2019 wjc 100 days feature

100 days to the World Juniors

As the days tick down to puck-drop in Vancouver and Victoria, the focus is on building excitement for the games and connecting with fans across British Columbia

Chris Jurewicz
September 17, 2018

It used to be that growth of the IIHF World Junior Championship was measured by the number of fans filling the seats at the annual showcase of the world’s best under-20 hockey players.

Vancouver and Kelowna set a new mark in 2006 when more than 325,000 fans attended games. Then Ottawa 2009 moved the bar higher with total attendance of around 453,000. That record was broken three years later when NHL arenas in Edmonton and Calgary welcomed 455,342 fans, a number that has stood as the one to beat ever since.

But organizers of this year’s World Juniors, slated for Dec. 26 through Jan. 5 in Vancouver and Victoria, B.C., aren’t focused on that number or any other. In fact, Riley Wiwchar, director of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, openly admits that the 2012 record may never be broken. Filling two NHL arenas for a junior hockey event isn’t exactly the model with this tournament anymore.

“The success we’ve had in the past with events in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec (Toronto and Montreal hosted the 2015 and 2017 tournaments) from a fan perspective … I don’t think we’ll ever be able to match that,” says Wiwchar. “Being in Calgary and Edmonton, two NHL buildings, the sheer size of them is hard to replicate. But from an organizing perspective, for us maybe it’s not how many tickets do we sell but it’s how many people do we actually get out to games. We’re confident that the Canada games will always be full. It’s how do we get people out to those other games so they watch Switzerland versus Slovakia or Denmark versus Kazakhstan. 

“Really, it’s trying to make it that every team gets the same experience as Canada does when they play on home ice. Our focus is not on pure numbers but it’s how many people can we expose the games to and how many people we make feel part of this event, whether it’s coming to games, or volunteering at the tournament, or even just doing school visits.”

And it’s that last sentence from Wiwchar that has really become the focus of Hockey Canada over the past few years with all of their events, but in particular the World Juniors. Any large sporting event – be it the Olympics, PanAm Games or World Juniors – is as much about leaving a legacy in communities as it is about the sporting competition.

Wiwchar is pumped about what’s in store for host communities Vancouver and Victoria, but also other communities throughout British Columbia. Details will be released soon on pre-competition camps that are expected to include 10-15 different communities in B.C. Hockey Canada has partnered with B.C. Hockey in putting on the World Juniors and, along with the pre-competition camps, Wiwchar says plans are coming together on visits to about 40 towns and cities in B.C. where hockey personnel, athletes and officials will visit schools and community centres to help showcase hockey and the event.

“Not only will fans in Vancouver and Victoria be able to experience the tournament, but the rest of B.C. will as well,” says Wiwchar. “We have the luxury of focusing on how do we do community-development activities, how do we focus on some after-parties for people and fans, and how do we focus on our ticket donation to get people the chance to come out and watch hockey when maybe otherwise they wouldn’t have the opportunity to.”

With all that said, it can’t be forgotten that the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship will bring together the best U20 players in the world, that Canada will be looking to defend its gold on home ice after beating Sweden in the 2018 final in Buffalo, N.Y., and that B.C. – which has hosted some of the most memorable Canadian sporting events in recent memory (including the aforementioned 2006 World Juniors and, of course, the 2010 Golden Goal off the stick of Sidney Crosby) – will once again have the chance to showcase its natural beauty and hockey excellence.

Wiwchar mentions that great seats are still available in both communities but there’s been a surge in interested from fans in September now that hockey season is back. Another factor that has helped shine the light on the event is the World Junior Showcase, which saw Canada’s potential National Junior Team players joined by the United States, Sweden and Finland from July 30 to Aug. 4 in Kamloops.

“It was almost a no-brainer to try and host this World Junior Showcase in Kamloops,” says Wiwchar. “It definitely expands our presence of the event throughout the province and the Interior specifically. But also trying to showcase the players and showcase the calibre of hockey … having an opportunity to host games and be on TV for a week straight in the middle of summer, really just added to the excitement people have for this tournament. Seeing players that will be playing in Vancouver in December and potentially some players that will be playing in the NHL in the next year or two, especially with Canucks prospects, it was kind of the perfect storm for us.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

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