Leafs, mayor after world junior

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

Toronto hopes to stick it to six other Canadian cities for the right to play host to the 2009 world junior hockey championship.

Toronto will submit its bid to Hockey Canada by the end of the month. Two weeks later, Hockey Canada will shortlist the bidders -- which also include Montreal, Saskatoon, Calgary-Edmonton, Ottawa, London and Quebec City -- down to the final three. The winner will be announced in late April or early May.

"No city is more hockey (in Canada) than Toronto," Mayor David Miller said yesterday during an unveiling of the bid at the Hockey Hall of Fame. "We have the ability to show the world our hockey pride and our hockey passion ... Hockey is our sport, our game and we look forward to succeeding in our bid."

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., which has its brand on numerous projects in and around the city, is a major financial backer of the bid. The 31-game tournament, spread over 11 days and involving 10 teams split into two groups of five, would be played at both the Air Canada Centre and the city-owned Ricoh Coliseum. All of Canada's games would be played at the larger Air Canada Centre. The four-pad Lakeshore hockey facility, which is scheduled to be built by September 2007, would be used as a practice facility.

"We believe it's time to bring the tournament to Toronto, hockey's capital," MLSEL executive vice-president Bob Hunter said.

Back in 2003, a Toronto consortium, which included the now-defunct Toronto Roadrunners, bid for the 2006 tournament that was awarded to Vancouver. Nine cities bid, but Toronto failed to make it to the short list of five. The MLSEL backing is the big difference from then and now.

CONFIDENT

"There was no backstop (the first time)," John Tracogna, the director of Toronto International, said. "We got in late. But we've learned from that process and we're confident we can win."

Vancouver generated $30 million in economic development, but Miller said Toronto could double that amount. The capital expenditure is estimated at $7 million, but the Toronto bidding group won't disclose the projected profit because it doesn't want to tip its hand to the competing cities. Hockey Canada reaps 95% of the profits.

The bid's honourary chairman is Maple Leafs great Darryl Sittler, whose son Ryan played in three tournaments.

"To me as a dad and a former NHL player -- we didn't have (the tournament) when I played -- I know the importance of it," he said.

Another ex-Leaf, Rick Vaive, who played in the 1978 tournament, said: "I don't think there's a better city anywhere in Canada that would do justice to the world junior as Toronto would."


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