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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
Long revered as a hockeytown in the United States, the Queen City hopes to take its passion to the international level for the 2011 World Junior Championships.

As one of three finalists to host the event, along with Grand Forks, N.D. and Minneapolis – St. Paul, Buffalo was the first site to be toured by USA Hockey as representatives began evaluation of the city this week.

“[Buffalo] is a gorgeous city and certainly very clean and a city that has a lot of pride in it,” USA Hockey’s Assistant Executive Director of Marketing and Communication Mike Bertsch said Thursday afternoon. “You can see that from the presentations that we’ve had… [I’m] very impressed with it.”

In addition to HSBC Arena, representatives were also on site at Dwyer Arena at Niagara University, which would act as the secondary rink for the tournament if Buffalo was awarded the event.

Comprised of 10 countries the tournament would host a total 31 games over a 12-day period beginning Dec. 26, 2010 and extending through Jan. 6, 2011.

“There are 20 games in the first six days,” Johannson said. “But there is a formula to that and two facilities can easily handle those demands.”

The committee also looked at the surrounding areas in Western New York, including Canada, as a means of measuring support for such an event.

Listen as representatives from USA Hockey discuss Buffalo as a potential host for the 2011 WJCs
USA Hockey Interview  

“It’s very important,” said USA Hockey’s Assistant Executive Director of Hockey Operations, Jim Johannson. “We want this to be a USA Hockey event but we certainly understand our neighbors to the north are passionate hockey fans and a big part of the fabric in Buffalo… we are well aware of the significance that they would play in this championship.”

The remaining facets, ranging from the amount of hotels available for the teams and subsequent fans to the economic impact and even traffic flow were taken into consideration.

“We’re looking at places that are accustomed to running large events and being very successful with it. There are multiple things that have to go into the criteria,” Bertsch said. “Obviously satisfying the hockey operations and the teams would rank at the top of that, but understanding the economic impact to the community and the support that is required to really run a tournament of this magnitude is critical for us and some of our evaluation.”

The last time the annual event was hosted in the United States was 2005 in Grand Forks, N.D. / Thief River Falls, Minn.

Talent in that year’s championship included current NHL stars such as Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and Dion Phaneuf.

“It’s the pinnacle of the championship from an amateur standpoint,” Johannson said. “The Olympics have obviously become professionally-based, the World Championships for the most part is professional-based… Other than injury or the rare occasion of the phenoms that are playing in the NHL and playing significant roles there, you get the best in the world playing in this championship.”

The World Junior Championship showcases the best talent from around the world under the age of 20 years old. There are currently 17 members and prospects of the Buffalo Sabres to have competed in the event at one time, including talent such as Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek and Dan Paille who captained Team Canada in 2004.

The committee will continue evaluation and make a decision on the host-city in October.

“To come into the community here and say that you are bringing World Junior Championships to Buffalo, everybody in the hockey community understands what the World Junior Championships are in this area. That’s important for us as well for them understanding that we are literally bringing the next best players in the NHL into this championship,” Johannson said.

“For the hockey fans, I honestly think it’s the best championship they have.”

World Junior Hockey Championships – Fact Sheet
  •  2011 event to take place December 26th, 2010 through January 6th, 2011.
  • 10 countries send their best age 20 and under hockey players to this event.
  • Event was held in Czech Republic in 2008 and will be held in Ottawa (2009) and Saskatoon (2010).
  • Many of the players are recent or soon to be NHL Draft Picks.
  • Games to be played at HSBC Arena and Dwyer Arena at Niagara University.
  • 31 total games will be played over the 12-day period. 
  • Medal games to be played at HSBC Arena.
  • 3,200 room nights at local hotels.
  • Estimated attendance over the 12 days of competition at both venues  (300,000).
  • Estimated economic impact = $6 million dollars.
  • Played every year and are sanctioned by the Internation Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).
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