If you were hoping to see those plucky, underdog Canadians defend their gold medal in the World Junior Championship on home ice in about 12 months and you didn’t register for the “priority draw” in the hours after Canada’s 4-3 win over Russia in the gold medal game of this year’s event, there’s a good chance you’ll be watching the event on television.
The good thing about that is you’ll save money. An awful lot of money. And you’ll miss out on the unique opportunity to line the pockets of Hockey Canada, the Edmonton-Red Deer organizing committee and the Canadian Hockey League to the tune of millions of dollars while the players get nothing.
The prices being charged for next year’s event are nothing short of staggering. And a little obscene. If you want to watch games in Edmonton, you can do so for a minimum of $495 and a maximum of $1,295. But here’s the thing. Paying those prices gives you either the ‘A’ or ‘B’ ticket package, which allows you to see only half the games. If you want to see them all, you have to pay double, meaning if you want to see all Canada’s preliminary games, plus two quarterfinals, both semifinals and bronze and gold medal games, you’ll be paying a minimum of $990. Rogers Place in Edmonton holds 18,347 for hockey. So let’s assume the average ticket price is about $900 per package (which averages out to $62 per game). Based on that price, the potential exists for those games to raise just over $33 million in ticket revenues.
For the Red Deer games, the Westerner Park Centrium seats 7,111 for hockey. Based on an average package price of $700 (for no tournament games that involve Canada), that means there’s a potential for an almost additional $5 million. So that means this tournament has the potential to generate about $38 million in revenues before it sells a single advertisement, corporate sponsorship package or replica sweater. (And yes, it’s a sweater, not a jersey. Don’t @ me.)
Compare that to the tournament that just ended in the Czech Republic. Tickets for the semifinal games were just under $16. The bronze medal game would have set you back $19 and you would have gotten into the gold medal game for under $25.
Now let’s get a couple of things straight here. First, if the organizers of this year’s tournament in Ostrava and Trinec had been able to get away with charging Canadian prices for tickets for their event, they would have. That’s because regardless of the level, ticket prices are always and only a function of supply and demand. Second, watching the World Juniors live is a privilege, not a right. And sometimes you have to pay for that privilege. Furthermore, there’s nothing wrong with making massive gobs of money. But not sharing it with those who are most responsible for it coming in is what makes all of this so unconscionable.
When the tournament is held in Canada, 50 percent of the profits go to Hockey Canada and 35 percent to the CHL. The remaining 15 percent is split between the local organizing committee, the provincial amateur hockey association where the event is held and the International Ice Hockey Federation. How much do the players get, you ask? Well, the answer to that would be a big, fat zero. Yes, there are a good number of players who are going to make untold millions within a couple of years as NHL stars, but we’re pretty sure the third-line left winger from Kazakhstan is not going to be one of them. And yes, it’s true that Hockey Canada funnels the money it makes back into programming. That’s the same Hockey Canada that governs hockey programs that require parents to pay thousands of dollars a year to play. What that money does more than anything is give Hockey Canada more resources to pour into elite hockey, which in turn produces more gold medals.
Not paying the players is only a part of the nice little arrangement Hockey Canada and the IIHF have in this tournament. Typically, the host committee saves a ton of money by attracting hundreds of volunteers who are only too happy to drive shuttles and work at the rink in exchange for a tracksuit with the tournament logo on it. Meanwhile, aside from the organizers, a lot of people are making money off these events. Landing a WJC typically means about $100 million in economic spinoff benefits for the host city. Cab drivers, hotel employees and bartenders are usually really happy to see the WJC come to their town. Canada’s training camp has a title sponsor, as does its three-game series against the Russian team leading up to the tournament. All the players have corporate logos slapped on their sweaters and helmets and the boards and ice surface are covered in advertising.
The two biggest moneymakers in terms of international hockey are the World Championship and the WJC when it’s in Canada. The World Women’s Championship does pretty well north of the 49th, as well. It’s high time someone held these people who are making all the money to account and demanded that they share some of it with the people most responsible for the product.
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