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World Juniors – Alberta welcomes the world

Filed under: Puck Stop, Sports

The 2012 World Juniors U20 Championships will take place in the two cities of Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta next year at this time, and organizers there are already busy preparing to make their event the best one ever.

Yesterday afternoon at the Hyatt Regency their organizers hosted a preview of their plans for Alberta for the media. Attendees were treated to a five minute chamer of commerce style video presentation showcasing the best of what their two cities have to offer, a sumptuous food spread highlighted by Alberta carved beef, brisket barbecue and beef sliders washed down with Molson Canadian, and a framework of how this tournament just keeps growing in size and stature.

A couple of interesting bits of information came out of this presentation. The tournament will be held in Calgary’s Scotiabank Saddledome and Edmonton’s Rexall Place. This will be the first time in the history of the World Juniors that the event will be staged in two NHL arenas. Second, Team Canada will play in a pool that will be largely played in Edmonton. One would think that with the popularity of the Canadian team, that the larger and (arguably) more impressive Saddledome would serve as the venue for the home team.

Last year, members of the Buffalo Sabres front office traveled to the Saskatchewan cities of Regina and Saskatoon to take in the 2010 tourney there and glean and learn everything there was to know about how such an event of this magnitude is put together. So for the visiting Albertans, this was their chance to digest what was going on here in Buffalo during our time on the big stage.

Following the presentation, I had a conversation with two of the Alberta delegation members and an official from the IIHF. No it was not an interview, more like a casual conversation. Here are some of the takes I got:

-On grading Buffalo for their efforts in the 2011 tournament – Nothing but praise for the warmth and friendliness of the Buffalo people, the tremendous sense of pace and organization that the Buffalo Sabres have put forth, and the availability of information via kiosks, tables, brochures at both arenas and at hotels and restaurants throughout downtown.

-On the weather – The temperatures in Alberta range from -20C to -28C around this time of year, so their fans and patrons can expect to bundle up and battle the chills when attending the 2012 games. They called Buffalo “downright balmy”.

-As to the controversies? They found the entire discussion about the parking somewhat comical. When Calgary last hosted a Grey Cup at McMahon stadium, the parking fee at that event was $40, and downtown parking rates in Edmonton range anywhere from $10 to $25, so Canadians generally don’t bat an eyelash at what went on here in Buffalo. One of the guys scoffed at a news piece which ran on Channel 2, where a red jacketed reporter huffed and blustered as he interviewed a parking customer in a downtown lot. The interviewee, a Canadian, kept repeating how he thought the $50 he paid was no big deal, yet the reporter kept persisting, trying to feign outrage.

-Nicest stuff about Buffalo? The quaint shiops along Elmwood, the “Canadian” feel of Allentown, and the magnificent Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

-What could Buffalo do better? Ahh, this was the best part of the discussion. Downtown needs more shopping, more homeowners, more life and vitality. This is problematic not only in Buffalo, but many other mid sized American cities. For what you people have to work with, you have done about as good a job as you can to make it work and make our visitors feel at home.

In Edmonton, plans are being put forth for a new hockey arena downtown, which will not only be the venue itself, but be surrounded by hundreds of residences, shops, large retail destinations, entertainment and nightclubs and coffee houses. Yet your arena has been open for how long now, over ten years, and the neighborhood right outside the front door is cold, desolate and uninviting. What is the matter with Buffalo? Where are your leaders, where is your government where are your investors? Those empty blocks and that area where the old stadium once stood could be so special and dynamic. We don’t understand why it is taking so long.