London losing world junior race

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

London is no longer in the ball park -- or arena -- when it comes to hosting the world junior hockey championship.

Tourism London general manager John Winston goes to board of control today seeking direction as to whether the city should bid on the 2009 tournament.

"How do you compete with the NHL markets? That is the question," Winston said yesterday.

"You have to be extremely more creative. You have to look at revenues that far exceed the revenues we originally had projected in the first go-round.

"The possibility exists that we could bid, but we have a number of issues we have to resolve with board of control. Nothing is impossible. It's the probability of success and that's been diminished by increasing what are obviously high, high revenue expectations."

London, with the 9,090-seat John Labatt Centre, bid for the 2006 tournament and guaranteed a profit of $4.2 million for Hockey Canada and partners.

The event was awarded to British Columbia, which guaranteed $5.2 million, but realized $9 million after setting an attendance record of 325,138.

Most preliminary games were at the 16,000-seat Pacific Coliseum, home of Western Hockey League's Vancouver Giants, with some in Kelowna and Kamloops. The medal round was at 18,630-seat GM Place, home of the Canucks.

The deadline to submit letters of intent to bid is today.

Calgary and Edmonton announced yesterday they'll make a joint bid, with the backing of their NHL clubs.

The same is expected out of Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, where the Canadiens want to tie in the world junior event with their 100th anniversary celebrations that season.

Saskatoon may also bid, although Saskatoon Place seats only 11,300.

Before the 2006 championship, Hockey Canada didn't allow bids from NHL arenas.

"We're competing against NHL buildings," Winston said. "It boils down to dollars. We have done our analysis and we are presenting our position to board of control and asking for direction."

He said this will resurrect the debate on whether the JLC should have been bigger.

"You can argue that until you're blue in the face. On one side of it, yes, I would have loved to see it bigger. But when you look at the frequency of use of a 15,000-seat venue compared to what we have, at least this one is very well utilized.

"And who would have ever anticipated the world juniors would get to the level that they are today? When the planning and construction (of the JLC) was going on, there certainly wasn't any forethought to look at a sellout of 19,000 people for a final at the world junior."


Photos