Toronto's Time To Host The (Profitable) Holiday Party
The stars, you have to believe, are perfectly aligned.
Hockey Canada will be hosting the world junior hockey championships in 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2021 as part of a new agreement with the IIHF. It may not be good for the event to be in Canada so regularly, but it's a big money maker and will keep coming to the Great White North until some other country wants it as much and can put on as good a show.
So with those four Canadian hosting dates set over the next nine years, you have to believe one of them will be the perfect occasion for Hockey Canada to take the big leap of faith.
Let Toronto host the WJC for the first time.
For starters, a fairly successful Mastercard Memorial Cup in Mississauga last spring - good crowds, mediocre profits - certainly addressed the notion that the GTA won't buy junior hockey at all. Many of the games were sold out despite doomsayers who said it would all be a disaster, suggesting a well-organized, well-promoted junior event could be successful here.
Second, by next summer, TSN (Bell) will own half the controlling interest in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment in a joint venture with Sportsnet (Rogers). When that deal was announced, it was clear both TSN and Rogers viewed it primarily as a content arrangement.
But an MLSE bid to host the world juniors could do that and more.
TSN's broadcast deal for the WJC expires in 2014. Sportsnet, you can bet, has big-time interest in gaining at least some of the rights to the event. Hockey Canada now has two legitimate bidders, and given the corporate behavior of both TSN and Sportsnet with MLSE - rather than risk being cut out, they cut a deal with each other - it certainly would make sense that a deal to bring the world juniors to Toronto would fit both their interests.
And both do so love money. This year's WJC, shared between Edmonton and Calgary, will reportedly reap a profit in the neighborhood of $15 million. Maybe closer to $20 million.
For a successful MLSE bid, that would be on top of the content play, plus it would mean lucrative dates for the Air Canada Centre, a building Bell and Rogers will jointly own almost 80 per cent of next summer.
Toronto could partner with area OHL cities like Barrie, Oshawa, Kitchener and London if it wanted, or use Copps Coliseum in Hamilton if, as it seems, two NHL-sized rinks may soon be necessary for this event. That said, with perfect junior sized rinks in Brampton and Mississauga and the Ricoh Coliseum (also controlled by MLSE), there may be no logistical need to go outside of the GTA.
Vancouver, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Buffalo and now Calgary/Edmonton has demonstrated clearly this tournament works beautifully in NHL-sized communities.
Toronto will host the Pan-American Games in 2015. Hosting the world juniors that year would give the city a head start on organizing volunteers and other logistical hurdles.
It just makes so much sense, if not in '15, then in '17, '19 or '21. Montreal, which hosted back in '78, will be in the game, as well. The formal process of bidding won't be begin until this spring or summer, but informal conversations involving Toronto have certainly begun. You can bet IIHF boss Rene Fasel would love to be belle of the ball at a WJC in the Centre of the Universe.
It's hard to believe that sometime in the next decade, Toronto won't be the host of the world junior championships. Might as well start selling tickets now.