EDMONTON — Tickets to the men’s junior hockey world championship in Edmonton have not been in high demand this summer and International Ice Hockey Federation officials say the high price of admission, the odd schedule of the tournament and a specter of scandal are to blame for the low attendance.
The 2022 tournament ended on Saturday with Canada battling Finland for the gold medal.
While the final was expected to draw the biggest crowd of the tournament so far at Rogers Place, average attendance heading into Saturday’s medal games was just 1,525 per game. Canada averaged 4,400 fans in its first six games.
Holding the World Junior Tournament during the hot summer instead of the usual winter vacation created a number of challenges, IIHF President Luc Tardif said.
“We knew August was not the best time and we weren’t expecting the usual attendance,” he told reporters at a wide-ranging press conference before the final. Saturday.
The 2022 tournament kicked off on December 26, 2021 in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta. Rising COVID-19 cases among players and officials caused matches to be lost and the event was halted after just four days.
Ticket prices are set by the host country and the cost of a seat for the August version of the tournament has remained high, starting at over $100 for many matches.
Lower tier seating ranged from $160 to $476 for Saturday’s final, with tickets to the arena’s highest peaks available for $60.
“(The IIHF) does not set prizes,” said tournament chairman Henrik Bach Nielsen. “I don’t know if the prices were set like normal world juniors and there was no reaction to that.
“Personally, coming from Denmark, $50, $60, $100 for one of these games? Yes, it is a high price.
Organizers had to take into account the unique challenges of redoing the 10-team tournament this summer, he added.
“Why not try to find an August price for the tickets?” says Bach Nielsen.
Hockey Canada has already acknowledged several reasons for the lack of interest in the tournament, including the microscope the organization faces for its handling of sexual assault allegations by some members of previous junior men’s teams.
“First, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed this tournament to August,” the organization said in a statement. “And second, there is an understandable examination by Canadians of Hockey Canada and hockey culture. »
Hockey Canada executives were called to the mat during federal government committee hearings in June and July.
Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge froze federal funding for the organization until Hockey Canada met certain conditions, and corporate sponsors withdrew their money from the tournament as well.
“We don’t have to hide from the atmosphere around the world juniors,” said Tardif. “And that’s a bad thing because I think the kids (playing in this tournament), the organizing committee doesn’t deserve it because they’re not guilty of that.”
The scandal currently engulfing Hockey Canada is a “national matter”, and once investigations are completed into what happened, the IIHF will determine whether the organization will be sanctioned, he added.
“At the moment, we are following, and our reaction will come at the end of the investigation, when the facts are confirmed on this, when we know exactly who is responsible,” Tardif said.
“(The allegations) are not good for ice hockey, that’s for sure. It’s not good for Canadian ice hockey, but it’s not good for international ice hockey.
Additionally, the absence of perennial contender Russia, who was banned by the IIHF for that country’s invasion of Ukraine, removed some of the usual matchups from the event.
Tardif said Russia’s future entry into the tournament will be assessed year by year.
Canada will also host the 2023 World Junior Championships in Moncton and Halifax in December. Tickets are selling well for this tournament, Tardif said.
Despite a weird tournament in 2022, World Juniors remain a strong brand and the tournament has been a success for many years, Bach Nielsen said.
“We shouldn’t make any revolutions this year,” he said when asked what lessons the IIHF could learn from this year’s event.
“It’s once, here in Edmonton with this situation in August. So I don’t think we intend to change the world junior championships. We just need to get back to normal.