The first step should look awfully familiar to Canada’s National Junior Team when the puck drops December 26th to open the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ottawa.
Hockey Canada unveiled the schedule for the tournament earlier today, with Canada set to begin its drive for five straight World Junior gold medals against the Czech Republic on Boxing Day at SBP Arena. It’s the same opponent Canada blanked 3-0 to start off a championship run through the 2008 tournament in the Czech Republic, which was capped off with a dramatic 3-2 victory over Sweden in the gold-medal game.
The rest of Canada’s preliminary round schedule at SBP Arena includes match-ups against Kazakhstan (December 28th), Germany (December 29th) and the United States (December 31st). All of Canada’s games will be televised by TSN and RDS.
“You like to have one or two marquee games for Canada in the preliminary round, which is great. It worked out perfectly,” said Cyril Leeder, vice-chair of the host organizing committee. “We have the Czech Republic to kick it off and the final game of the round-robin is against the Americans on New Year’s Eve. So we’ve got a pretty good schedule for the fans.”
Group B, which includes Russia, Finland, Sweden, Slovakia and Latvia, will play its first-round games at the Ottawa Civic Centre. Semi-finals will go on January 3rd, with the medal games set for two days later, all at SBP Arena.
Tickets, of course, aren’t an issue – unless you haven’t purchased any yet, that is. The sold-out sign for gold, silver and bronze ticket packages, which account for a tournament-record total of more than 440,000 tickets, went up in January. But there will be a few opportunities in the months ahead to scoop up the 23,249 tickets – about five per cent of the overall total – that remain for the tournament.
For starters, the 2009 WJC Ticket Marketplace will launch in October. It will be an online spot for fans not planning to use all of their package tickets to resell them to the public at face value. Plans are also in the works for a donation program – tickets will be turned over to minor hockey programs – and sponsor packages, which will include some of Canada’s games.
“The tickets are sold,” said Leeder. “We want to make sure the buildings are full and people have a good time. So if you’re not going to use those tickets, put them on the marketplace and sell them and let somebody that wants to attend the event go (to the games).
“If you’re not going to sell them and you want to donate them to us, we’ll make sure that somebody uses those tickets and get a (minor) hockey team in those seats.”
The focus for the host committee has now shifted to the operational side of the tournament, with general manager Bob O’Doherty saying the goal is to “put on a best-ever event.” More than 2,000 volunteers have been recruited to help make it happen.
“We’re looking after teams, international hockey federations, Hockey Canada sponsors, VIPs,” he said. “We want to put on a most memorable event for them so they have the time of their lives while they’re here in Ottawa and we deliver all the services they expect in a seamless manner. Really, that’s a best-ever event.”
O’Doherty said “record revenues and profits” are projected for the event, which has already smashed all previous records for ticket sales and corporate sponsorship.
“That hasn’t changed since we submitted our bid (for the tournament),” he said. “As a matter of fact, we’re probably looking at a better scenario now than our original projections.
“Our original guarantee was $12.5 million and we expect to do better than that.”