With the first day of the World Hockey Summit wrapped up one thing is certain – there’s sure to be a lot more great discussion about moving the game forward. I knew heading into the summit there was going to be insightful analysis of the game at an global level and there certainly was no shortage of that. With representation from all bodies of hockey the first day’s hot stoves were not only informative but the discussion revolved around finding solutions to the issues raised. Steve Yzerman and Hayley Wickenhesier were amongst the panelists that were driving some very positively oriented discussion.
One of the main issues was fostering grass roots hockey not just in North American cities that aren’t known hockey markets but across the world in hockey nations that are slowly emerging as international top tier contenders. For this I’ve always pointed to the grass roots efforts and tactics that the Dallas Stars have implemented to create a hockey market from the junior level to the senior level in Texas of all places. This was actually the very same example of success that Steve Yzerman gave as the panel’s consensus was loud and clear that senior hockey needs to invest in establishing the appropriate infrastructure for the junior level to thrive and flourish.
Two of the other remaining hot stoves featured an animated Brian Burke who as always provided some good quotes and covered the player agent relationship and it’s benefit to young players’ careers as well as the relationship between the NHL and the transfer of European Players to North America. The talks about European transfer brought to light the fact that the NHL and the IIHF are far from establishing a collective transfer agreement, however it did shed some light on the NHL’s attempts to work with international federations. Bill Daly mentioned the NHL has relationships in place with the hockey federations of Finland, Sweden, Slovakia, Germany and Denmark and that they are making progress in establishing a working relationship with other countries so as to avoid another Radulov-like situation in the future. For interests sake, the deals in place with the NHL and the aforementioned countries are to the tune of a $225,000 player development fee paid to each country’s federation for the transfer of any player to North America and the NHL. This is with regard to transfers of players no longer under contractual obligation to European teams.
The hockey discussion wouldn’t be complete without a look at the successes of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and the focus was on rink size. For the first time in history the Olympics were played on NHL sized ice and we saw the game work with international rules on smaller ice surface for two weeks. The question asked was whether standardizing the game globally was important and after getting the input of Daniel Alfredsson who enjoyed the smaller rink during the Olympics, Bob McCown raised an interesting point which to me made a lot of sense. Players are getting bigger. The desired player size is growing and players are getting bigger and stronger. The game has to grow with the players and for the sake of the game it makes sense to move to a larger sized rink if even gradually.
The other hot topic of the first day was the look at the women’s game. This was a discussion I was really looking forward to and it didn’t disappoint with Hayley Wickenheiser leading the discussion with insightful perspective and suggestions to growing the game. The consensus was that the women’s game needs to be supported and developed. Hayley was spot on when she said “The loss of women’s hockey at the Olympics would effect the game globally”. She also shed light on the fact that the IIHF is planning on investing more money into the development of the women’s game in the near future and that this sudden attention to the female side of the sport we love is going to lead to positive change.
With the first day under our belt there’s a lot to look forward to during the rest of the week. Let me know if you have any questions and we’ll table whatever we can.