This year’s World Junior hockey championship may have had its issues but last night’s gold medal game was compelling right to the end — finishing with a 5-4 USA win over Canada that was decided after overtime by a shootout. Today, there is mass whining from Canadians about the shootout format and now terrible it is that it is being used to decide a gold medal. Personally, I’d much prefer seeing them play until they drop, but this is not the Stanley Cup.
As for the tournament itself, attendance was a big problem for most of the games, and it was all because the Hockey Canada organizers insisted on sticking the bill to the customer and charging overpriced tickets. But there was also the issue in Toronto of a saturated market due to too many big events. As for Montreal, that city may be too sophisticated for this tournament, period.
This piece in the Hockey News asked if maybe the World Juniors have “jumped the shark.” Personally I think the quality of competition is as compelling as ever, as evidenced by last night’s final. But the tournament has definitely grown too big for its britches and has lost touch with hockey’s grassroots supporters. Instead, it’s become about the big corporations and about making money, with tournament games held in these NHL cities with ridiculous ticket prices. I remember all the talk a few years ago about how the organizers were never going to bring the tournament back to smaller centres in Canada ever again because they were going to concentrate on big arenas in cities like Toronto and Montreal.
The problem is fans in Toronto and Montreal are seeing right through this nonsense. They’re not willing to pay outrageous prices to see kids playing hockey in a tournament that hardly anyone outside Canada cares about.
A revamping is definitely in order after this past week of empty seats. The world junior organizers need to get that tournament the heck away from Toronto and Montreal for a while and go back to places that are true CHL hockey hotbeds — and for %$&!# sake, have more affordable ticket prices. Seriously, these games aren’t worth $100 a seat! That is all I have to say about that.