Hunt's on for WJC in capital

CHRIS STEVENSON, Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 6:22 AM ET

Jeff Hunt will be first in line to bid for the world junior championship when it becomes available again. "Oh, yeah, for sure," said the 67's owner who has been rebuffed twice despite making outstanding bids. "How could you not after watching what we just saw? How could you not want that event in your home town and be a part of it?"

Next year's world junior championship is in Vancouver, but the talk coming out of North Dakota after Canada's reclamation of the gold Tuesday is it could be coming back to Canada as soon as 2008 or 2009.

It's about time the International Ice Hockey Federation started bringing the world juniors here more often. The WJC only matters here in Canada (it plays to empty seats everywhere else), so why not go where it is going to be an artistic and financial success?

Canadians made the championship in Grand Forks, N.D., the second-best attended event after Halifax (one of the selling points of Grand Forks and Thief River Falls, Minn., was that they were close to Canada).

Hunt dropped more than $100,000 on his previous two bids, though, as it turned out, the deck was stacked against him.

Halifax won the bid for 2003 because of regional politics (Hockey Canada wanted to take the tournament down East). The last bid process -- for next year's championship -- was a bit of a sham since Vancouver needed to host a world-level hockey event in advance of the 2010 Winter Olympics and there was a chance to leverage some sponsorship deals.

But those setbacks haven't deterred Hunt.

"Call me naive, but I think all the attempts we have made are just part of the process of making it," he said. "Being the runners-up twice in a row is part of the effort to get it.

"As disappointed as I was, I'm more convinced we'll get it next time around."

RECORD CROWD

The national capital region does have a lot to offer.

The strong turnout for the World Cup exhibition games here last fall and the 67's drawing a record junior hockey crowd of more than 20,000 last month show this really is hockey country.

The Bell Capital Cup is held at the same time as the WJC and that would guarantee thousands more eager ticket buyers in town.

Throw in other facilities like the new Bell Sensplex (for practices), the Civic Centre and Le Bob in Gatineau (for non-marquee games) and there isn't another city in the country that embraces junior hockey that can match those facilities.

Or its fans.

chris.stevenson@ott.sunpub.com


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