BUFFALO – The 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship in Buffalo and Niagara is the best attended IIHF international hockey event in United States history. Current attendance through 29 games stands at 294,893. Today’s medal games are sure to attract about 37,000 more fans, for a total around 330,000.
"This is an amazing result," IIHF president René Fasel said this afternoon. "These numbers are like some of our World Championships attendance in Europe."
Indeed, the previous record for one event was Salt Lake City for the 2002 Olympics where the men’s tournament attracted 268,139 fans for 35 games. The 2005 U20 in Grand Forks, the previous best for the World Juniors in the U.S., had a total attendance of 193,256 for 31 games. Final figures will be published immediately after the gold-medal game tonight.
The all-time attendance record for the U20 is Ottawa 2009 which attracted 453,282 fans for 31 games. The Buffalo event will also be the best attended World U20 Championship outside Canada.
Fasel's comments were supported by Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. "We are in Buffalo for good reason," he explained. "We have tremendous fans in New York state, and we are a short dive away for five million Canadians who love the sport. To be honest, I am envious of Canada. The support of their fans is, quite frankly, second to none."
Fasel acknowledged that the U20 championship is special to Canadians and has far greater appeal to North Americans than to Europeans. "And it's not just hockey," he explained. "Europeans don't support junior teams even in football or other sports."