Thursday, June 17, 2010

World Hockey Summit Situation

It was announced on Wednesday that Daniel Alfredsson would lead up the leadership team for the Molson Canadian World Hockey Summit, which will be held in Toronto in August 23rd through the 26th. Alfredsson will be alongside Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, women's hockey pioneer Hayley Wickenheiser, and Lightning GM Steve Yzerman. Two Canadians, an American, and a Swede. Not exactly the world, but that's neither here nor there. The whole agenda will be on growing and developing the game in every facet on every level.

Topics include skill development in younger players, what can be grown off of the 2010 Men's Olympic Games, development amongst juniors while comparing the North American and European way of developing players, and long-term agenda when it comes to world tournaments through the IIHF. However, the two topics that I'm interested in learning from will be on the development of women's hockey and the growth of participation of the game.

For the women's hockey, the key will be on what's going to happen with the development of the game. Jacques Rogge of the IOC demanded that women's hockey needed to get better or else it may see it's demise in the Olympics. While it's an obvious statement-- seeing as how Canada and the US are dominate in that field; the other countries don't seem to be developing as quickly. While Sweden did have a glimmer of hope for a second, they seemed to have decline a bit over the years; which makes it really a two-team race through and through. However, I don't know how much the other countries will be willing to give to their women's national teams. Plus, with really not many options after college; the desire to actually give money for the glass ceiling of sport is something most Olympic contingents won't be keen on giving to when they can be distributed somewhere else. While there are two professional leagues in Canada, the publicity and development of them is something that seem to be suspect at best. The suggests that come out of it will be interesting, as will the reaction by some of these competiting nations when it comes to developing their programs in one way or another.

The other topic about participation is something that is going to be probably one where lay-people will be concerned and intrigued about. Hockey, for the most part, is one of the most expensive sports at the youth level. Outside of the equipment; parents have to deal with rink fees, league fees, and traveling around the residing areas to worry about. With the tough economic times, most of the people can't afford to deal with all of that; therefore while a kid can be put into hockey-- the longevity of their career may be short lived. Plus, with all the gear becoming more and more high-tech, the price tag will continue to go higher, rather than leveling out to affordability. Those that do move on have to deal with the competitive nature of travel teams, high school teams, junior teams, or college teams; which some may or may not lose the zest for the game if they get cut one too many times. While North America and some of Europe won't be a problem, I'm sure that many would like a deeper depth pool from all around the world and maybe find a gem in the last place thought of. Yet, that gem may not be able to deal with the pricing of it-- which I noted earlier.

While the idea of the summit is solid, the fact of the matter is that most of the public will be concerned mostly with the safety of the game and the development of the game. Other issues like transfers and most levels of hockey aren't going to be a hot-button issue outside of the fandom portion of people's psyche. The development and growth are going to be what people will practically thing about it, especially those who want to put or keep their kids into hockey. Plus, while the leadership doesn't have too much diversity; the panelist and representitives of the NHL, IIHF, Canadian Hockey League, and plenty more will give a nice variety of ideas-- or so one would hope. If the rhetoric is the same from each portion, the odds are that not much will get done and we'll be in the same spot when the next summit comes around.

The odd part about this is that media and fans aren't really given much of a voice on the prospective panel of things. You would think for a game who utilizes social networking and rely heavily on the media as much as hockey does-- the voice would be more prevalent and there would be some kind of inclusion of these such ideals rather than leaving them out of panels, while making them pay $450 CDN per person for only 500 people. Especially when most of the issues will be a buzz in the blogospheres and things like that-- maybe they would open up some aspect of their summit to new media. Granted, it's still early in the announcement process for this event; but I won't hold my breath about it.

It's been 11 years since the last summit in 1999, which basically dealt with the Canadian side of things. I guess the ideal of Canada being the end-all be all has leveled out to the believe that other nations may be able to give their two-cents in about all of this. It should be an interesting thing to look forward to, especially to see what, if anything, comes from all of this. If nothing else, it'll give people something to talk about right before the start of NHL training camps in mid-September.

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