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Some fans drop big money for tickets to world hockey summit in Toronto

TORONTO - The world hockey summit is not just for the sport's movers and shakers.

Fans can get in on the action too. As long as they open their wallet in a big way.

Event organizers offered a four-day pass to the event for $450 while a one-night option for the opening hotstove sessions at the Hockey Hall of Fame went for $150.

Avi Bessin of Toronto happily shelled out the dough for a chance to rub shoulders with players, agents, executives and international hockey delegates.

"From a hockey fan's perspective, this is hockey heaven," he said.

Bessin said getting a chance to meet Vladislav Tretiak by the legendary goaltender's equipment display in the Hall on Monday night was a highlight. He added it was also a treat to hang around in the same room as Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman and Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke.

Bessin felt like he got his money's worth.

"One of the things I was a little worried about was whether I was going to spend 150 bucks and just hear things that you hear on the news every night," Bessin said. "But really it was not that at all."

The four-day event kicked off with four different panel discussions on a wide variety of topics. The focus shifted Tuesday to player development and junior hockey issues. International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel held a question-and-answer session and panellists talked about subjects affecting the game and took some questions.

The material was wide-ranging, rather dry at times and didn't exactly spark any real debate.

A spokesman for event sponsor Molson Canadian said over 400 tickets were made available to the public and they were sold by early Tuesday afternoon. Paul Carson, the vice-president of hockey development with Hockey Canada, said the event presented a rare opportunity for hockey fans."Overall I think the experience would be one of just being in a collaborative environment and having the opportunity to feel that you've been a part of something really big," he said.

Bessin found the hotstove sessions were informative.

"I really got a sense of what everybody thought about the state of the game, where's there room for improvement and what the strong points are now," he said.

On Wednesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will hold a Q-n-A session in a downtown hotel ballroom. Panellists there will also discuss the Vancouver Olympics, the future of global events, women's hockey and the growth of the sport before the event wraps Thursday afternoon.

A ticket gets fans access to the event venues, receptions and also covers their food and drinks. Carson said the summit is on par with other major events of a similar nature.

"I think in terms of the environment and the experience that the fan can have, it's certainly on line with the price that we might charge for an international coaches conference," he said.

Bessin, for one, left with a big smile on his face.

"I just really wanted to hear what they had to say and don't regret spending that money at all," he said.


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