Canada’s Dillon Dube, left, celebrates a goal against Switzerland with Taylor Raddysh (16) during third period quarter-final IIHF World Junior Championships hockey action in Buffalo, N.Y. on Tuesday, January 2, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Organizers expect full arenas for world juniors in Vancouver, Victoria

Ticket demand for the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Junior Championship in Vancouver and Victoria has “exceeded expectations.”

A change of scenery seems like it might pay off for an annual holiday tradition.

Ticket demand for the 2019 world junior hockey championship — Dec. 26, 2018-Jan. 5, 2019 in Vancouver and Victoria — has “exceeded expectations,” said Riley Wiwchar, director of the tournament.

The attendance will be watched closely at this year’s event after disappointing turnouts — and complaints about ticket prices — three of the past four years in Buffalo, N.Y., and Toronto/Montreal.

“The demand is definitely there and we’ve still got a few months to go. So we plan on the (arenas) being full,” Wiwchar said.

Tickets have been purchased from around the globe, including France, Germany, Russia, Finland, Sweden, the U.S. and every Canadian province, he added.

Attendance at last year’s tournament in Buffalo — just across the Peace Bridge from Canada — was dismal, with thousands of empty seats for many games.

Fewer than 10,000 people came out for Canada’s games in the preliminary rounds and just 5,533 showed up for the team’s quarterfinal win over Switzerland.

The exception was the first-ever outdoor world junior game, which drew a record-setting crowd of 44,592 to see the U.S. best Canada 4-3 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, N.Y. — the home of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

In January, International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel admitted at a press conference that organizers had expected a different result.

Having either Toronto or nearby Buffalo host the event three out of four years may have been a mistake, he said.

“Sometimes you can also overdo the saturation and where it is being played. We have to learn,” Fasel said.

Related: Schedule released for world junior hockey championship in B.C.

Related: Canada wins gold at world junior championship

The world juniors will be in the Czech Republic next year, before returning to Canada in 2021.

Hockey Canada said in a statement that it hasn’t yet identified a host community or communities for that tournament.

Organizers of this year’s event weren’t worried by last year’s numbers, in part because of the vast distance between B.C., and the Toronto-Buffalo corridor, Wiwchar said.

“Honestly, there wasn’t much of a fear at all, coming out west,” he said.

The western-most province previously held the world juniors in 2006, when Vancouver, Kamloops and Kelowna co-hosted the event. Canada took home the championship.

“I think people have just been craving the hockey for the last decade or so,” Wiwchar said. “Having watched it every single year somewhere else, I think people are just ready for it to be back in B.C.”

With the Canucks in the midst of a rebuild, Vancouver’s also a market with a vested interest in seeing some of the players expected to skate this year.

Fans will likely come out to watch defenceman Quinn Hughes, who was drafted in the first round by the Canucks in June. The 18-year-old opted to play another season at the University of Michigan this fall, but will likely suit up for the U.S. at the world juniors.

His younger brother, Jack Hughes, also is expected to be part of the squad. The 17-year-old centre is currently with the U.S. national development team and is an early favourite to go No. 1 overall at the 2019 NHL draft.

Excitement about young talent like the Hughes brothers has helped sell tickets, Wiwchar said.

“It’s a pretty in-tune market when it comes to hockey, I find. I think people having a chance to see these guys at Christmas really helps us,” he said.

Venues for this year’s tournament are slightly smaller than the main arenas in Toronto and Buffalo, which hold 19,800 and 19,200, respectively.

Vancouver’s Rogers Arena has a capacity of 18,910 and Victoria’s Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre has room for 7,400 people.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

WATCH: Historic night in Red Deer as 2019 Canada Winter Games kicks off

Star-studded Opening Ceremony features athletes from across Canada

Athletes’ medals unveiled at the official kick-off of 2019 Canada Winter Games

Medals depict Central Alberta landscape and pay tribute to First Nations

Eckville Sr. girls Aces climb playoff ladder

The senior girls will fight for the leagues’ top spot on Feb. 25

WATCH: Canada Winter Games are finally here

Final leg of torch relay kicked off at Fort Normandeau

WCPS looks to its schools and communities for new mission, vision, values and beliefs

WCPS’s Board looks to students, and staff in advance of larger community engagement

Fashion Fridays: Up your beauty game

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

LOCATED: Innisfail RCMP looking for missing woman

Amanda Kucher was last seen at the Innisfail 7-Eleven on Feb. 15

Red Deer RCMP arrest man after vehicle theft from dealership

Police were able to disable the SUV with assistance from the built-in vehicle assistance system

Red Deer College transforms into Athletes’ Village

Red Deer College’s campus will be home for the athletes during the 2019 Canada Winter Games

Alberta minor hockey team, slammed for Indigenous dance video, forfeits season

Parents say season was too dangerous to finish because the team has been threatened

Trump officially declares national emergency to build border wall

President plans to siphon billions from federal military construction and counterdrug efforts

Alix resident captures beams of light near Lacombe

Lacombe, Blackfalds, Red Deer photos have since gone viral around the world

Father to be charged with first-degree murder in Amber Alert case

11-year-old Riya Rajkumar was found dead in her father’s home in Brampton, Ontario

Red Deer man loses car after being caught twice driving with suspended licence

The Ponoka Integrated Traffic Unit ticketed the man in December and on Valentine’s Day

Most Read