COLOGNE – The World Hockey Summit took shape at a Sunday press conference with members of the steering committee for the August 23-27, 2010 event in Toronto, Canada. Also, IIHF president René Fasel hailed the success of the 2010 IIHF World Championship.
On hand for the World Hockey Summit announcement were IIHF General Secretary Horst Lichtner, Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson, and USA Hockey Executive Director Dave Ogrean. Other partners involved in the World Hockey Summit include the NHL, Canadian Hockey League, and Molson Coors Breweries.
The idea for the summit originally came up in the fall of 2009 when Fasel approached Lichtner during the lead-up to the Vancouver Olympics, and discussed the importance of sharing and enhancing global hockey knowledge.
The event will take place at the Sheraton Center Toronto, adjacent to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Registration and an opening event that celebrates hockey will take place on August 23, followed by seminars, presentations, and discussions from August 24 to 26. August 27 will be departure day.
Cost for participants, representing every level of hockey, will be approximately $450 CDN (not including accommodations). A web site, WorldHockeySummit.com, will launch June 1, with details on registration and media accreditation, as well as a chance for fans and others to voice their opinions on what should be on the agenda.
As Lichtner outlined, six major topics are scheduled at present.
First, player safety and skill initiatives. Second, junior development worldwide, ranging from the crisis with reduced talent in European junior leagues to heightening the popularity of the World Juniors. Third, evaluating the Vancouver Olympic experience, looking at issues like NHL Olympic participation, rink size, rule book differences, and using international referees in the NHL and NHL officials in IIHF competitions. Fourth, establishing a workable long-term schedule for international events like the Olympics, Worlds, and World Cup of Hockey. Fifth, growing the women's game worldwide, particularly outside Canada and the USA. (“[IOC president] Jacques Rogge has given us strong advice to improve the competitiveness,” said Lichtner.) Sixth, international financial issues between leagues and federations, such as respecting contracts, free agency, and transfer governance.
“Hockey Canada is very excited about the summit,” said Nicholson. “The key in all of this is the player. If you want to talk about hockey, you should be in Toronto in August.”
Nicholson reminisced about the 1999 summit that was held in Toronto after Canada failed to medal at the '98 Winter Games in Nagano. “I thought it was probably the best platform to improve our game,” he said. “Over the last ten years, we've changed our youth hockey development toward more skill development, more practices versus games, mentorship programs, and so on.”
In other news, Nicholson said that Hockey Canada has an agreement with the IIHF that Canada will not apply to host the IIHF World Championship until sometime after 2021. This relates to Canada's scheduled hosting of the World Juniors in 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2021, and the World Women's Championship in 2013, 2016, and 2020.
Ogrean noted that USA Hockey staged the first world hockey summit in Cambridge, Massachusetts in August 1993, followed by a 1995 edition in Boston. Key participants included legendary international coaches like Anatoli Tarasov and Dave King.
“It is an opportunity where we get to listen to our peers and we are forced to listen to our public,” said Ogrean. “We have to be very open-minded about how we can get better.”
After the World Hockey Summit discussion, it was time for IIHF President René Fasel to take the stage along with World Championship organizers. Those on hand included Stefan Locher, the head of the Cologne local organizing committee and the managing director of Lanxess Arena; Bruno Marty, the executive director of winter sports for Infront; Uwe Harnos, organizing committee president and president of the German Ice Hockey Association; Franz Reindl, general secretary of the 2010 IIHF World Championship; and Henner Ziegfeld, organizing committee spokesman and deputy general secretary.
“This World Championship was one of the best-organized, and it was really exceptional here,” said Fasel. “I'd like to compliment the German organizers. The players are our first priority in this event, and we have to give them the best in playing venues, practices, accommodations, and transportation.”
Fasel cited the opening USA-Germany game in Gelsenkirchen, which drew a world-record 77,803 spectators to Veltins Arena, as a major plus: “We had an unbelievable event, a big celebration for the start. This momentum went through the whole tournament.”
Numbers for the tournament are impressive. A final attendance figure of 545,000 (334,000 in Cologne alone) is expected, just shy of the all-time record set in the Czech Republic in 2004 (552,097). The German team alone attracted some 210,000 fans.
And the whole world has been watching. When all the numbers come in, a cumulative worldwide audience of 650 million is expected, with 70 broadcasters covering more than 100 countries and territories. In Germany, the Germany-Switzerland quarterfinal peaked at over 3 million TV viewers. In Sweden, Tre Kronor's games have averaged 680,000 viewers.
Fasel said that while he has not assigned a fixed date by which the NHL and NHLPA need to commit to 2014 Olympic participation in Sochi, Russia, by mid-2012 the IIHF will need to know their intentions so that the Canadian and American federations can begin their team planning process. “I know that after Vancouver, the players want to go to Sochi, and I really expect them to be there,” said Fasel.