In Vancouver we lay witness to one of the best executed Olympics in the history of the games and in a two weeks that at time seemed as if it was scripted like a fairytale we witnessed what Brian Burke referenced today as, “the perfect storm”. Today’s topic of discussion, conversation and debate revolved around international tournaments, specifically the 2010 Olympics that the world just witnessed in Vancouver and the establishment of a potential world hockey agenda.
It was interesting in particular to hear Brian Burke and Ken Holland speak and present both perspectives with little bias considering both have experience as a GM on both the NHL and international sides of the fence. The overwhelming consensus with reference to the games was that they were a huge success. They were successful on not just a financial front both across the world; it was also clear that hockey is growing as a sport to watch. An interesting note from John Furlong was that, after soccer, hockey is the sport of preference internationally and the impact of mens hockey at the Olympics was not seen just in North America as TV ratings set new records but around the world.
Timo Lumme of the IOC gave us a statistical breakdown of the Olympics and his key message shared through statistics was that hockey needs to capitalize on the momentum it has moving forward from the 2010 games. When looking at broadcasting figures it was a tad surprising to find out that the nation that showed the most hours of hockey coverage was Italy (just over 250) with Canada in second (over 110) but the really telling stats came with viewership numbers. It was no surprise that some of the highest average television audiences of the sport at the time came from countries like Canada, Russia, USA and Sweden, but to find out that Great Britain had an average viewership of hockey games at 1.8 million, China over 4 million, South Korea over 2 million, and Poland and Brazil over 1.5 million the message is clear — hockey has established it’s biggest global presence ever. I’ll touch on that in more detail in another post.
The other interesting aspect of the day was a presentation by new Oilers assistant coach Ralph Kreuger. He laid out a presentation with a plan for the establishment of a global hockey agenda that would see the introduction of a four year cycle as a part of a six year plan. It included a World Cup every four years, a World Championship every two years, a World U23 every two years and then of course the Olympics every four years. He revisited bringing back the Victoria Cup which was strongly supported by Alexander Medvedev, president of the KHL and made a strong case for best-on-best tournaments as a part of an international schedule. The session got pretty heated as the day went on. We saw Brian Burke and Glen Healy get into it with some pretty bad shots taken at the Leafs by Healy and it seemed like just about everyone wanted to take on Bill Daly and the NHL as Daly proved again that he’s merely a Gary Bettman clone. Surprisingly the entire conversation it was Medvedev that stayed cool as a cucumber.
The discussion today was a big step forward for the game. The audience for the topics at hand was ideal and with representation of many hockey federations here, over 60 international delegates, and panels with the biggest and most influential names in hockey, today was by far the most gritty day of them all. Tomorrow marks the last day of the summit after several long days of discussion that have covered a lot of ground. Whether we will see change come from the topics discussed here in Toronto remains to be seen. Tomorrow’s talks will be of the most importance as the women’s game needs to be addressed very seriously and that particular aspect of the summit is the one topic which is the most likely to influence change in the sport.