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World Junior Championships mood fades amid summer schedule and Hockey Canada scandal

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It’s a strange time for the world junior championship.

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The tournament begins next week in Edmonton, not only when many are in the middle of their summer vacation, but also amid serious concerns about Hockey Canada’s handling of sexual assault allegations.

So far, the atmosphere seems subdued for what would usually be a major city event. Despite more than a week of games at Rogers Place, Edmonton Downtown Business Association executive director Puneeta McBryan said in a post this week that the organization isn’t ruling out a “significant impact” from the race.

  1. A Canadian flag is flown around the Bell Center during Team Canada's gold medal game against the United States at the 2017 World Junior Championship hockey tournament in Montreal.  The 2021-22 tournament resumes in Edmonton in August under a cloud of controversy over Hockey Canada's handling of sexual assault allegations.

    Hockey Canada must settle scandal during world juniors, sexual assault agency says

  2. A Hockey Canada logo is seen on the helmet of a National Junior Team player during a practice at training camp in Calgary, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

    Former Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell leads Hockey Canada review

The original 2022 tournament in Red Deer and Edmonton had to be canceled last December when games continued to be lost as players tested positive for COVID-19.

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And experts who study sports management and economics say several factors could affect ticket sales and interest in rescheduled matches.

“The World Junior Men’s Hockey Championship has become this kind of holiday cultural institution,” said Dan Mason, professor of sports management at the University of Alberta.

“This tournament has a lot more visibility in Canada than any other country participating in the event. And because it’s associated with the holidays, people set aside time to watch it. Whereas now, if they have free time, they have made other plans.

Brian Soebbing, an associate professor in the University of Alberta’s faculty of kinesiology, sport and recreation, said inflation was likely also affecting demand for tickets to the world junior championships. People’s budgets are tighter and paying to see a game may not be on their priority list.

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But that comes on top of the furor around recent revelations that in the past have Hockey Canada has donated millions of dollars to settle sexual abuse lawsuits through a special fund, built up from player registration fees.

A police investigation was also opened into an alleged assault at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Halifax in 2003, and a police investigation in London, Ontario has also been reopened into an alleged gang sexual assault involving members of the 2018 team. .

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) organizes the world junior championship, and there are no allegations of wrongdoing against members of Canada’s junior team in 2022.

But Soebbing said the Hockey Canada headlines will be on many people’s minds.

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“It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if it had an impact. To what extent, sitting here in early August, is hard to say,” he said.

“But that certainly won’t be the last we hear about Hockey Canada’s behavior.

Mason added that the scandal is more likely to impact casual fans, who may be more likely to spend their time and money elsewhere.

“Those who go (to a hockey game) because they think it’s something fun to do, they might wonder whether or not they should, whereas hardcore fans will be much more likely to follow. the matches, to watch on TV and go to the games themselves.

The world junior championships will take place in Edmonton from August 9-20, and the final results of ticket sales have not yet been announced. Soebbing said it might be difficult to gauge the reaction of hockey fans until this tournament is over — and maybe even until it returns to its regular Christmas schedule.

“We won’t know for sure until after the fact.”

—With files from Postmedia and The Canadian Press

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@meksmith

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