August 27, 2010
For the second week in a row, Toronto was the center of the hockey news world. A week after holding the NHL's Research & Development Orientation camp, the head honchos of the hockey world gathered to discuss the state of the game, but mostly fight battles through the media via an on-stage microphone.
If you didn't catch any of the news coming out of the World Hockey Summit, you didn't miss much. This wasn't expected to be a groundbreaking meeting of the leaders of the hockey world, but one would think we should be able to take away ideas and believe that what went on in Toronto was entirely worth it.
During the 1999 Open Ice Summit involving NHL, NHLPA, CHL, and Hockey Canada members, the participants left there with 11 recommendations for Hockey Canada to implement throughout all of the levels of hockey in the country.
Unlike what happened in 1999, nothing concrete came out of the 2010 World Hockey Summit, but we did learn five things of varying degrees of importance.
1. The "NHL going to Sochi" discussion will now take a break until someone writes another article about it - next season's All-Star break sound good?
We heard every side of the debate while the Vancouver Olympics were going on this past February and with leaders from around the global hockey community gathered in Toronto for four days this week, the topic was once again front and center. Everyone dusted off their World Cup/Olympic tournament ideas that they wrote in February and re-presented them this week, but now that the season is around the corner, it's time to put those away for a few months. Once the All-Star Game break rolls around in January, that's when the "The NHL should hold a mid-season World Cup instead of the All Star Game!" discussion will fire up before once again disappearing until we finally reach the day when a decision needs to be made.
Bottom line, at the moment: everything is talk and bluster. No real decision will be made about Sochi anytime soon. NHL players going to Sochi will be a key point in the next labor negotiations, so in the meantime, Gary Bettman will continue to shy away from planting his flag on one side until the day comes when the NHLPA and NHL must circle "yes" or "no" before passing the note back to IIHF President Rene Fasel and International Olympic Committee.
2. If you're an NHL prospect hoping to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs, do not allow your parents to be your agent.
Brian Burke made that pretty clear on Monday, during the opening day of the Summit, telling the crowd that parents are poor at judging the true talents of a player. Kind of makes you wonder what would have happened if Burke was a GM in the NHL in 1991 when Eric Lindros and his parents, Carl and Bonnie, were making noise.
3. Television and more rinks will help hockey grow - but what about costs?
During a panel on Tuesday featuring Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, Team Canada women's team captain Hayley Wickenheiser, former NHLers and current German national team coach Uwe Krupp, the subject of growing the game globally was discussed. Yzerman and Krupp both said that watching games on television helped get them into hockey. Both also said that need for more rinks will help reach young kids to get them involved in the sport.
What was touched on, but unfortunately not harped on, was the rising costs of being able to afford to have a kid play hockey. From the price of equipment to renting ice time to the numerous hours of traveling to games and tournaments, some families just cannot afford to do it. Thousands of dollars go towards helping little Johnny and Jill play hockey in hopes that that investment can pay off with a professional career. The chances of that are obviously slim and that's an easy way to discourage parents from advancing their children in the game or even getting them involved in the first place.
4. Rene Fasel will fight ... for Europe's right ... to hockey!
"Try to come. Good luck," were the words from IIHF president Rene Fasel on Tuesday when the topic of the NHL taking up real estate in Europe was discussed.
No, NHL, don't you dare think of starting up a sponsored-league or a division in Europe.
The IIHF president, whose job it is to help grow the game of hockey worldwide, telling one of its members to stay in their own sandbox -- someone's a bit scared of their organization potentially being marginalized, no?
5. The next World Hockey Summit should be more about progress than about negotiating.
The NHL R&D Camp held last week in Toronto was a good thing for this reason: even though it was a bunch of ideas thrown against a wall to see what may or may not work in the league, it was useful to potentially better the game in the long-run and open up the minds of those within the game about new ideas. Out of all of the numerous types of changes that were seen at the R&D Camp, maybe one or two could be implemented in the NHL within five years, and that's okay, because the entire camp provoked fresh discussion about making the game better.
The World Hockey Summit was a weeklong negotiation on various topics that have been discussed to death with a lack of progress on many fronts. No one should have been expecting breaking news or agreements set in stone, but those poor souls who decided to pay $450 to attend the weeklong event to sit alongside hockey media and listen in should have gotten more bang for their buck.
It was four-days of various "states of the union" and nothing else. As CBC's Jeff Marek pointed out, the only "progress" made during the Summit was the IIHF's Murray Costello announcing a $2 million (pending approval) of the organization's money towards helping women's hockey. And like Hayley Wickenheiser said during her panel on women's hockey, money will help, but it's up to the individual hockey federations to spend money to grow the game within their own countries and in turn, that will aid the women's game in global growth.
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The idea of getting together the world's hockey leaders is a terrific one and really should happen annually or bi-annually. Ideas will be floated. Debates will be had. Brainstorming will take place.
That's what should have happened this week. Instead we had more Olympic bluster; more NHL/KHL posturing; a CHL/NCAA discussion not involving new College Hockey Inc. leader Paul Kelly; and aside from the IIHF's sizeable donation, nothing to build on to further the women's game around the world.
But hey, at least there was free beer.