World hockey chief criticizes politicians' interference

MOSCOW -- The president of the International Ice Hockey Federation blasted Canadian politicians Thursday for making the country's hockey officials explain the selection of Shane Doan as team captain at the hockey world championships.

"It's totally unacceptable that politicians should interfere with things like the selection of a national team's captain," IIHF president Rene Fasel said.

Canadian ice hockey federation president Bob Nicholson, chairman Rene Marcil and senior director Brad Pascall were to appear Thursday before Canada's House of Commons' Official Languages Committee.

Canada's opposition parties questioned the choice of Doan because of allegations he uttered an ethnic slur at French-speaking officials during a 2005 NHL game between the Phoenix Coyotes and the Montreal Canadiens. An investigation by the NHL found no evidence he used any slur. It has been suggested it may have been made by another player.

New Democrat Party leader Jack Layton suggested that Doan's captaincy would "cast a shadow on [Canada's] participation on the international stage."

Fellow opposition party Bloc Quebecois said it was disrespectful to French Canadians.

Doan has said he would step down as captain of Canada if asked to, but the Canadian federation remains steadfast in support of the Coyotes forward.

"As the president of the IIHF, I express strong disapproval of political interference in something that is an obvious sports issue and decision," Fasel added.

Doan was part of Canada's gold medal-winning team at the 2003 and 2004 world championships.

He is suing former sports minister Denis Coderre, contending that he falsely accused him of saying the slur to referee Stephane Auger. Doan also wants Coderre to make a public retraction.

Fasel backed Doan's selection as Canada's captain.

"It's a shame that a classy person and role model like Shane Doan should be at the center of this attention," Fasel said. "Instead of questioning Doan's character, all Canadians, including the politicians, should be proud of a player that always answers the call from Hockey Canada."