TORONTO – The title sponsor is Molson Canadian, the Canadian beer company. The theme is “Global Teamwork Promoting the Growth of the Game.” The participants are the leaders of the game – René Fasel, president of the IIHF; Gary Bettman, commissioner of the NHL; Bob Nicholson, president of Hockey Canada; Dave Ogrean, executive director at USA Hockey; and, many, many others, from NHLPA representatives, to agents, to, of course, the players themselves.
The World Hockey Summit kicks off tonight at the Hockey Hall of Fame with the “Hot Stove Sessions,” a series of four discussion groups attended by fans who are also able to participate. The term “hot stove” came from Foster Hewitt’s radio broadcasts at Maple Leaf Gardens in the 1930s and on, and featured discussions among top journalists during the intermissions about important hockey topics of the day.
And that’s exactly what will be happening tonight. The four broad subjects on the table include: (1) contracts and transfers; (2) the role of agents working with young players; (3) the state of the game; (4) comparing the North American and European game.
There will be four groups situated in different parts of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Each group will discuss a topic for 30 minutes and then move to a different location to discuss the topics in front of another crowd. Naturally, the discussions will evolve over the course of the evening, and fans won’t miss a beat.
The four groups of panelists include: (1) Bill Daly, Alexander Medvedev, René Fasel, Roman Stoykewych, moderated by Bob McKenzie; (2) Brian Burke, Pat Brisson, Don Meehan, moderated by Jim Hughson; (3) Don Baizley, Hayley Wickenheiser, Uwe Krupp, Steve Yzerman, moderated by Greg Millen; (4) Bob McCown, Glenn Healy, Daniel Alfredsson, moderated by Paul Romanuk.
In more detail, the first topic hopes to generate discussion about the coexistence of the KHL in Russia with leagues in Europe and the NHL. To this end, player transfers and a new player transfer agreement will be the front-and-centre theme as executives from around the world try to figure out the often murky waters in which players move overseas or league to league, country to country.
The second topic area promises to be fascinating and important as the role of the agent – something rarely discussed – is highlighted. An agent wants the best for his player-client, but sometimes that means less at first. It means, stay at home and develop, rather than sign a big contract, move to North America and chase the NHL dream at 18 years of age. Some players are able to do this; many are not. An agent is an essential element in this process. Furthermore, the concept of a player signing two contracts with competing teams or leagues will also be considered, since it’s the agent who is in charge of player contracts.
The state of the game is a topic both incredibly relevant and somewhat paradoxical. After all, most hockey fans would agree that the 2009-10 hockey season – in the NHL, Olympics, and Europe – was likely the best season in the history of the game. And yet, challenges remain – costs to play are rising; the U.S. is producing more and more pro players at a time when franchise stability is being questioned; women’s hockey as played between Canada and the United States is wonderful, but among all other nations far less impressive. What can be done to improve the competitive balance? All these issues are pertinent to the “state of the game.”
The last area of discussion will consider the two “kinds” of hockey, that played in North America (i.e., the NHL), and that played in Europe (i.e., IIHF hockey). Is it good to have these two kinds of hockey? Should rules and ice size be exactly the same the world over? How can NHL players compete at the Olympics to the benefit of one and all?
Indeed, the Hot Stove Sessions will be very hot. Much to discuss. The finest minds in the game participating. The game won’t change tomorrow morning as a result of the sessions, but this is a night that can only be construed as good for the game.