— Published 22 December 2021

FrancsJeux awards: Luc Tardif, the newcomer of the year (3)

The Olympic years are often conducive to palace revolutions. Heads change. History moves on. Despite the postponement of the Tokyo Games by one year, 2021 was no exception.

The Olympic movement has welcomed the departure of a handful of international federation or continental association presidents over the past twelve months. For the most part, they have stepped down on their own initiative. In this category, the Swiss René Fasel in ice hockey (IIHF) and Gian Franco Kasper in skiing (FIS), the German Thomas Weikert in table tennis (ITTF), the Spaniard Jose Perurena in canoeing (ICF) and the Uruguayan Julio César Maglione in swimming (FINA).

Among the newcomers, the FrancsJeux jury chose Luc Tardif. The French-Canadian, elected last September as IIHF president, received 37% of the votes. Enough to beat the four other nominees: the Swede Johan Eliasch, new president of the FIS (International Ski Federation); the South African Patrice Motsepe, elected president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF); the Swede Petra Sörling, first woman to head the ITTF; the Finnish Emma Terho, new president of the IOC Athletes’ Commission.

By his own admission, Luc Tardif was not the favourite to succeed René Fasel, who had been in office for 27 years. The former professional ice hockey player, originally from Trois-Rivières in Quebec, who has lived in France for more than 40 years, told FrancsJeux during the campaign: “I wasn’t keen at first. But I was asked to be a candidate. I didn’t want to stay in the waiting room. I wanted to be an actor.”

After four rounds of voting, his boldness paid off. Luc Tardif beat his final rival, the German Franz Reindl, by 67 votes to 39. The German was nevertheless presented as the favourite, because he was supported by the Russian clan and nominated by René Fasel. He also had the home advantage, as the IIHF’s elective congress was being held in St Petersburg.

Aged 68, Luc Tardif has built a career as a player and then as a sports leader without ever trying to force the pace. A former player who played in Canada at university, then in the Netherlands, Belgium and France (Chamonix and Rouen), he became the first ever president of the French Ice Hockey Federation in 2006, after the sport left the French Ice Sports Federation (FFSG).

Two years later, he joined the international body within the competitions committee. Then he joined the IIHF Council in 2012. Before taking the presidential seat, he had been the treasurer for five years.

Asked about his career path on the evening of his victory in the election for the IIHF presidency, Luc Tardif explained without getting carried away: “Like in anything else, you put one foot in front of the other and, little by little, you make yourself known.

Appointed Chef de Mission of the French delegation to the Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games, Luc Tardif will be in a completely different position for the next Olympic event. The soon to be official announcement of the NHL’s decision not to release its players will complicate his task. He had hoped to take advantage of their presence to boost the practice of ice hockey in China, and more widely on the Asian continent. He will have to do without. But the French-Canadian is not a man to let a first hard blow get him down.