French hockey official Luc Tardif elected IIHF president

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- 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.

"I have only my determination, my crazy passion for this sport, my sense of teamwork, my respect for the people and my honesty to offer," Tardif said. "Believe me, I will do everything to be at the level of your expectation."

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 IIHF world championships.

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

The new president's first 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 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.

Tardif replaces Rene Fasel, who did not run for reelection 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.