Fighting, Olympic rink talk highlight Day 1

TORONTO -- The first World Hockey Summit opened Monday night at the Hockey Hall of Fame with a series of rotating "hot stove" panel discussions. And while the discussions bogged down at points, here were some of the highlights:

The NHL and Sochi

One topic raised Monday night that will no doubt come up later in the week is who will play in the 2014 Sochi Olympic hockey tournament and what those games will look like.

Glenn Healy, a former NHL goalie and NHLPA executive and now a national broadcaster, warned that the Russians must get serious about the facilities in Sochi. Healy said the arenas in Torino in 2006 were not up to standard and the ice quality was poor because the facilities weren't made for hockey but rather for post-Olympic use as a convention center.

Healy challenged the Sochi organizers to use the proper equipment and build the facilities in a proper fashion.

"The glass has to be right, the boards have to be right," Healy said. And having the "appropriate" people in charge "can't be a buddy of a buddy. It's got to be an expert."

Healy suggested that the NHL's ice man, Dan Craig, be given a role in Sochi.

Later, Toronto GM Brian Burke, who guided the United States to a silver medal in Vancouver, said he wasn't worried at this stage about the infrastructure for 2014. "I'm certainly not anticipating anything today," Burke told ESPN.com.


The topic of fighting briefly came up after Healy acknowledged he was 0-for-6 in his NHL fighting career. Still, he admitted to being a dinosaur and believed there was a place for fighting in the game -- just as a goal or a hit can change the flow of a game, so too can a fight, Healy said.

Broadcaster Bob McCown, neither pro- nor anti-fighting, added an interesting wrinkle, suggesting it's time the NHL gets more in step with other pro sports leagues by ejecting players from games for fighting.

"That's the real point of difference between hockey and every other sport," McCown said.

He suggested the league needs to change the consequences of its players' actions when it comes to fighting.

Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, not much of a fighter, admitted he was shocked when he came to Ottawa in the mid-1990s for his first training camp and saw players fighting "for no reason."

"Were they mad?" he wondered.

Alfredsson said he doesn't mind fighting in the NHL, although he doesn't like the staged fights where players fight "for no reason."

It's a 'sham'

In a discussion about agents, Burke took a shot at the NCAA and rules forbidding student-athletes from having agents.

"[Those rules] frankly they're a sham," Burke said.

The same person who is a family advisor for a college student is the same person that is negotiating a contract for another player, Burke said.

As for rules prohibiting "family advisors" from negotiating with teams, Burke said that rule is routinely ignored. He also noted that if parents think their 14-year-old needs an agent, "You're probably wrong."

Burke added that parents are likely the worst judges of talent and "have no perspective."

The NHL versus the KHL

Some may believe the ongoing ill will between the NHL and the Kontinental Hockey League may stem from a lack of a player transfer agreement, but NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly insisted that's not necessarily the case.

The acrimony has more to do with what Daly called "bedrock" issues of principle, like the KHL honoring existing contracts. Former Nashville forward Alexander Radulov was under contract to the Preds but fled to Russia.

Daly said it's not necessarily the KHL's issue but rather individual teams within the KHL flouting the KHL's rules. He said there has been some improvement in recent months and both sides appear to want to have improved cooperation.

International hockey

During a panel session discussing international hockey, longtime junior hockey manager Sherry Bassin asked whether there was a possibility the Phoenix Coyotes could thrive in Stockholm if they fail in the desert.

Healy said he thinks there may be a future for a European-based NHL team but that it's something that would have to evolve over time.

Alfredsson, meanwhile, brought up a point that will always be at the heart of the NHL expansion argument: What happens to existing elite teams in Sweden, Finland, Germany, Switzerland and other European nations?

The NHL is the most powerful league in the world, so "you can't just say, 'OK, put a team in Stockholm,'" he said.

Bigger surfaces

As for the size of ice surfaces, the theory has been that larger ice surfaces benefit European teams. That has been born out at the Olympics with the Czechs and Swedes winning in Nagano and Turin and Canada winning on the first NHL-sized ice surface at the Games in Vancouver.

But moderator Paul Romanuk pointed out Canada has had a terrific record internationally at the World Championships, exclusively in Europe, while Russia won the World Championships two years ago when the tournament was played in Canada.

Being trained on the big ice surface in Sweden but having excelled on the smaller NHL sheet, Alfredsson had a unique perspective. He said he was skeptical about the Vancouver Games being played on the NHL-sized ice (200 feet by 85 feet) but that those fears proved to be unfounded.

"The Games in Vancouver were unbelievable and I thought the hockey was outstanding," Alfredsson said. "Me personally, I think the smaller rink fits my game."

Another facilities issue was raised by former NHLer Uwe Krupp, who was the coach of the German national team at the Vancouver Olympics and has been involved in German hockey development in recent years. Krupp recalled taking his kids to play in Canadian tournaments, where the rinks were top quality because they were municipally operated.

In many communities, hockey rinks are the focal hub, connected perhaps to tennis courts and swimming pools.

"There's a lot more of that in Canada than there is in the rest of the world," he said.

He said there has been a movement in some European cities to build massive, NHL-style rinks, yet Krupp noted the government in Hungary has taken a different, almost Canadian tack in seeding grassroots hockey.

Krupp said there are 300 small box-like arenas with a few dressing rooms and enough space for a few hundred fans. They don't cost much compared to the 20,000-seat stadiums but service a much broader constituency.

"Buy those boxes and you know that hockey is going to grow there," Krupp predicted. "They will start playing hockey. There'll be more players out of countries that are willing to make those adjustments."