NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will be there Wednesday, and IIHF head Rene Fasel -- who has butted heads with Bettman on the issue of NHL players taking part in the 2014 Olympic games -- will speak Tuesday.
Thursday is an important day for one growing facet of hockey. The future of women's hockey is the main point of Thursday's session. The International Olympic Committee is losing patience with the sport, which has been completely dominated by the United States and Canada on the international level since its inception.
With talk of the sport losing its Olympic status, there are some big steps that must be taken to save it.
Lack of Competition
Canada and the United States have won each of the four Olympic gold medals awarded (Canada won the last three). The two have also dominated the IIHF World Championships, with Canada winning nine of the 12 gold medals, while Team USA won the other three.
In the Olympics, only Sweden and Finland have managed to medal besides the Big Two, while the Worlds have seen Sweden, Finland and Russia all grab medals. It's far from an impressive variety of nations, especially when you consider how rarely anyone besides Canada and the United States have made it to a gold medal game.
Of the 16 total medal events in women's hockey, only one -- the 2006 Olympics -- saw a gold medal game that didn't feature Canada and Team USA. The Americans were upset in the semifinals by Sweden, who were then dominated by Canada for the gold, while Team USA took bronze.
Simply put, it's been too easy for Canada and the United States. Take out their head-to-head games, and Canada has outscored Olympic foes 140-9, while the U.S. has posted a still-impressive total of 107-12.
As long as the competition isn't really a competition, and instead just a wait for the next Canada-United States tilt, the sport's Olympic status is in trouble. This is far from men's hockey, where Canada and the U.S. can be placed in the same group without dramatically tilting the balance of the groups in the competition. That can't happen in women's hockey, and it won't anytime soon.
Sweden, Finland and Russia have all fielded competitive teams over the years. The problem is that, while their top players are able to get seasoning at four-year U.S. colleges while playing Division I hockey, they don't have the depth necessary to compete with Canada and the Americans. These two countries are cutting good Division I players every time they pick a national team, while their lesser foes are excited anytime they can pick a player who has college experience.
No Contest in Numbers
Hockey is not won with pure numbers. Big schools like Minnesota and Michigan aren't locks for the NCAA title every year, despite large enrollments.
However, there are cases where raw numbers can tell you a lot. In women's hockey, the raw numbers indicate that there are two countries that really take the sport seriously. You can probably figure out which two we're talking about.
In Canada, there were over 77,000 players registered to play girls'/women's hockey. Over 60,000 play it in the United States. Meanwhile, Olympic entrants Slovakia and China combined to have a bit more than 400 players total. It's impossible to expect these countries to ever compete at a high level in this sport with those kinds of numbers.
While Sweden and Finland have shown flashes of competitiveness, neither has topped 3,000 registered players in their home countries. They're still fighting quite the uphill battle, and even if they can compete with Canada and the U.S. more often, it might not be enough to convince the IOC.
What the IOC is going to want is more of an investment in the sport out of the lower-tier nations currently playing it. As Paul Carson of Hockey Canada told The Canadian Press, it really does come down to numbers.
"The challenge is, what are the second-, and third-tier countries currently involved in women's hockey going to do to elevate their game?" Carson asked. "And what is the plan? How do they draw from the best practices of the Canadian system and the American system?"We might not get a final answer at the summit, but there should be a clear direction from the main powers of the sport. Of course, Hockey Canada can't control what Sweden, Finland, Russia, China, Slovakia, and others invest in the sport. They can't make the programs in these other countries more competitive with the snap of a finger. It's just not that easy.
But they know that, for the sport to survive as an Olympic entity, there must at least be a commitment to growth in the near future. The IOC isn't looking for a magical fix as much as they seek ideas as to how this can be rectified so the sport is more entertaining and attractive, and more worthy of being kept as an Olympic sport.