Time for an­other hockey sum­mit has come, writes Wayne Scan­lan,

Cana­dian hockey is hope­ful a world hockey sum­mit this sum­mer will do for the sport what a congress in 1999 did for it.

Ottawa Citizen - - SPORTS - WAYNE SCAN­LAN

So, where were you when the last great hockey sum­mit was held? If it helps, the year was 1999, so chances are pretty de­cent that if you were a fan of Cana­dian hockey, you were off grum­bling some­where.

That par­tic­u­lar sum­mit was held in a time of na­tional panic fol­low­ing the Olympic hockey tour­na­ment of Nagano, Ja­pan, in 1998. For the first time, the men’s Olympic hockey event fea­tured a best-on-best for­mat, as the NHL made its finest play­ers avail­able.

For Canada, that meant Wayne Gret­zky, in the twi­light of his unique ca­reer, would lead what many were call­ing a hockey ‘Dream Team.’

Dreams can evolve into night­mares, of course, and that’s what hap­pened when Canada lost in a semi­fi­nal shootout to Do­minik Hasek and the Czech Re­pub­lic, be­fore also drop­ping the bronze-medal game to Fin­land. To make things worse, Fin­land and Rus­sia cap­tured the world ju­nior ti­tles in 1998 and ’99, as Canada ex­pe­ri­enced a rare drought at the ju­nior level.

And then the fi­nal el­bow to the stom­ach — the Cana­dian women’s pro­gram, which had dom­i­nated the world cham­pi­onships, had to stand and watch the inaugural women’s Olympic gold hockey medals be­ing draped around the necks of the Amer­i­can team that stunned Canada in the fi­nal.

Co­in­ci­dence or Cana­dian cri­sis?

The gi­ant head­lines and se­ries of sto­ries sug­gested the lat­ter, paving the way to a three-day ‘Open Ice’ Sum­mit in Toronto in the sum­mer of ’99, fea­tur­ing No. 99 him­self, Gret­zky, along with Ken Dry­den, Scotty Bow­man and other elite fig­ures of the game — play­ers and ad­min­is­tra­tors.

The gath­er­ing es­sen­tially an­a­lyzed what had gone wrong with Cana­dian hockey, a worth­while ex­er­cise even if, look­ing back, it all seems a slight over-re­ac­tion to one frus­trat­ing Olympic re­sult, against the world’s great­est goal­tender of the day.

Some good came of the hand-wring­ing, though. The sum­mit led to 11 Hockey Canada rec­om­men­da­tions to help en­cour­age player devel­op­ment in this coun­try, boost­ing coach­ing pro­grams and nur­tur­ing tal­ent.

What a dif­fer­ence a decade makes.

To­day, Canada is com­ing off a string of hockey suc­cesses, in­clud­ing men’s and women’s hockey gold at the Van­cou­ver Olympics and five of the past six world ju­nior cham­pi­onships.

Hockey Canada’s pro­gram of ex­cel­lence, started by for­mer Hockey Canada pres­i­dent Mur­ray Costello of Ot­tawa, has helped this coun­try hot house the best tal­ent and ready them for in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion.

Our pride re­stored and po­si­tion in the game se­cure, Canada is now looked to by other na­tions try­ing to grow the game. And so on Tues­day, when Hockey Canada, in con­junc­tion with the IIHF, NHL, USA Hockey and the CHL an­nounced an­other ma­jor hockey sum­mit, the fo­cus is now on de­vel­op­ing the game on a global scale.

The 2010 Molson World Hockey Sum­mit, planned for Toronto Aug. 23-27, will dis­cuss player safety and devel­op­ment, while try­ing to work to­gether on fu­ture in­ter­na­tional events.

Among the po­ten­tial dis­cus­sions:

The lack of a trans­fer agree­ment with the Rus­sian hockey fed­er­a­tion. NHL teams are weary, to the point of be­ing leery, of draft­ing Rus­sian play­ers and then won­der­ing if they will re­port. The lack of a work­ing agree­ment and the rise of the KHL has put the NHL and Rus­sia at odds. There is no bet­ter time to work on the is­sue, with the Rus­sians anx­ious for the NHL to at­tend the Olympic tour­na­ment in Sochi in 2014. But will there be a Rus­sian rep­re­sen­ta­tive at the sum­mit?

Smooth­ing the wa­ters be­tween the NHL and the In­ter­na­tional Ice Hockey Fed­er­a­tion. Szy­mon Szem­berg, the IIHF’s di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, stirred more in­ter­est from Cana­dian hockey fans than any world cham­pi­onship game ever could when he used the IIHF web­site to slam NHL play­ers who don’t show up for the worlds. Szem­berg chided Sid­ney Crosby, Canada’s biggest star and the man who scored the Olympic over­time win­ner in Van­cou­ver. Crosby had been to back-to-back Stan­ley Cup fi­nals, and earned the right to a rest. Szem­berg could have han­dled the sit­u­a­tion with some diplo­macy, but threw a gas can on a tiny em­ber. Hockey Canada was out­raged, IIHF chief Rene Fasel apol­o­gized to Crosby’s agent, Pat Brisson, but bad feel­ings per­sist. This one has the po­ten­tial to be­come a small sideshow at the hockey sum­mit, but then, a juicy news an­gle doesn’t hurt to pub­li­cize the event.

Pre­serv­ing women’s hockey at the Olympics. It’s not that Canada and the U.S. women aren’t good enough. They’re too good, rel­a­tively speak­ing. Or maybe too fit. When she was in Ot­tawa prior to the Olympics, Cana­dian for­ward Hay­ley Wickenheiser said the gap be­tween North Amer­i­can women and Euro­peans is largely due to the pro­fes­sional pro­grams be­ing run here, in­clud­ing camps and off-ice train­ing. Euro­pean girls can play the game, but their pro­grams lag be­hind ours, largely be­cause the old boys hockey fed­er­a­tions in Europe don’t pro­vide the sup­port given to North Amer­i­can girls.

IOC pres­i­dent Jac­ques Rogge’s crit­i­cism of the im­bal­ance in the women’s game amounts to a call for ac­tion. This sum­mit will lead the charge.

“I would per­son­ally give them more time to grow but there must be a pe­riod of im­prove­ment,” Rogge said while in Van­cou­ver. “We can­not con­tinue with­out im­prove­ment.” Sub­scribers can read pre­vi­ous col­umns by Wayne Scan­lan at ottawacitizen.com . He can be reached at ws­can­lan @thecit­i­zen.canwest.com .

BRUCE BEN­NETT, GETTY IM­AGES

Canada is now looked to by other na­tions try­ing to grow the game fol­low­ing this coun­try’s suc­cess on the world stage in both men’s and women’s hockey.

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