QUEBEC CITY – The message from IIHF president René Fasel was loud and clear: “We’ll be back,” he said. “It’s a matter of time. The tournament was a success with the fans, with television audiences, and with the IIHF.”
Indeed, several of the pre-tournament concerns caused barely a ripple of consternation once the first puck was dropped. The smaller ice of Halifax’s Metro Centre and Quebec City’s Le Colisee was a non-issue. The co-hosting of the tournament by two cities proved beneficial to hockey fans in Canada and didn’t cause a problem with European TV audiences.
Attendance was strong, particularly in Halifax where even games involving lower-ranked teams drew near sellout crowds. Team Canada was well supported despite playing all of its games in the afternoon, most on weekdays. In all, these were the third-best attended World Championship ever with 477,040 spectators (average: 8834). Not bad for a first time hosting. Only the World Championships in the Czech Republic, 2004, and Finland, 1997, were better attended.
The World Championship has been allocated through to 2013, and next season, the 2014 tournament will be awarded. After that, Canada is free to apply again, and Fasel is hopeful Hockey Canada will act sooner rather than later. “It will be several years before we can come back, but I hope Bob [Nicholson, president of Hockey Canada] applies for 2015 or soon after,” Fasel said enthusiastically.
Of course, the crowning glory to the event was the gold-medal game. Perhaps one of the finest championship games the IIHF has ever witnessed, the Canada-Russia showdown proved to fans across Canada just how exciting the international game is, even when in competition for viewers with the NHL.
“Maybe this was our biggest challenge,” Fasel admitted, “but I think the scheduling worked well and the teams played the kind of hockey that will bring fans to the game.” Of course, this year was a fairly good scenario for the IIHF because the only Canadian team in the playoffs when the tournament started was Montreal, and the Habs’s playoff ride did not last long.