HALIFAX – Advertisers advertise. That’s their job. And in the world of international hockey, no company is better at it or more visible than Skoda, the Czech car maker. At every IIHF World Championship, the Skoda logo is everywhere, from the shoulders of player sweaters to the huge logo at centre ice to the omni-present Skoda cars in two corners of the seating in every arena.
But Canada 2008 presented a couple of pretty important problems for the sponsor. First, rinks in Canada don’t have space for cars in the crowd. Second, Skoda cars aren’t sold in Canada. But Skoda is Skoda for a reason, and no difficulty is too great for the company to overcome.
In the first instance, Skoda negotiated with Le Colisée in Quebec City and Metro Centre in Halifax to remove sections of seats, build a “parking pad”, if you will, and plant the cars in the stands again, just like in Europe. The configuration in Halifax is such that the cars are closer to the blueline than to the corner of the rink, but no matter. As a result, television viewers will see the Skoda cars as cameras pan the crowd and follow play.
But what about the second problem? Well, if Canada doesn’t sell Skodas, and Skoda is the official sponsor of the World Championship, there is only one thing to do. Bring cars over. Indeed, the company shipped 30 cars to Halifax and quite a few more to Quebec, and so, just like every other year, Skodas are everywhere near the arena and various hotels.
However, because they were shipped directly to Canada, the Skodas have Czech licence plates, which look very different from the blue and white plates of Nova Scotia and Quebec. The result is curious looks from passers-by and citizens walking around, looking at these strange cars with even stranger licence plates. It’s actually great promotion for the tournament, as the cars remind the local population that something special is happening in their city.
For fans and journalists from Europe, the constant Skoda presence gives the tournament a just-like-home feel. The money and food and language may be different, the hotel beds may be wider and the hockey a little more part of the culture, but the Skoda car is exactly the same. From the factory to the rink — via ship.