Rick and Darla Young won’t give up their gold medal tickets to the 2012 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship at any price.
The Youngs were among 13,666 fans in the stands at the Scotiabank Saddledome to watch as Switzerland downed Latvia 5-3 in Pool A preliminary round action on Dec. 30.
“It’s a chance in a lifetime to come to something like this,” said Rick, who also has tickets to upcoming quarterfinal and semifinal games in Calgary. “To have it in your own backyard is priceless.”
An avid hockey fan, Rick commended the Calgary Flames for their involvement in bringing the world-class event to Alberta.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “For the Flames to be involved in it, they do a lot of things in the community. I think it just adds more credibility to it.”
Decked out in purple jerseys to support Latvia, Dace Sevcuna and Nicole Schmidt also applauded the Flames efforts for landing the event.
“We love the Flames,” said Sevcuna, who relocated to Calgary from Ogre, Latvia six years ago. “Flames rock!”
The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers originally spearheaded a bid six years ago to host the 2009 world junior tournament, which eventually wound up being awarded to Ottawa.
“Ottawa did an outstanding job,” admitted Jim Peplinski, co-chairmen of this year’s event along with Lyle Best. “We looked at that and we looked at some of the gaps that we had in our proposal and we came back and we bid for 2012.”
After being turned down, Peplinski said he received some inspiring words of encouragement from Flames President and Chief Executive Officer Ken King.
“Ken said to me, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll win in 2012. You’ll see. It’ll work.’
Peplinski praised King for his leadership in helping to re-launch a successful Alberta bid.
“He’s got a great mind and he’s got a strong vision,” said Peplinski, who also serves as Vice President of Business Development with the Flames.
In his job as Vice President of Sales, Sport & Major Events for Tourism Calgary, Marco De Iaco has wanted to bring the world juniors to Calgary for a long time.
“The Calgary Flames organization has been the single most important catalyst to bringing the 2012 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship to the city of Calgary,” De Iaco said. “The organization provided outstanding leadership, strategic direction and the political savvy necessary to submit a successful Alberta bid.”
At the 2006 world juniors in Vancouver, De Iaco met up with Nick Wilson and Trent Evans, who were looking into the feasibility of Edmonton possibly putting in a bid to host the event.
While watching a game, De Iaco, Wilson and Evans came up with the idea of Calgary and Edmonton co-hosting the event.
“We decided let’s go watch the game together and talk about this because we’re going to hurt each other if we’re competing against each other,” Wilson recalled. “We decided the right thing to do would be to annihilate any competition with a bid that looked like it would an unreal success. We went back and confirmed that everybody agreed that this was a good approach and that it fulfilled the objectives of more value for our customers in both organizations and more value for the cities and more value for the province.”
Along with King’s stamp of approval, the bid was also endorsed by Oilers President and Chief Operating Officer Patrick LaForge.
“It’s been a fascinating exercise,” said Peplinski of the two rival organizations putting aside their differences to work together. “There are definitely the competitive challenges between the Oilers and Flames and the Hitmen and the Oil Kings. I would tell you that it’s been a wonderful experience. Any disagreements we have had, have not been over personalities or issues. It’s been because somebody thinks that there’s a better way to do it, so we’ve hashed it out and you know what, we’ve found a better way to do it.”
Through a collaborative effort with the Oilers and other community leaders from Calgary and Edmonton, De Iaco said the Flames have gone well beyond their core business to help stimulate economic activity and profile for the local tourism industry.
“The foundation of any successful sport tourism strategy in the world is the quality, depth and leadership of local champions in the community,” De Iaco said. “Ken King, Jim Peplinski and the Calgary Flames organization are simply the epitome and definition of a local champion, needed to be successful in the business of bidding and hosting major sport events.”
While Canada played all of its preliminary-round games at Edmonton’s Rexall Place, the host squad will continue its bid to win gold with all the remaining medal round games being contested in Calgary at the Saddledome.
“So far, the Canadian team, their game has been so pure and so crisp, it’s just been a pleasure to watch and I hope it continues,” Peplinski said. “I think that this is one of those ‘I Was There’ moments that the Flames have been a huge part of delivering to people in Canada. It’s going to be good.”Author: Laurence Heinen