Toronto area to host junior exhibitions

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

For five days in December, Toronto truly will be the centre of the universe.

The centre of the junior hockey universe, anyway.

Seven of the 10 pre-competition games leading up to the 2009 world junior championship will be played within an hour's drive of Toronto's Air Canada Centre, it was announced at a city hall press conference in the nation's capital yesterday.

The series of exhibitions begins with a Canada-Sweden match at the ACC Dec. 19, then switches to the new K-Rock Centre in Kingston for a Latvia-USA game Dec. 21. Other cities playing host are Kitchener, Mississauga, Oshawa, Brockville, Barrie, Brampton and Hamilton.

The final tune-up will also be in Kingston on Dec. 23, when Russia meets USA.

440,000 TICKETS SOLD

A record 440,000 tickets have already been sold for the 31-game tournament, which will be held at Scotiabank Place and the Civic Centre and is expected to put $50-$60 million into Ottawa's economy.

By involving nine other communities, the hosts are spreading the wealth.

"With the record-setting attendance we've already established for the championship and anticipated record television viewership, we're proud to bring the world's best juniors in person to an additional 75,000 hockey fans," said Cyril Leeder, vice-chairman of the organizing committee.

Leeder said an attempt was made to accommodate every group that applied, although a couple of Northern Ontario cities had to be turned down because they were isolated.

"Some didn't apply that we asked," said Leeder. "Peterborough, Cornwall ... and Belleville was one where their arena was too big. They have an Olympic-size rink and the teams want to practise on the North American rinks because they're not used to it."

Leeder added that after discussions with the Gatineau Olympiques, the defending QMJHL champs decided against filing an application.

"In fairness to them, it'd be tough to have games there and sell tickets without Team Canada," said Leeder. "Gatineau wanted Team Canada and we just couldn't do that. The building is not big enough for a Team Canada game. If they wanted to host Team USA, we could have worked that out. But they were really set on Team Canada."

TEAM BONDING

In quest of a fifth straight world championship gold medal, Team Canada will hold its selection camp in Ottawa from Dec. 11-15. After the final cuts are made, the players and coaching staff will retreat to CFB Petawawa from Dec. 15-17 before heading to Toronto.

"That's just a bit of a team- building exercise, they'll go there for some practice and team bonding," Leeder said of the two days Team Canada will spend on the Petawawa base, billed as "The Training Ground of The Warriors."

"That's what they wanted. They're getting ready for a big event, and they want the guys to be ready to go. It kind of fits with the theme."


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