ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — French official Luc Tardif was elected president of the International Ice Hockey Federation on Saturday ahead of the return of NHL players to the Olympics in February.

Tardif, who was born and raised in Canada, beat German candidate Franz Reindl by 67 votes to 39 in the fourth round of the election. Tardif has been president of the French hockey federation since 2006 and was involved in the IIHF's negotiations with the NHL.

Tardif said his short-term priority is overseeing the hockey tournaments for next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing. It will be the first Olympics with NHL players since 2014 after the league did not release players for the last edition of the Winter Games in South Korea in 2018.

“That’s not completely done, because now we’re working and we try to study, what the protocol will be in China, do the go-between and give the information to the NHL, NHLPA,” Tardif said. “The most part of the discussion is when will be the deadline, because with COVID, we never know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

The agreement with the NHL allows the league or players to withdraw if there's a coronavirus outbreak before the Olympics, or if the virus situation in general takes a turn for the worse. Tardif said national teams "should maybe prepare a Plan B in case the NHL is not coming because of COVID,” but that he expected NHL players to be there, with final confirmation likely in mid-December.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called to congratulate Tardif. Putin pledged “further fruitful cooperation” between Russia and the IIHF in a separate message of congratulations.

“I sincerely wish you, Mr. Tardif, success, good health and prosperity,” Putin wrote. Russia won the men's gold medal at the 2018 Olympics and is hosting the 2023 men's IIHF world championships.

Tardif is the first French president of the IIHF since Louis Magnus, who founded the federation in 1908.

Tardif replaces Rene Fasel, who did not run for re-election after 27 years in office. Fasel, of Switzerland, is a dentist and former amateur player and referee who worked to bring NHL players to the Olympics for the first time in Nagano, Japan, in 1998.

Fasel was widely seen as an ally of Russia in the sports world and was a prominent critic of stopping Russian athletes and teams competing under their flag and anthem at the Olympics as a result of doping-related disciplinary measures. The four-day IIHF congress in Russia was an extended tribute to Fasel, who had an exhibition game played in his honor and was inducted into the federation's hall of fame.


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