PRAGUE – Canada was officially awarded the 2008 men's World Hockey Championship for the first time ever Friday during a meeting of the governing council of the International Ice Hockey Federation.
Canada came to the 2004 worlds here competing with Germany and Sweden for the right to host the ’08 tournament and German officials came to Nicholson earlier this week to say they were withdrawing their bid in favour of Canada.
The Swedes dropped out on Thursday, making Friday’s vote a sure thing. The IIHF wanted to celebrate its 100th anniversary in Canada and no where else.
“It was one of those votes that you like and you did not have to vote,” says Nicholson. “We’ve gone through a lot of issues with the IIHF and we are still working on some but everybody feels comfortable we can get it done.”
“I am very happy and I am pleased and the way it was done,” said IIHF President Rene Fasel. “We opened the door (for Canada’s successful bid) all together.”
The cities of Halifax and Quebec City will play host to the tournament and Fasel said Quebec City will stage the medal round of the tournament.
“That is what we decided,” said Fasel. “That is what we want. Halifax is like Ostrava here and Quebec City will be Prague.”
Ostrava and Prague each played host to eight teams for the preliminary and qualifying round and when the 8-team medal round game began, all games were in Prague.
“We will have the medal round in Quebec,” said Fasel.
Nicholson expects the tournament will be a huge success based on recent experiences in Halifax...
“We set (attendance) records in the (2003 world) juniors and we set records in the (2004) women’s (2004 world championship) and I think it is important for us to continue to grow internationally hockey and have the men’s,” said Nicholson.
Canada (Montreal and Winnipeg) was awarded the men's world tournament in 1970, but withdrew after disagreements over player eligibility. The 1962 tournament was hosted by Colorado Springs, the only time it's ever been in North America.
It has not been decided where Team Canada will play and Nicholson knows he will have both Halifax and Quebec City doing its best to play host to the Canadian team.
“There will have to be tradeoffs. You can’t give it to one city,” said Nicholson,
Latvia, for example, had about 7,000 fans at every game involving their national team. For many of the Latvian fans, they saved their money for a year to travel to the world championships and used their summer vacation time to do it.
Fasel said he hopes European fans show up and experience a hockey game in Canada.
“They will swim or row a boat,” said Fasel. “Every time I go to Canada and I go to a rink, it is very very special and I cannot find that anywhere else in the world. When you go to Canada it is a special atmosphere and I want European fans to touch this, to taste this, what it means hockey in Canada.”
Ticket prices and other issues will be announced later.
“This is not about making money,” said Nicholson. “This is about celebrating the game and we want all of the countries coming over here saying, ‘Hey. Canada is special. This is the birthplace of hockey and while the tournament is about 16 teams it is about the other 60-plus federations that will come and see Canada.”
“We will work with everything we can and we will work with hotels to hostels to whatever we can . . . we want people to see these games. We want people to see this type of atmosphere which is very special.”
Next year's world championship will be staged in Innsbruck and Vienna, Austria. The 2006 tournament is slated for Latvia but that bid is in jeopardy after failed attempts at building a new arena in Riga.
Latvia organizers have been given until July 1 to resolve the problems. It's expected Sweden may get awarded the 2006 tournament if Latvia fails to come through.
The 2007 world tournament will be in Russia. Moscow and St. Petersburg are competing to win that bid.