Well, it's upon us. The World Hockey Summit at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario starts tonight and runs through Wednesday. They've brought in many of the leaders of the hockey world (and snubbed guys like Paul Kelly of College Hockey Inc.) to try and map out a future for the game over the next four years and beyond. The real meat of the discussion will begin tomorrow and continue Wednesday with sessions on each of the following topics:
- Player Skill Development Initiatives
- Junior Development in the World
- Vancouver 2010 Evaluation
- Establishing a Long-Term Global Event Agenda
- Women's Hockey after Vancouver 2010
- Growing Participation in Hockey
I'll touch on these topics in a post later tonight, but first off there will be a hot stove session at the HHOF tonight, with four half-hour sessions devoted to some more specific issues. I'm going to give some space for those discussion topics here.
1. Contracts and Transfers
Moderator: Bob McKenzie, TSN Panelists: Rene Fasel, IIHF President; Bill Daly, NHL Vice-President; Vyacheslav Fetisov, KHL Chairman; Roman Stoykewych, NHLPA Sr. Legal Counsel
Contract and transfer disputes, mainly between the National Hockey League and the Kontinental Hockey League, have made main headlines since the Radulov -case. This prompted the IIHF to rewrite its transfer regulations in 2009 to prevent such cases. The absence of a collective transfer agreement between the NHL and the IIHF affiliated leagues creates many challenges for the player movement process at the senior levels of the game. - World Hockey Summit Webpage
This is the star issue of the night for sure. There has been progress made on the transfer front this year... Sweden and Finland each signed transfer agreements with the NHL for their leagues. But there hasn't been any substantial discussion between the KHL and NHL for a while, just a kind of truce established to not poach each other's players while under contract. KHL teams currently get no compensation for developing players for the NHL, and they honestly don't seem to mind the current situation. However, this is clearly an issue for the players themselves. We're seeing more and more Russian junior players try their hands in the Canadian Hockey League to escape their KHL teams in order to facilitate a NHL career. For the players that decide not to leave Russia at age 16 or 17, they have limited options, as often their KHL contracts aren't up for re-negotiation until they hit their 20s. Stoykewych's presence is probably the key one here... while Daly and Fetisov might play nice, Stoykewych's constituency is the one with the most to lose from the current situation. I don't expect Fasel to pick a side in this debate, though this would turn interesting if he did.
2. Agents' Role in Working With Young Players
Moderator: Jim Hughson, CBC Panelists: Pat Brisson, NHLPA agent; Don Meehan, NHLPA agent; Brian Burke, General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs
Most European federations, leagues and clubs feel that agents lure young players from their junior clubs and make them available for CHL clubs. This in turn depletes the European system any many of those European players may not develop in the CHL. There is a general feeling that some agents misinform the players and parents and receive money from the CHL for the transfers. - WHS website
With this topic, and this panel, does anyone expect anything to come from this issue? Where are representatives of the European federations? Where are the ex-players? Talk about a softball panel for a topic with heavy emotional and financial stakes invested. The topic summary also doesn't mention the NCAA-CHL battle, and as the Western College Hockey Blog points out, this whole issue seems to be more lip service to the issue, glossing it over for a pro-CHL agenda. If this is the best panel they could come up with, I don't see the point in even discussing the question. That being said, the description provided by the WHS seems to just take one aspect of the subject, not the whole area of involvement agents can have with young players. Certainly, there is room in this discussion for some interesting things to come out... just not about what the WHS is promoting.
3. State of the Game
Moderator: Greg Millen, CBC Panelists: Steve Yzerman, GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning; Don Baizley, NHLPA agent; Hayley Wickenheiser, Captain of Canadian National Women's Team; Uwe Krupp, Head Coach of German National Men's Team
North American and International hockey are currently engaged in similar discussions about the game – should we target new markets or countries for growth or should we first take care of business where hockey is popular? Often the discussion in the National Hockey League is about Canadian cities vs. the U.S. market place. While the IIHF isn’t sure what to target; deal with developmental challenges in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany or try to establish hockey in Spain, Great Britain or Greece. Where should we go? - WHS Website
Well, we obviously know how Krupp is going to answer the final question, but it's an interesting one to be sure. Germany is, in my eyes, the largest single growth market for the sport in the world, and certainly we don't want traditional top nations like the Czech Republic and Slovakia to lag behind. There needs to be a common strategy for central Europe moving forward, and I think Germany's wealth and huge population combined with the Czech Republic and Slovakia's tremendous hockey history has some real potential in stabilizing and growing the game in Europe's heartland. In turn, I think that strategy could stimulate nations like France, Great Britain, and Italy to invest in their hockey programs. A popular sport in Germany is more likely to be taken seriously by those wealthy nations than the current, very sporadic popularity of hockey is today in Europe.
As for the old fashioned NHL debate of Canada vs. US expansion, well... from a global point of view, you have to favour US expansion. But that's not really a debate of concern here... I've probably said too much with that little tidbit.
4. Comparison of the North American and International Game
Moderator: Paul Romanuk, Eurosport Panelists: Bob McCown, Host of Prime Time Sports (radio); Glenn Healey, CBC; Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators captain
In the wake of the Vancouver Olympic competition conducted on North American ice surface, age old questions have been raised. What game is better for the fans? Is the international ice surface more conducive to a skating and passing game? How do the fans describe the game played on the smaller ice surface? - WHS website
"North American" is a weird term here, considering the NCAA tries to play on international ice surfaces, but I digress. I personally like that there are two different ice surfaces that are widely acceptable, and actually feel the size of the rink shouldn't even be regulated. I'd love a NHL where the old Boston Garden rink size went up against someone on a huge international (or larger, even) surface, much like how the MLB doesn't have strict dimensions for their ballparks. Smaller surfaces generally do carry more physical play, and most of the game's speed comes from having to make quick reactions. They've got a pretty good panel for this one, although I'm still not sure what McCown's knowledge consists of on the subject. Romanuk has an impressive resumé of covering the game at both the NHL and international level, so his questions will be of some interest. I don't expect anything to come from this, but it could be entertaining.
And just think: You could be part of the audience for these discussions for the low, low price of $150! Yeah, just discuss it here instead. It'll probably have as much impact on the game going forward.