council will be in close contact with our membership as we determine the feasibility of holding the 2020 annual congress at an appropriate time. But the situation with the coronavirus is very fluid. We hope, as does the rest of the world, that this pandemic is over as soon as possible, but we are doing our best to prepare for a long-term lockdown. GR: Many pundits are now talking about the COVID-19 causing a six-, 12- or 18-month shutdown of the economy. What effect will a prolonged shutdown cause for the game of hockey around the world? RF: It would be very difficult. A long-term shutdown would drastically affect the revenues of clubs and leagues, both in Europe and around the world. This incident occurred at the tail end of the club season, meaning that almost all leagues missed out on significant revenue from the playoff stage. It is tough to predict what kind of impact the pandemic will have on corporations and organizations that act as sponsors for ice hockey teams, leagues and clubs. A lot of small-market teams operate on very tight budgets, and for them, a prolonged shutdown would be a serious obstacle to overcome. GR: Social distancing is the best prevention from spreading the COVID-19 and many other viruses. Does the IIHF and member countries believe that people will flock back to arenas where up to 20,000 people are packed into an arena to watch hockey? RF: We follow the WHO and CDC guidelines for mass gatherings and countries follow the social-distancing rules that are in place. There will be a time that fans will be able to return to arenas around the world, and we look forward to that day as long as it respects the rules and guidelines in place. I think that as long as it is deemed to be safe from a medical perspective, there is nothing that would prevent fans from returning to the arenas. Sport is a big part of our social fabric, and I believe that fans would want to get out and enjoy it as soon as it is possible to do so. GR: As president of the IIHF, you are the head of all international hockey, which includes the Olympics. What are your top priorities at this time of the COVID-19 virus? RF: Together with the IIHF Council, we are evaluating the impact of the cancellation of the World Championship on our membership. The revenue generated by this tournament goes back into our championship program each year and is needed to support the 30-plus other IIHF tournaments that we operate each year in the various men’s and women’s’ categories." "Fortunately, the IIHF is insured against such a force majeure cancellation of the World Championship, and we are now in the process of preparing a report for the insurance company. GR: Athletes around the world have always been focused on their health and safety. What will the IIHF do to protect the health and safety of potential NHL players participating in future Olympics? RF: The IIHF Medical Committee includes members that have extensive experience working with NHL players, such as our volunteer chief medical officer, Dr. Mark Aubry, who is also the team physician for the Ottawa Senators and president of the Team Physician Society of the NHL. We have always coordinated closely with the NHL to promote player health and safety and would continue to do so. GR: Up until recently, the discussion of NHL players going to the 2022 Olympics in China was primarily around money and insurance. What will the main points be now after this pandemic that began in China? RF: I think that player health and safety is and always has been an important discussion. We have had instances in the past at our World Championship and Olympics where a player or team official reported a flu or other illness that caused us to take immediate precautionary measures, for example avoiding handshakes after a game. We also ensure that we follow our prevention of infection guidelines that we give all organizers before their championship. We will also be developing further rules of infection prevention following this outbreak. Our medical committee is in close communication with the WHO, CDC and other medical committees from other sports organizations as well as international medical organizations in order to always be ready to adopt the best practices to ensure player health and safety. GR: The NHL will more than likely halt all pre-season and regular-season games anywhere outside of Canada and the U.S., something the IIHF was never happy with. Does the IIHF prefer if the NHL stay home? RF: I wouldn’t say that exactly, we are a big hockey family and the fans love when they can see their NHL players play at home. I believe there were some concerns at first over whether these games would interfere with European league operations, but it has not been the case. GR: The KHL could not survive financially if it were not for the oligarchs, and the Russian Ice Hockey Federation is supported by the Russian government. Is the IIHF concerned that some of the small countries who’ve been impacted most by this pandemic, like Italy and Spain, will allocate their resources away from hockey? RF: I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this is an existential crisis for small-market teams. It’s not only ice hockey but all sports that are suffering now. These are tough times, but we will get through this. Even if the money is not there, the passions of our members will stay strong. That passion, rather than money, is what pushed them to work to grow the game within their countries in the first place. GR: You were to step down from being president of the IIHF in September and rumors are that you will become the commissioner of the KHL. How does this global health crisis impact these plans? RF: I like the rumors, ha ha, but no. I am 100 percent focused on my job as the IIHF president. GR: Today the world is looking to its leaders for answers to what should we all do and how can we get through this global pandemic. As the leader of millions of people in the hockey and sports world, what is your message that you want everyone to hear? I want to keep it simple: stay home, listen to the experts, and stay healthy! We have to set aside sport for now and focus on the greater good. GR: Millions of people around the world are self-isolated. Where are you and how are you and your family doing? Other than an occasional trip to the office by me to get status updates, we are staying home. Our family moved recently and are now using the time to settle in."