The Malik Report
Prepare for ‘blame the NHL’ talk in earnest as the IIHF will hold a European hockey summit this week
by George Malik on 06/11/12 at 08:58 PM ET
While the European soccer championships are underway, the IIHF has chosen to hold a “hockey summit in Barcelona, Spain from June 12th-14th, and the organization is showing its true colors by calling something a “Hockey Summit” when it’s really all about furthering the organization’s European interests. From their press release about the event:
The beautiful game in Barcelona this week features a puck and some ice instead of grass and a ball as the IIHF gets ready to host the first Hockey Forum primarily dedicated to the development of European hockey.
The stage is set for the biggest meeting of European hockey minds in many years as the IIHF prepares to host delegates from around the world. The Hockey Forum runs Tuesday to Thursday, June 12-14, in Barcelona, and aims to involve all stakeholders in an open discussion.
The primary goals include an open discussion on the current challenges and opportunities primarily in European club ice hockey, notably creating a viable European club competition, but also in how to involve the National Hockey League and its Player’s Association in an effort to grow the game.
The objective is to facilitate the integration of such a tournament into the existing national team schedules and jointly explore way for how the IIHF, the national associations, the leagues and the clubs can all be part of a reformed governance structure.
The decision to host a forum was reached by the IIHF after a hearing with the top-8 European leagues at the end of February.
“We felt that it is time to organize this unique event with all parties who feel they have a stake in ice hockey,” said IIHF President René Fasel. “We want to have an open discussion around some key issues, especially focused on Europe, and to find a common plan about how to go forward.”
I’m guessing that the IIHF may very well adopt the KHL’s position in terms of not only wanting to broker a transfer agreement between European hockey nations and the NHL, but will also suggest that the NHL ought to more “fairly” compensate European countries and leagues (unlike the U.S. or Canada, one “club” team tends to develop players from their childhood until the time that they become professional athletes, so there’s an easier paper trail to follow…The IIHF has never suggested that USA Hockey or Hockey Canada negotiate with the NHL to find a way to help compensate the myriad organizations that help develop North American NHL graduates) by establishing a per-player transfer agreement—which is illegal according to the current NHL collective bargaining agreement—which would force teams and the NHL to pay more for players’ signing rights based upon their estimated talent levels…
And we’re definitely going to hear all sorts of blather about how the NHL continues to loot, pillage and all but burn down poor, innocent European professional leagues that couldn’t possibly have their best financial interests in mind by making such demands, because, if you believe the IIHF, it’s all about sport in Europe, not making money (insert giggling here).
I have no problem with the IIHF doing its best to represent its European members, but the reality of the situation is that it is a European Ice Hockey Federation more than anything else, and, as I learned while following the World Championships, a business entity which makes tens of millions of dollars on the TV cash cow that is broadcasting the Worlds, earning a cut of ticket and merchandise sales, of course controlling web access to the tournament, and by inking massive sponsorship deals with Skoda, Tissot, Bauhaus, Megafon and other European corporate giants.
The IIHF gets a cut of the various “Euro Tour” events as well, and in all honesty, it may be an organization that helps govern and establish rules for hockey all over the world, it’s a for-profit entity whose best interests are served by making it as hard as possible and as expensive as possible for North American hockey leagues (you can expect equal amounts of doom and gloom, usually backed up by studies, regarding U.S. college hockey, Canadian Major Junior Hockey, and especially the AHL and ECHL as leagues which “ruin” the careers of professional athletes who would be “better served by staying home”) to access European talent.
If you might recall the 2010 World Hockey Summit in Toronto, for example, the Czechs, who won bronze at the Worlds, and Slovaks, who won silver, insisted that their developmental models were nothing less than burnt-out hulks thanks to CHL poaching…
And just as importantly, we’re going to hear more pushes for the establishment of the kind of pan-European league that Vladimir Putin and the KHL want to establish to “balance” power, so expect a predictably heavy and large-promise-laden level of bombast from the Russian contingent.
Given that the NHL and NHLPA are negotiating a new CBA, the IIHF’s going to do its damnedest to hint that both sides need to take into account the needs of its European partners (cough cough 2014 Olympics cough cough) as well.
Are the NHL, AHL, ECHL or the three CHL leagues saints? Hell no! But there is something to be said for understanding that their custodianship of hockey and concerns regarding “the good of the game” and player development do boil down to ensuring that they present a rosy and rarely red financial bottom line.
Whether we like to admit it or not, every player with professional aspirations, playing in any sort of “feeder league” from approximately the age of 16 on, is likely part of a business model and moneymaking machine, NCAA hockey players included, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s unfortunate that the IIHF refuses to admit the same thing, and it reeks of the same kind of hypocrisy that the NCAA espouses, except on a much grander, multinational scale.
While this weekend might involve the NHL press taking a deep breath and a weekend off before the NHL Awards take place in Las Vegas next Wednesday and the draft gets underway in Pittsburgh next Friday and Saturday, expect some serious-ass tongue and finger-wagging directed in North America’s direction emanating from Barcelona. Some of it might actually represent cogent points, but the vast majority of it will be nothing more than extremely hot air floating across the Atlantic from organizations which refuse to admit that they’re just as concerned about the money they can make as they are about the “best interests” of the players they represent.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.