London leery of world bid

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

The 2010 world junior hockey championships are up for bid and London would love to hold the event.

But the city, which has been down this road before, is wary of receiving unrequited love from Hockey Canada and its recent "big rink" fixation.

"You never say no on something like that initially," Tourism London general manager John Winston said. "Of course we're interested and we'll have a look, but we have to see what the bid specifications are before moving forward. It's not an easy thing when you have a 9,000-seat arena and you're going against cities with NHL arenas that are twice the size."

Four years ago, London entered a joint bid with Kitchener for the 2006 event but lost to Vancouver. Last year, the city filed a letter of intent for the 2009 world juniors but decided not to submit its bid document. That tournament will be played in Ottawa.

"The bar keeps getting raised -- Ottawa guaranteed $12 million this time around and when Vancouver did it, it made $9 millon," Winston said. "It keeps going up and it would probably have to be higher this time around. We tried to guarantee a $10- million (profit) with our last bid. That's an exorbitant amount of money and a lot of it has to be made up in the ticket packages. Some may think there's an unlimited ceiling that people will pay for this event, but I do think, at some point, there is a limit."

London's previous bid charged $1,100 per ticket package -- nearly four times the price to attend all the games of the 2005 Memorial Cup. There is a feeling the John Labatt Centre doesn't have enough seating to make a bid viable and that Hockey Canada has priced itself right out of the junior hockey market.

"There used to be a clause that didn't allow NHL arenas to go after this event, but that had been taken out," Winston said. "I hear that Calgary is the early favourite this time. Vancouver already had it and it's in Ottawa this time around so it would be very difficult to get it back in Ontario for a second time in a row."

In its last go-round, London approached Mississauga, Kitchener, Hamilton, Guelph and Sarnia about partnerships but couldn't find a willing participant.

"The biggest problem is Team Canada is the draw at this event and the only way you can have a partner is if you promise one Canadian game to be played at the other site," Winston said. "If Canada loses in the medal round, and it has happened before, then where are you at? To be successful, you need Canada in the gold medal game and there's no guarantee that will happen.

"Then, it's on the city as the guarantor of the event and that's an onerous commitment for a city to make."

While another bid is contemplated, Winston is also in charge of finding a new person to serve as Tourism London's manager of sport. Paul Hardy leaves for Monaco to serve as director of competitions for the International Association of Athletics Federation.

Aside from holding the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge after Christmas at the JLC, London is also looking at the possibility of another high-profile figure skating event.

London held the national figure skating championships in the 2005 and, more recently, the world synchronized figure skating championships.


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