QUEBEC CITY – There’s star power on and off the ice at this tournament. Even European royalty, in the form of Prince Albert II of Monaco, is enjoying the great hockey action we’ve seen so far.
The son of Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, and Grace, Princess of Monaco (née Grace Kelly, a legendary Philadelphia-born film actress), gained his rulership in 2005, and is known as an avid sportsman. His Serene Highness graciously granted IIHF.com an interview during the second intermission of Sunday’s Czech Republic vs Russia game.
“You know, René Fasel had talked to me about the World Championship here, and I knew I had to be in Quebec and Montreal around these dates,” said the Prince. “So I said: ‘Well, can I come over and watch a game?’ And here I am. I was at the World Championship in Moscow last year as well, and it’s great to be at these big events, these international competitions. This is a very special one here in Quebec, because it’s the 100th anniversary of the IIHF and the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City. Both Quebec and Canada have a very strong tradition in hockey, as powerhouses in this sport. I’m happy to pay my respects.”
The Prince participates in everything from tennis and swimming to handball and fencing. He has a particular passion for winter sports. In fact, he represented Monaco in bobsleighing at five straight Winter Olympics between 1988 and 2002. It’s no wonder he’s developed a taste for hockey as well.
“Over the years, I’ve been watching different games in France, Europe, and at the Olympics,” he said. “I was also a student in the United States, and I saw the Rangers play a few times, as well as the Flyers, because part of my family is from Philadelphia. Perhaps I shouldn’t talk about the Flyers too much today, because they beat the Canadiens last night! I also watched the Flames play in Calgary many times. Because of bobsleighing, I was in Calgary a couple of times a year.”
The Prince’s personal favourites in hockey are based on his family background and appreciation for pure skill.
“Because my family is from Philadelphia, I’ve always followed the Flyers a little more intensely than other clubs. As for players, I had the chance to see Wayne Gretzky play a few times in his day. He was an incredible player, with incredible talent and charisma. I would also say I remember watching Slava Fetisov play. He’s now the Russian Minister of Sport, but he was an incredibly talented player too.”
Have these great examples inspired him to give hockey a try himself?
“I’ve done a little skating around with friends, but just in informal pickup games. I can’t say I’ve put pads and helmets on in an organized fashion. But it’s a great game. It’s so fast and intense. It can be rough too, but that’s part of the sport. No sport is risk-free. You just have to be responsible when you play.”
Prince Albert appreciates the relationships he’s developed within the sports world, and that certainly includes the current IIHF President.
“I really enjoy my friendship with René Fasel. He’s not only a likeable person in terms of his character, but I think he’s one of the great international sports figures today. He’s really done incredible work with the IIHF, and I congratulate him on that. He’s brought this sport to a very prominent position. Also, his work as an IOC member is very, very significant.”
As a longtime IOC member himself, the Prince’s focus is squarely on the next Summer Games coming up in August. His duties within the IOC will soon change, but his passion remains the same.
“I’m looking forward to the Olympic Games in Beijing. It’s been a long, hard road to get there. But I’m sure the situation will calm down and we will have an exceptional Olympics. I’m still, for a few more weeks, the vice-chairman of the Athletes’ Commission on the IOC. I’m giving that up after the Beijing Games. I’ll no longer be on any of the other IOC commissions due to lack of time. I have too many commitments that keep me in Monaco or keep me busy otherwise. So I can’t spend as much time or be as available for the meetings that the IOC commissions require. I’ll still be involved as much as I can as an IOC member to help the Olympic movement.”