Or­ga­niz­ers ex­pect full are­nas for world ju­niors

Times Colonist - - Sports - GEMMA KARSTENS-SMITH

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.

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