From left to right: Luc Tardif (Directorate Chairman, IIHF Council Member), Rene Fasel (IIHF President), Pat Kelleher (USA Hockey), Michael Gilbert (Buffalo Sabres). Photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Buffalo 2018 deemed a success
Members of the IIHF and the host Organizing Committee met with the media this afternoon to address the impact of this year’s IIHF World Junior Championship.
The verdict? A success.
IIHF President Rene Fasel, tournament chairman Luc Tardif, Organizing Committee Chair Mike Gilbert, and USA Hockey executive director Pat Kelleher discussed all things World Junior.
“It’s great to be back in Buffalo, where we had such a successful tournament in 2011,” Fasel began. “I remember being at the U20 in Switzerland in 1997 where we had a total of 31,000 fans, and this year we will surpass 200,000.”
“We’re happy to be back here,” said Kelleher. “It’s been a great event, and we still have the semi-finals medal games to play.”
Gilbert noted that, “Buffalo is the first U.S. city to host the World Juniors a second time. We had ten teams staying at two hotels, and they all played at two arenas side by side. Everything was in one place.”
Gilbert finished by emphasizing what surely everyone will take away from this tournament first and foremost. “We’ll look back a year from now, five years, ten, and we’ll be able to say we were at the first outdoor game.”
Kelleher added to the kudos. “The support of the Pegula family was instrumental to the tournament and the outdoor game,” he began. “The snow, the U.S.-Canada rivalry, the outstanding work by the volunteers to clear the ice, everything made that game special.”
Tardif used the same word, “magical,” in his recollections. “The outdoor game was magical,” he said. “We were happy to be there. With the weather, you never know, but it turned out to be an incredible day and an incredible game between two great rivals.”
Indeed, the juniors drew a larger crowd (44,592) than either of the NHL outdoor games in recent weeks. In Ottawa, attendance was 33,959 for the Senators-Canadiens, and in New York it was 41,821 for the Sabres and Rangers.
The other encouraging piece of information to come out of the meeting was the news that when USA Hockey won the rights to host 2018 from the IIHF several years ago, some dozen cities, some of them with NHL teams, put in bids to host.
That presents a healthy and happy problem for the organization. When the time comes to host again, do they return for a third time to a city that has been great for the game, or do they entertain another bid in another part of the country?
Gilbert confirmed he’d be interested in applying again, but the interest around the country—near the Canadian border and not – was encouraging regardless. “This isn’t the end for us,” Gilbert said. “It’s the beginning. We want to host other IIHF events.”
Fasel and Tardif also had a playful exchange about next year’s tournament, in Vancouver and Victoria in Canada’s western province of British Columbia, when asked about the possibility of future outdoor games at the World Juniors.
“It rains a lot in Vancouver, so I don’t know if we can do that next year,” said Fasel.
To which Tardif responded, “Yes, but they have an indoor stadium for football as well.”
Fasel raised a thoughtful eyebrow. “We had a very successful game in Germany in 2010 in a football stadium with 77,000 fans, so who knows?”
Update on Russia in PyeongChang 2018
In non-U20 news, Fasel confirmed that just today the IIHF and IOC have finished working with the Russians on creating a sweater for those players competing at the Olympics. Conforming to IOC stipulations in the wake of the Russian Olympic Committee’s suspension from Olympic participation, it will be red and white, but the red will not be the colour of the flag to fulfil the IOC criteria.
The parties involved are looking to send clean athletes to Russia under the name “Olympic athletes from Russia” including hockey teams that fulfil the IOC’s criteria.