Frank Gonzalez and Rene Fasel answered the questions of the media before the semi-finals of the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. Photo: Andrea Cardin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Third-best all-time attendance in Toronto & Montreal
Traditionally, towards the end of the World Juniors, the media has the chance to have their questions answered by the IIHF at a press conference.
IIHF President Rene Fasel and his colleague on the IIHF Council, Frank Gonzalez, who is the Chairman of the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship Directorate, addressed the media before the semi-finals.
“We’ve had a great event, and we’re doing quite well with the numbers. Hopefully the semi-finals and medal games will be up to the talent and the type of hockey we expect at this level,” Gonzalez said.
“It’s a great pleasure to be back in Canada. It’s very special for the juniors. For some of the players it’s a lifetime experience for them to play in front of so many spectators,” Fasel said. “Some of them may not get the opportunity to do this again.”
The 2015 World Juniors will likely enter the history books as the third-best attended ever behind Calgary and Edmonton in 2012 and Ottawa in 2009 with an expected total attendance of approximately 370,000 and an expected average of over 12,300 fans per game.
There was a discrepancy though with 14,000 spectators in average coming to the games in Toronto and significantly less in Montreal, especially in games Team Canada didn’t play in. Therefore, journalists speculated whether it should be stuck to the plan to have the 2017 World Juniors at the same venues with reversed roles, meaning Team Canada playing the preliminary round in Toronto and having the other group and most of the final round in Montreal.
Fasel answered to the figures: “Toronto and Montreal are the two great hockey cities in the world where you can feel hockey. The expectations in Montreal were a bit higher (than the numbers) and we have to do a debriefing and see if we go like that in 2017, but we will find a way to increase the numbers. The numbers are not bad but the expectations were maybe a little bit high.”
“Even for a relegation-round game between Germany and Switzerland we had more than 8,000 fans. These are not bad numbers,” Fasel added.
“We had very good crowds also for teams like Switzerland or Denmark who were not from the country and appreciated the crowds that came to the games. However, we had an issue with the numbers in Montreal, and we hope this will pick up in the future,” Gonzalez added.
“I hope we don’t have to go out from Montreal because it’s a great city. We have to find what the cause was and fix it.”
Asked about the measures and the organizer’s price policy, Fasel replied:
“Some say maybe the prices were the reason, but I talked to people in Montreal and many say the prices are what people are used to pay, and prices were more or less the same in Toronto,” Fasel said. “Maybe the event was better marketed in Toronto than it was in Montreal or the economic power is different. If we want to succeed in 2017 we surely have to find ways. It’s a question we have to discuss with Hockey Canada and the partners. They have a contract with Montreal and Toronto we have to respect. In the end it’s Hockey Canada’s decision.”
Before the event will return to Canada in two years there is time to address the issues, and there will be one World Juniors be held back in Europe. The 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship will take place in the Finnish capital of Helsinki. The Finns hope to reclaim the European World Juniors attendance record they set in 1998 before it was broken by Malmo, Sweden, last year.
World Cup and Olympics
Another topic for the media was the ongoing discussions between the IIHF and the NHL in particular for a continuation of the NHL’s Olympic participation for a sixth consecutive time since Nagano 1998 when the event goes to PyeongChang, Korea, in 2018.
“We are discussing about the World Cup of Hockey in 2016, and as soon as we have a decision we will discuss about the 2018 Olympics,” Fasel said. He admitted that being in Asia may be a challenge with the time difference for North Americans. But the growing Asian market offers important chances for hockey.
“We will also be in Asia in 2022 in China (Beijing) or Kazakhstan (Almaty), and I believe China is the favourite. I know the players want to go to the Olympics. I’m confident about that.”
The re-establishment of a World Cup of Hockey is planned for September 2016 with eight teams. It’s planned to form teams from Canada, United States, Sweden, Finland, Russia and the Czech Republic while two more teams are open.
Fasel was asked about the rumours that the two open teams may be All-Star-like teams consisting of European and North American players respectively who don’t make the other teams.
“It could be great because we have all the national teams at the Olympics and World Championships, so doing the same at the World Cup would be a deja vu,” Fasel said. “But it’s still just an idea. But I like the idea that players from non-participating European nations and from North America can build All-Star Teams.”