It’s two thumbs up for Scotiabank Place and the Ottawa world juniors.
The International Ice Hockey Federation gave a glowing review to the main venue for the 2009 world juniors during a site visit Thursday afternoon. Scotiabank Place will play host to 17 of the tournament’s 31 games, including all of Team Canada’s matches and the medal contests.
“I’m impressed with this building, especially for world juniors,” Hannes Ederer, deputy general secretary and event director for the IIHF, said after a brief tour of the Ottawa Senators’ home building. “This is definitely a new standard for world juniors,”
Ederer’s thoughts weren’t exactly a surprise to members of the host organizing committee, who have had Scotiabank Place at the centre of their plans since the get-go. The tournament’s other 14 games will be contested at the Ottawa Civic Centre, home rink of the Ontario Hockey League’s 67’s.
“We’ve got a very confident group and, of course, this building is fantastic,” said Bob O’Doherty, general manager for the 2009 Ottawa world juniors. “We’ve been through it many times before and we think the plan we’ve put into place would be one that the IIHF would like, and they did.”
Ederer was also full of praise for Ottawa’s overwhelming support of the tournament. Nearly a year in advance, all 16,000 available ticket packages have been scooped up. With more than 440,000 tickets and about $5 million in corporate sales in the bank, the Ottawa event has already shattered records set in Vancouver in 2006.
“We have a very, very good (organizing) group here and it’s definitely a hockey town,” said Ederer, adding he has “no concerns” about the operational side of the tourney.
O’Doherty said host organizers want to take the world juniors to a new, higher level.
“We’re going to be on the international stage for two weeks over the Christmas period and it’s our opportunity to showcase to the world the type of sporting event we can put on,” he said. “So we’ve been looking at best-ever results for a long time now and all our plans our focused on doing that.
“Vancouver set the bar very, very high and our goal is to take the bar and raise it even higher so that the next time it comes to Canada (in 2010), they’ll have a difficult time doing what we did.”
The Ottawa world juniors run from Dec. 26, 2008-Jan. 5, 2009.
“We can see the dates on our calendar now,” said Cyril Leeder, vice-chairman of the host organizing committee and the COO of the Senators and Scotiabank Place. “It’s still 11 months away, but a lot of preparation is under way now. Having Hannes here just brings it to the forefront.”
Ederer, who saw the passion fans in Hockey Country have for the game during a walk through downtown Ottawa on Wednesday night, doesn’t doubt the capital will embrace the tournament in a big way.
“I think the city will be in (full) world junior mode,” he said.