Despite having a history of hosting the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, the chairman of the local organizing committee for the 2010 event says this time it’s almost like running a different tournament.
Since the last time Timmins hosted the tournament in 2000, Kris Kullas says it has become a bigger event, there’s a greater level of interest from scouts, there are more requirements on organizers and it has become more costly to run.
Some of the more arduous challenges the local organizing committee knew they had to deal with the last time – transportation, meals and accommodation for players and ticket sales – were addressed earlier this time.
“We appointed committees and tackled those right away because we knew those were the big areas and we needed to have everything in place,” says Kullas. “In 2000, our total budget was around $280,000. Right now we’re in excess of $600,000.”
The local steering committee responded to this challenge by beginning sales for ticket packages and drumming up corporate sponsors earlier in the year.
“Last time, we would have had 650 packages sold just before the start of the tournament,” says Kullas. “One of the good things with Port Alberni (the British Columbia city which hosted last year’s tournament), was that they paid off the whole tournament with ticket sales and corporate sponsorships by Nov. 1 so they didn’t have to worry about the business end of it. They could just concentrate on the hockey aspect.”
In regards to expanded interest from outside the region, Kullas says, “In 2000, we had between two to three dozen scouts here. This time, we’re expecting between 100 and 150. Junior teams are sending scouts. Every pro team is going to have someone here.”
A group of volunteers have been established to look after the scouts, and provide information packages including daily stats from the games.
Rather than relying totally on past experience, Kullas says he gained a lot of insight by attending the 2009 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Port Alberni and meeting with the local steering committee for the tournament.
“We’d been out of it for a few years and the tournament has changed for the better. We had hands-on experience with every committee they had and were shown every aspect of their operation. It was very beneficial to us,” says Kullas, who attended along with Marc Roy, the administrator of leisure services for City of Timmins. “I would say Port Alberni did an excellent job last year and, if anything, they are the model to be followed.”
One of the ideas the Timmins committee adopted from Port Albani was limiting games to no more than two communities within a day.
“In the past, we might have had games played in Kirkland Lake, Kapuskasing, in New Liskeard and Timmins on the same day,” Kullas explained. “Now we’ll have it so that there might be games in Timmins at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and in Kapuskasing at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. in one day. By focusing on two communities, we cut down our expenses with the number of buses and referees we have to send.”
Another idea taken from Port Alberni was selling out-of-town games as packages and letting the neighbouring communities manage all aspects of ticket sales for those games.
“We set a price for these games and then offered it to the satellite communities as a package which they could purchase. By doing it that way, we had a guaranteed financial commitment. That’s a significant change because now, bottom line, we know what we are going to get from these out-of-town games.”
This year actually marks the third time the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge has come to Timmins. In 1992, when Sudbury became the first city outside of Quebec to host the event, four of the games were played in Timmins, and in 2000 Timmins co-hosted the tournament with New Liskeard.
This time, Timmins is tagged as the lone host, though half the games are scheduled to play in outlying communities: Cochrane, Iroquois Falls, Kapuskasing, Kirkland Lake and New Liskeard.
Ed Pupich, a vice-chairman for Hockey Canada, chaired Timmins’ steering committee for the tournament in 2000 while Kullas assisted him as the city’s arena supervisor.
Pupich says the experience Timmins has in hosting the event and the fact it is a hockey-mad community that has a proven record of supporting tournaments like the U17 Challenge played favourably when the city applied to host it again.
“In Timmins and these kinds of communities where there isn’t major junior hockey, fans support it because it’s a top brand of hockey and the kids they’re going to see playing in this tournament in three or four years are going to be in the NHL.”