The first step should look awfully familiar to Team Canada when the puck drops Dec. 26 to open the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ottawa.
Hockey Canada unveiled the schedule for the tournament earlier today, with Canada set to begin its drive for five straight WJC titles against the Czech Republic on Boxing Day at SBP Arena. It’s the same opponent Canada blanked 3-0 to start off a championship run through the 2008 world junior tourney in the Czech Republic, which it finished off with a dramatic 3-2 victory over Sweden in the gold-medal game.
The rest of Canada’s preliminary round schedule at SBP Arena includes matchups against Kazakhstan (Dec. 28), Germany (Dec. 29) and the United States (Dec. 31). All Team Canada games will be televised by TSN and RDS.
“You like to have one or two marquee games for Canada in the preliminary round, which is great. It worked out perfectly,” said Cyril Leeder, vice-chair of the 2009 WJC’s host organizing committee. “We have the Czech Republic to kick it off and the final game of the round-robin is against the Americans on New Year’s Eve. So we’ve got a pretty good schedule for the fans.”
Group B, which includes Russia, Finland, Sweden, Slovakia and Latvia, will play its first-round games at the Ottawa Civic Centre. Semi-finals on Jan. 3 and the medal games two days later will also be played at SBP Arena.
Tickets, of course, aren’t an issue – unless you haven’t purchased any yet, that is. The sold-out sign for gold, silver and bronze ticket packages, which account for a WJC record total of more than 440,000 tickets, went up in January. But there will be a few opportunities in the months ahead to scoop up the 23,249 tickets – about five per cent of the overall total – that remain for the tournament.
For starters, the 2009 WJC Ticket Marketplace will launch in October. It’ll be an on-line spot for fans not planning to use all of their package tickets to resell them to the public at face value. Plans are also in the works for a donation program – tickets will be turned over to minor hockey programs – and sponsor packages, which will include some Team Canada games.
“The tickets are sold,” said Leeder. “We want to make sure the buildings are full and people have a good time. So if you’re not going to use those tickets, put them on the marketplace and sell them and let somebody that wants to attend the event go (to the games).
“If you’re not going to sell them and you want to donate them to us, we’ll make sure that somebody uses those tickets and get a (minor) hockey team in those seats.”
The focus for the host committee has now shifted to the operational side of the tournament, with general manager Bob O’Doherty saying the goal is to “put on a best-ever event.” More than 2,000 volunteers have been recruited to help make it happen.
“We’re looking after teams, international hockey federations, Hockey Canada sponsors, VIPs,” he said. “We want to put on a most memorable event for them so they have the time of their lives while they’re here in Ottawa and we deliver all the services they expect in a seamless manner. Really, that’s a best-ever event.”
O’Doherty said “record revenues and profits” are projected for the event, which has already smashed all previous records for ticket sales and corporate sponsorship.
“That hasn’t changed since we submitted our bid (for the tournament),” he said. “As a matter of fact, we’re probably looking at a better scenario now than our original projections.
“Our original guarantee was $12.5 million and we expect to do better than that.”
Next up for Hockey Canada is the naming of Team Canada’s head coach, which O’Doherty expects should happen “in the next two weeks.” A summer development camp for prospective team players will be held in Ottawa at the end of July, with the dates and site to be announced after the coaching staff is hired.
As previously announced, Team Canada's final selection camp in December will be held at CFB Petawawa, with some pre-tournament games to be played in the Toronto area.See the full tournament schedule at www.hockeycanada.ca/ottawa2009.