MALMÖ – Hockey Canada sets a high standard when organizing hockey tournaments, and no one embraces events like the IIHF World Junior Championship the way Canadians do.
Even though the first game of the 2015 U20 is some 50 weeks away and the groups and schedule not known yet, tickets have already gone on sale. Indeed, tickets to the general public have almost sold out.
The 2015 U20 will be the first of a home-and-home series of sorts. Montreal and Toronto are the co-hosts, with Toronto’s Air Canada Centre getting the semi-finals and the medal games. In 2017, the relationship flips so it’s the Bell Centre in Montreal which gets the semis and medal games.
Although the groups for 2015 won’t be known until tomorrow night at the conclusion of the 2014 U20s, and the schedule won’t be finalized until the weeks to come, the tournament format for 2105 is set and the fans don’t seem to care about the details.
“Montreal will have Canada’s games in the preliminary round and will get two of the quarter-finals,” Kevin Webster of Hockey Canada explained today at a press conference to make everyone in Malmö aware of the progress for next year’s event. “Then, in 2017, Toronto will get Canada in the preliminary and two quarter-finals, and the semi-finals and medal games will be in Montreal.”
“We’re almost sold through all our ticket inventory now,” said Darryl Boynton, general manager of the 2015 and 2017 World Juniors. “We have a capacity at the ACC of about 18,800 and more than 21,000 in Montreal. We are selling packages which are for all games, so when fans are buying tickets now, they’re buying blocks of 20 games in Toronto, 19 for the tournament and one exhibition, and 13 games in Montreal. We didn’t break it down in smaller packages. We started selling to the general public on December 30 and have had an amazing response.”
“Although season’s ticket holders had a chance to buy tickets, we wanted to make many of the tickets available to the general public. That was something very important to us,” Boynton continued. “There has been so much demand. We’re really excited.”
“We’re also excited about how we priced the tickets. Some 40 per cent of our inventory is priced $40 or under, so we’re very competitive in trying to attract all sorts of fans.”
Boynton explained that much of the entire marketing strategy – from ticket availability to prices to sales – came out of Hockey Canada’s phenomenal success in Calgary and Edmonton in 2012. “It was amazing in Alberta to see the fans come to all of the games, not just Canada’s, and we really hope the same thing happens in Toronto. It’s going to be such a great event that everyone wants to be a part of it,” Boynton noted.
Volunteers are the next piece of the puzzle for Boynton. He expects to make a general call for volunteers in about a month, which is “another way for people to get involved in the event.”
It may be a year away, but Hockey Canada is rolling up its collective sleeve and getting to work on making 2015 the best U20 ever. Given the cities hosting and the venues in which all games will be played, it’s hard to see this not happening.