Organizers expect full arenas for world juniors
VANCOUVER — A change of scenery seems like it might pay off for an annual holiday tradition.
Ticket demand for the 2019 world junior hockey championship — Dec. 26, 2018-Jan. 5, 2019 in Vancouver and Victoria — has “exceeded expectations,” said Riley Wiwchar, director of the tournament.
The attendance will be watched closely at this year’s event after disappointing turnouts — and complaints about ticket prices — three of the past four years in Buffalo, New York, and Toronto/Montreal.
“The demand is definitely there and we’ve still got a few months to go. So we plan on the [arenas] being full,” Wiwchar said.
Tickets have been purchased from around the globe, including France, Germany, Russia, Finland, Sweden, the U.S. and every Canadian province, he added.
Attendance at last year’s tournament in Buffalo — just across the Peace Bridge from Canada — was dismal, with thousands of empty seats for many games.
Fewer than 10,000 people came out for Canada’s games in the preliminary rounds and just 5,533 showed up for the team’s quarterfinal win over Switzerland.
The exception was the firstever outdoor world junior game, which drew a record-setting crowd of 44,592 to see the U.S. best Canada 4-3 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York — the home of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.
With the Canucks in the midst of a rebuild, Vancouver is a market with a vested interest in seeing some of the players expected to skate this year. Fans will likely come out to watch defenceman Quinn Hughes, who was drafted in the first round by the Canucks in June. The 18-year-old opted to play another season at the University of Michigan this fall, and will likely suit up for the U.S. at the world juniors. His younger brother, Jack Hughes, also is expected to be part of the squad. The 17-year-old centre is currently with the U.S. national development team and is an early favourite to go No. 1 overall at the 2019 NHL draft.