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Fans enjoy world-class experience

by Laurence Heinen / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- The 2012 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship will be remembered for more than just the games played on the ice.

According to event co-chairman Jim Peplinski, the tournament has provided a world-class experience for the hundreds of thousands of fans who attended games in Calgary and Edmonton.

“I think that the junior hockey fan is much more a purist,” Peplinski said. “They come to enjoy the game. I think that the speed of the game at the international level lends itself to an even more pure hockey fan. They know they’re not going to see any fights. They know that they’re coming to see pure hockey. It’s a different demographic, a different construct, a different cohort in the building than there is at either Hitmen games or Flames games.”

Peplinski marvelled at the fact that 14,970 fans attended a preliminary-round game at the Saddledome on Dec. 29 between Russia and Latvia. Russia won the game 14-0, but that didn’t deter fans from cheering loudly and from supporting the underdog Latvians.

“The 14,000 people would be greater than any Russia-Latvia game in the history of the universe and people got to see the game and say, ‘You know what, those Russians are good and the Latvians aren’t as bad as I thought they would be’,” said Peplinski, who also serves as Vice President of Business Development with the Flames.

One night later, 13,666 people invaded the ’Dome to watch Switzerland skate to a 5-3 win over Latvia. Included in the crowd were Peter and Yvonne Martschini, who travelled all the way from Lucerne, Switzerland to watch their home country play its preliminary round games.

“It’s great,” beamed Peter. “It’s my first world junior and it’s great. My son’s playing here and it’s great for us to watch him here. We enjoy it.”

Lino Martschini, an energetic 5-foot-6, 132-pound Swiss forward who plays for the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League, earned a fair amount of fans at the tournament due to his play and the fact that he’s the smallest player at the event.

“It’s absolutely amazing if you have a son here,” Yvonne said. “It’s unbelievable for us.”

The Martschinis commended the Calgary Flames organization for helping to put on such a spectacular show that fans, both young and old and from different countries, could enjoy.

“Everything is well organized,” Yvonne said. “We enjoy it really much.”

That’s just the kind of feedback that Peplinski loves hearing from fans.

“I got an email from a lady that said, ‘This was an outstanding event’,” said Peplinski, who definitely realizes how important the fans are in making the world juniors such a memorable event. “That’s one of the things the Flames recognize in bringing this event to Alberta, to Canada is to demonstrate the importance in sustaining the future of the Calgary Flames. In some way all those building blocks are integral to the foundation of this organization being successful for the next 30-plus years.”

This year’s event has also attracted visitors from across the globe to Calgary and Edmonton.

“It’s a significant international event where we’re providing the platform, the conduit to get together through the common interaction of hockey,” Peplinski said. “We’re providing the springboard, the mechanism that allows individuals to conjure up memories because our national game causes you do that.” And those visitors have made an definite economic impact in Alberta by spending their hard-earned dollars during their stay.

“This is one of the premier sport tourism events in the country and there’s tremendous economic activity,” said Marco De Iaco, Vice President of Sales, Sport & Major Events for Tourism Calgary. “We’re expecting over $50 million in net economic impact (GDP) and well over $80 million in gross economic activity in the province of Alberta. We’re expecting over 30,000 visitors to the province of Alberta. This event is making an incremental impact on our tourism industry – dollars spent in hotels and restaurants and shopping centres and transportation.”

De Iaco sits on the executive committee for this year’s tournament and he commended those involved from both Calgary and Edmonton for helping to make it a memorable event.

“The reason this event has been so successful is that we’ve really focused on one provincial event,” he said. “That was the reason that Edmonton and Calgary worked so well together is because we’ve done everything for the betterment of the event.”

Author: Laurence Heinen

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