MONTREAL, CANADA - JANUARY 5: 2017: Scott Smith, Hockey Canada's chief operating officer, IIHF President Rene Fasel, and Tom Renney, Hockey Canada's President and CEO speak at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship closing press conference. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Success in 2017 will lead to stronger 2019
IIHF President Rene Fasel, Hockey Canada President and CEO Tom Renney, and Hockey Canada COO Scott Smith met with the media this afternoon at the Bell Centre.
Speaking in advance of the bronze- and gold-medal games, the trio assessed the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship event and looked forward to 2018 in Buffalo and 2019 in British Columbia (Vancouver, Victoria).
“We could play in Canada every year,” Fasel enthused. “We’re very happy with this year’s event. Sure, there are some concerns with ticket sales and prices, but this tournament was made for Canada. I know it means a great deal to the European players to play at the Air Canada Centre or Bell Centre in front of thousands of fans. It’s an incredible experience.”
Renney picked up on the theme of experience in his opening remarks. “We want this event to be a special experience for everyone, for fans, officials, players, volunteers, people watching on television. For Hockey Canada, it’s all about grassroots development. Kids have to FEEL the experience of the tournament.”
“It’s always an honour to host an IIHF event,” Smith continued. “We have established great partnerships with MLSE and the Montreal Canadians, in both 2015 and this year, and we had more than a thousand volunteers sacrifice their holidays to make sure this was a successful event.”
Ticket prices have been criticized and have affected sales, but as Renney pointed out, this is all for a good reason. “The profits don’t go to one person or one owner,” he said. “We put every cent of our money back into the game, primarily with children. There’s a legacy there. We want to have an impact on the lives of kids and to influence them to want to play hockey and be physically active.”
Smith agreed. “We don’t use the word profit; we use the word legacy. And that’s what our pricing is all about. We have a responsibility to fans to price tickets fairly, but we also have to ensure we are financially responsible to the many programs we finance.”
Fasel was asked if a lack of competitive balance might mean a reduction from ten to eight teams in the future. “I just call a call from Europe asking to go to 12 teams,” he responded with a smile. “I think ten is a good number. Yes, Latvia lost to Canada, 10-2 but then in the relegation round they were tied with Finland 1-1 halfway through both games.”
As for the event returning to Europe more frequently, Fasel, sees Canada’s hosting as more beneficial. “For the European players, the experience to play in Canada is far greater than to play at home where junior hockey isn’t so popular,” he started. “And for fans to see the games on TV and see how passionate Canadian fans are is in some ways more important than going to games at home.”