The house is almost full for the 2009 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.
Host organizers of the tournament announced Friday that all 16,000 ticket packages for the event at Scotiabank Place and the Ottawa Civic Centre have been scooped up almost a full year in advance, shattering all previous records for WJC sales.
The packages represent 440,000 ticket sales, far exceeding the 374,353 attendance total for the 2006 world juniors in Vancouver.
“They sold out in May (in 2006),” said Bob O’Doherty, general manager of the host organizing committee for the 2009 Ottawa world juniors. “And they were in (an NHL) lockout year, so there was a pent-up demand for hockey.
“Now we’ve sold out in advance. The fans in Hockey Country have really responded.”
O’Doherty said that response exceeded even the most ambitious plans of Ottawa world juniors organizers, who hoped to complete the ticket package sellout by the end of January.
“The hype of the world juniors is pretty much restricted to around Christmas time (when the tournament is held),” he said. “We felt we had until the end of January to really push ticket sales.
“To have them gone well ahead of the end of the month is a surprise to us.”
Ticket-package sales were opened to the public on Nov. 17, but O’Doherty said the real momentum began to build as Canada edged closer to the gold-medal game at the 2008 world junior tournament in the Czech Republic. Canada’s 3-2 victory over Sweden in the final pushed Ottawa 2009 sales over the top.
“They say winning breeds success and I guess that’s true in our case,” he said. “As the prospects of winning a gold medal grew, we saw a huge pickup in sales.”
The ticket package sellout doesn’t mean hockey fans that didn’t beat the rush are now shut out of an opportunity to attend the 31-game world junior tourney, which runs from Dec. 26, 2008 through Jan. 5, 2009.
“One of our corporate sponsors will have a major announcement soon about smaller, family-oriented packages in certain sections of both arenas,” said O’Doherty. “Suites are also still available in both Scotiabank Place and the Civic Centre.”
A limited number of single-game tickets will be available, he added, but not until “much, much closer to the event.”
Fans who bought 31- and 17-game packages and don’t intend to attend all the games are also being urged to resell some of those tickets so that all seats are occupied throughout the tournament. O’Doherty said plans are in the works to use the Ticket Marketplace at www.CapitalTickets.ca as a hub for world junior resales.
Ottawa 2009 is also close to achieving its target of $5 million in corporate sales – well beyond the previous high of $3 million set in Vancouver in 2006. Ottawa’s total now sits at $4.8 million.
“We still have some inventory to sell, but not very much,” said O’Doherty.
Now that the ticket package sellout is complete, O’Doherty said the focus will shift toward the operational side of the event.
“We can start implementing our plan to be the best-ever world junior tournament in terms of a superior experience,” he said.
O’Doherty got a first-hand look at the tournament in the Czech Republic, which he attended from start to finish. He called the trip an extremely useful tool, with Ottawa’s world juniors now less than a year away.
“Most of the stuff we saw was in the arenas themselves… things like that were invaluable to see,” he said. “Thanks to the Czech hockey federation and the IIHF, we were able to get down into the bowels of both host arenas and see how things were done.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been surprised about how big a task this is going to be. But we have a bigger appreciation now of how great a product it is.”
He also got a front-row seat for the kind of passion Canadian fans will bring to the Ottawa world juniors.
“There were 3,000-4,000 Canadian fans at each game,” he said. “Being a part of the experience and the energy in the building was really something.
“To watch Team Canada have so much success… it was fantastic to be a part of it all.”